In January, ThinkProgress interviewed billionaire plutocrat David Koch about his views on climate science, his Tea Party movement, and his political plans for the future. On the day of our interview, we also discovered that he planned to hold a party for the new Republicans he helped elect. As we have documented, Koch not only financed the rise of the anti-Obama Tea Party, he has also helped guide the movement to support the narrow business priorities of his conglomerate Koch Industries: Koch funds rallies for young children that attack the EPA, Koch’s front groups spread doubt about climate change, and Koch’s Americans for Prosperity hands out Tea Party talking points attacking clean energy. Building on this research, the Los Angeles Times reported this weekend about the central influence of Koch in the new GOP Congress.
According to the Times, just before David Koch spoke to ThinkProgress following House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) swearing in ceremony, he had met with Boehner in the Speaker’s office. Koch’s top political deputy, former Jack Abramoff operative Tim Phillips, met with the new Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) that day as well:
When the 85 freshman GOP lawmakers marched into the Capitol on Jan. 5 as part of the new Republican House majority, David Koch was there too. The 70-year-old had an appointment with a staff member of the new speaker, Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). At the same time, the head of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips, had an appointment with Upton. They used the opportunity to introduce themselves to some of the new legislators and invited them to a welcome party at the Capitol Hill Club, a favorite wine-and-cheese venue for Republican power players in Washington.
The Times also reported a fact that most of the traditional media has ignored: in addition to direct donations to candidates, Koch groups spent tens of millions in largely undisclosed money hosting rallies and running “issue ads” in support of climate science-denying GOP candidates in 2010.
As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has detailed, the Republican push to eviscerate the EPA and the Clean Air Act meshes perfectly with the goals of Koch Industries. Koch is a major polluter, and opposes EPA regulations on carbon emissions and other hazardous air pollutants.
In our interview with Koch, we asked him why his front group Americans for Prosperity focuses so much on denying climate change. Koch said it was because “regulating CO2 excessively…really damage[s] the economy.” Koch however was hesitant to answer if he himself believes in climate change. He eventually denied anthropogenic global warming by giving a standard climate denier response: “Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.” However, he simply shrugged when asked if carbon pollution — like the carbon pollution Koch Industries heavily contributes to — affects climate change:
FANG: Why does Americans for Prosperity focus so much on the science of climate change? I’m just curious why they spread so much information that denies the existence of climate, of global warming?
KOCH: Well… I think it’s uh, regulating CO2 excessively is going to put — uh really damage the economy.
FANG: Do you believe in climate change yourself? [...] Do you believe in climate change yourself, Mr. Koch?
KOCH: Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.
FANG: But do you believe carbon pollution affects climate change? [Koch shrugs]