Paul Nyden, writing in the Charleston Gazette this Sunday, revealed that Koch Industries — the massive conglomerate of oil, chemical, manufacturing, timber, hedge fund, coal, and shipping interests run by the right-wing ideologues David and Charles Koch — has seeded West Virginia with several conservative front groups. Koch foundations provide the cash for anti-government efforts in the Mountain State, including a right-wing “think tank” called the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia and for free-market faculty members at West Virginia University. Nyden notes that Russell Sobel, a local economist whose research and writing has been underwritten by Koch fronts, argues against the minimum wage and against mine safety laws:
Sobel also works closely with the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, the Morgantown think tank which published his book, “Unleashing Capitalism: Why Prosperity Stops at the West Virginia Border and How to Fix It,” in 2007. The Sobel book is a collection of 12 essays, arguing that government regulations hurt West Virginia’s economy. One essay questions the value of “mandated” mine safety laws, stating government regulations may increase accident rates.
The Koch-funded think tank recently started a phony news service in West Virginia, called the “West Virginia Watchdog.” Americans for Prosperity, the fake grassroots group founded and financed by David Koch, has been running television ads in West Virginia attacking progressive reforms. David and Charles Koch, each worth $21.5 billion, have postured as great philanthropists, slapping their names on New York opera houses and the private prep school David attended, Deerfield Academy. But much of Koch’s wealth has been quietly spent lobbying against consumer protections, environmental regulations, and other efforts to erode the ability for Americans to provide accountability to powerful corporations. As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported, Koch lobbied aggressively to prevent the EPA from “classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a ‘known carcinogen’ in humans.”