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Chat with Koch Bros Biographer, the Koch-Kansas Crisis & the IRS’ Duty

1:59 pm in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

In case you missed yesterday’s chat with Daniel Schulman, author of Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty, check out the question and answer archive from two hours of engaging with FireDogLake Book Salon users.

Some concluding thoughts on my part, as someone who has closely followed the Kochtopus for the last four years and often ends out tangling with some of its primary tentacles. As I wrote in the intro to yesterday’s Book Salon, Schulman’s tone in promoting his book has surprised many for its middle-of-the-road feel:

Schulman’s tomb of ‘Kochology‘ has been received with surprise for its non-condemning tone. [...] On the surface Schulman’s descriptions are unexpectedly favorable to Koch in the eyes of, say, this Greenpeace researcher.

A bit more on this. One thing I learned yesterday is that Schulman recently placed four questions he’d like to ask Charles and David Koch into the Columbia Journalism Review. Those four questions are the type of critical inquiry that I expected to hear from someone who just devoted a chunk of their life to studying the Koch family in extreme detail (without being part of their circle). Schulman looks for answers on some key contradictions in KochWorld relating to their denial of climate change science, their selective emphasis on “liberty” (liberty for whom?), and Charles Koch’s preference for an almost non-existent government, keeping in mind his company has repeatedly violated the law (and his nonprofit personnel, like Sean Noble of American Encore).

I’ll admit that after watching Mr. Schulman on The Daily Show, Reason TV, Huffington Post live and other forums where he seemed to dismiss the notion that the Kochs often act in their own self interest, the questions on CJR are the type of journalism I’d prefer to see as a major critic and skeptic of the Koch brothers and their motives (Note that what Schulman really says is the Kochs are “true believers” whose ideology comes first, sometimes overlapping with Koch Industries profits to be sure…but this nuance seems to get lost in the noise).

But I think unlike many hardcore Koch-critics, perhaps because of my own ideology rooted in Greenpeace’s core foundation in nonviolence, I didn’t feel particularly confused or conflicted over the real empathy one feels when reading about the various personal tragedies of the Kochs, keeping in mind their secure root in a privileged upbringing, harsh as that upbringing sounds.

If you have yet to read Sons of Wichita, Schulman’s extensive research conveys a surprising feel: a chronic, underlying heartache felt by Koch brothers Charles, David and Bill alike amid decades of sibling lawsuit warfare over the fortune of the company their father built. Money aside, anyone capable of empathy and compassion feels a familiar inner tug when reading these passages of how clearly hurt each of the three brothers were as they traded blows.

But the Kochs’ own compassion has widely corroborated limits. Their business-funded political activities seem to consistently crush society from the middle class down and violate their self-stated ideologies. This indicates that Charles Koch’s rhetoric of “liberty” and “prosperity” is either dishonest, or indicative of the type of ignorance that only the out of touch, hyper wealthy could hold. Lest we forget that while Koch Industries now employs more people globally, Koch’s US employment just fell by 20,000 while the two brothers made an estimated $48 billion.

If Schulman’s research of the Koch brothers’ upbringing explains some of their psychology, it doesn’t excuse the decisions they have made as grown men that adversely impact their fellow country-people. Making a billion while funding groups that demonize those on the financial margins as lazy and unproductive members of society is dishonest and malicious.

The Kochs’ home state of Kansas is a perfect contemporary case study, where numerous tentacles of the “Kochtopus” succeeded in pushing an income tax cut that has tanked the state’s revenue, increased poverty rates and led to a Moody’s downgrade of Kansas’ debt. Governor Sam Brownback is directly supported by Koch Industries and its billionaire owners, and backed by Koch-funded groups coordinated through the State Policy Network (SPN), a network of national and state-level organizations operating across all 50 states. SPN includes groups like the Kansas Policy Institute–a supporter of Brownback’s tax cut disaster, and national affiliate groups controlled or financed by the Kochs, like Americans For Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Through ALEC its affiliates in the State Policy Network, Art Laffer pushed what New York Times contributing economist Paul Krugman called an “embarrassingly bad” plan ratcheting down corporate income taxes used by Gov Sam Brownback, who is now facing mass backlash from his own party.
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REPORT: Tobacco-style Climate Denial – Greenpeace’s “Dealing in Doubt”

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Written by Cindy Baxter, crossposted from Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt.

Who likes being lied to by people paid by the oil industry who pose as “experts” on climate change?

Did you know it’s been going on for 25 years?

In a couple of weeks, the UN’s official advisors on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will update its global assessment on the issue. Yet in the background, more attacks on the climate science are underway.

For the last quarter century, the climate science denial machine, its cogs oiled by fossil fuel money, has been attacking climate science, climate scientists and every official US report on climate change, along with State and local efforts – with the aim of undermining action on climate change.

Our new report, Dealing in Doubt, sets out the history of these attacks going back to the early 90s. These are attacks based on anti-regulatory, so called “free market” ideology, not legitimate scientific debate, using a wide range of dirty tricks: from faked science, attacks on scientists, fake credentials, cherry-picking scientific conclusions: a campaign based on the old tobacco industry mantra: “doubt is our product”.

We give special attention to perhaps today’s poster child of the climate denial machine’s free market think tanks, the Heartland Institute, which is about to launch a new version of its “NIPCC” or “climate change reconsidered” report next week in Chicago.

Unlike the real IPCC, with thousands of scientists involved from around the world, the Heartland Institute’s handful of authors is paid. Several of them claim fake scientific credentials. They start with a premise of proving the overwhelming consensus on climate science wrong, whereas the real IPCC simply summarizes the best science to date on climate change.

This multi-million dollar campaign has been funded by anti-government ideologues like the Koch brothers, companies like ExxonMobil and trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.

More recently, less visible channels of funding have been revealed such as the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, organization that that has been called the “ATM of the conservative movement”, distributing funds from those who don’t want to be publicly associated with the anti-environmental work product of organizations like the Heartland Institute.

In the last week we’ve seen new peer-reviewed science published, linking at least half of 2012’s extreme weather events to a human carbon footprint in the atmosphere and on the weather and climate.

As the scientific consensus strengthens by the day that climate change is happening now, that carbon pollution is causing it and must be regulated, the denial machine is getting increasingly shrill. But today, while they are being increasingly ignored by a majority of the public, their mouthpieces in the US House of Representatives, for instance, have increased in number.

They’re still fighting the science – and they’re still being funded, to the tune of millions of dollars each year, to do it.

Dealing in Doubt sets out a history of these attacks. We show how the tactics of the tobacco industry’s campaign for “sound science” led to the formation of front groups who, as they lost the battle to deny smoking’s health hazards and keep warning labels off of cigarettes, turned their argumentative skills to the denial of climate change science in order to slow government action.

What we don’t cover is the fact that these organizations and deniers are also working on another front, attacking solutions to climate change. They go after any form of government incentive to promote renewable energy, while cheering for coal, fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

They attack any piece of legislation the US EPA puts forward to curb pollution. Decrying President Obama’s “war on coal” is a common drumbeat of these anti-regulation groups. One key member of the denial machine, astrophysicist Willie Soon from the Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, has portrayed himself as an “expert” on mercury and public health in order to attack legislation curbing mercury emissions from coal plants.

This recent history, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.