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Time for Kochs to Resign from ALEC

1:28 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by Jesse Lava

Wisconsin protesters dressed as the Koch Brothers. Photo by Sue Peacock.

Charles and David Koch appear to be pushing their right-wing ideology to the bitter end. And it’s time for Americans to stop helping them.

The Koch brothers are major backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate front group that drafts “model legislation” for state legislators. The Kochs have given ALEC at least $1 million—not counting a $500,000 loan—and their company, Koch Industries, has been a select member of the group’s board for nearly two decades. ALEC has recently come under fire for advancing bills modeled on Florida’s now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, and it has long been criticized for writing legislation that would undermine public schools, immunize corporations that harm people’s health, and impose onerous voter ID restrictions on the young, the old, the poor, and minorities.

Corporations including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Kraft, PepsiCo, Mars, and Intuit have all bailed on ALEC over the last two weeks, knowing that continuing to associate with the group would be toxic. This exodus is a testament to the strength of progressive groups like Color of Change and the Center for Media and Democracy, which have been working to expose what ALEC does. But the Kochs are doubling down. Their government affairs chief Philip Ellender says progressives’ complaints about ALEC are intended “not only to intimidate, but to silence supporters of free-market principles.” Of course, ALEC is already largely silent in that it keeps its proceedings and model bills a secret—presumably because the corporations backing them want to have plausible deniability about their involvement.

Either way, the Kochs are staying put. That’s their right, but Americans have a right of their own: to boycott Koch products. Every dollar that we spend on goods made by Koch Industries is another dollar the brothers have at their disposal to support right-wing, corporate fronts like ALEC. The time has come for Americans to vote with their pocketbooks and stop supporting the Koch brothers’ agenda.

Everyone willing to participate in a boycott should sign this pledge form, which says we’ll stop buying what Koch sells until Koch withdraws its membership in ALEC. The more people go public, the more this initiative will snowball. And if enough Americans of conscience avoid the Kochs, it just might put a dent in their bottom line.

What products need to be avoided? Koch Industries makes myriad consumer goods, and there’s no space here to name them all. But the best place to start is their household paper products:

  • Toilet paper: Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft ‘n’ Gentle
  • Towels, napkins, plates, cups: Brawny, Dixie, Sparkle, Mardi Gras, Vanity Fair, Zee

These brands—made largely by Georgia Pacific, a Koch subsidiary—are easily recognizable and avoidable. Anyone can bring this short list to the store and find another company to buy from.

Of course, ALEC is just one vehicle by which the Kochs are damaging American democracy; even if Koch Industries withdraws from it, we’ll still have a lot of work to do. But we have to start somewhere. Boycotting these products will allow Americans to take one important step toward reclaiming our democracy.

The point is that Americans have great power as consumers—a power that today is going largely untapped. If corporations engage in egregious behavior and politicians won’t stop them, we have to take matters into our own hands. There is no one who better symbolizes corporate greed than the Koch brothers, and those of us who envision a fairer, more ethical world can put our money elsewhere if we wish.

Don’t Koch Block the Debate

2:13 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

With my new film Koch Brothers Exposed set for release, the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are doing everything they can do hide their behavior. First they got their lawyer to fire off a menacing letter that all but threatened news organizations that dare to cover the film’s content. Now they’re insisting — get this — that there’s nothing to debate anyway.

That’s right. In response to my offer to a debate or public discussion, the Koch brothers, hiding behind their attorney, wrote, “We are confused about what there is to debate.”

Perhaps the Kochs have not seen what my team and journalists such as Lee Fang, Addie Stan, and Jane Mayer have uncovered. What we’ve found is that Charles and David Koch are using their vast fortune to buy the political and legal process. They are corrupting democracy in ways that are harming the 99% while serving their own economic interests.

One area of excessive influence is energy policy. The Kochs, who own Koch Industries, are one of the top 10 polluters in the nation, which means they have a strong interest in eliminating or preventing environmental regulations. The Kochs have given over $500,000 to members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, which proposes environmental regulations and is supposed to hold polluters accountable. Indeed, as our film reveals, the Kochs are the oil and gas industry’s single biggest donor to that committee. Is it any wonder that Congress won’t pass bills to curb climate change or tackle other environmental problems?

In fact, the Kochs frequently have secret summits where they host wealthy right-wing donors as well as federal policymakers to talk strategy and fundraising. Participants have included U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Those two justices recently increased the Kochs’ power by voting in the Citizens United case to allow unlimited corporate money into politics. And just last week, the justices heard a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — a bill that the Koch-founded and -financed group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been pushing to overturn. Should our system permit such a conflict of interest enabling the Kochs to wield influence that virtually no other citizen can match? Read the rest of this entry →

Kochs, Lies, and Videotape

12:48 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

This week as I premiered my new film, Koch Brothers Exposed — the result of a year-long investigation on how two billionaires are using their wealth to corrupt democracy — Koch Industries has launched an attack on the film and me. The Kochs intimidate, they menace; they have a letter from their lawyer borderline threatening the media if it reports what’s in the film — and they always try to change the subject so their behavior can stay in the shadows: not only are they unwilling to accept my offer of a debate or interview, they also refuse to testify about their interest in the Keystone XL pipeline and may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into revealing their secret contributions to groups doing election work. This time, the Kochs are using a technique I point out in the film: attacking to avoid dealing with the facts. They are dodging and distorting the truth to avoid confronting our findings on cancer, voting rights, civil rights, and more.

How? Let me count (some of) the ways:

1) Cancer. People are dying of cancer near the Kochs’ Georgia Pacific plant in Crossett, Arkansas, and the Kochs refuse to answer the relevant question: What are they going to do about it? On Penn Road in Crossett, right near the mill, residents powerfully show how nine out of 11 homes have suffered from cancer. A USA Today study said Crossett’s school district is in the top 1% in the nation for cancer. Meanwhile, the Kochs’ facility releases significant amounts of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — and there’s no other chemical plant in town. The Kochs are among the country’s top 10 polluters and lobbied hard to keep formaldehyde from being labeled a carcinogen. For a company where one of the owners (David Koch) and the communications director (Melissa Cohlmia) are cancer survivors, this is tragic and infuriating. It reflects a warped sense of humanity where greed trumps all. Read the rest of this entry →

Are the Koch brothers denying your vote? (VIDEO)

11:51 am in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-written by Robert Greenwald, President and founder of Brave New Foundation, and Judith Browne Dianis, co-Director of the Advancement Project.

If you live in one of 38 states, billionaire political operatives Charles and David Koch are trying to influence your and your neighbors’ constitutional right to vote. The Koch brothers and their allies have already succeeded in shepherding voter suppression bills through seven states, which amount to about one third of the 270 electoral votes to win the White House.

Through their web of think tanks, nonprofit organizations, family foundations and political donations, the Koch brothers have bought access to democracy’s lifeblood: elections. They’ve used their $42 billion in wealth to support state laws and legislators that erect barriers to the voting booth.

The Kochs’ victims are young people, senior citizens, disabled individuals and people of color– precisely the 99 percent of us who are opposed to the Koch brothers’ political agenda.

In 34 states, the Kochs have supported legislation that makes a photo ID a prerequisite to voting. It’s a Jim Crow poll tax of a different name, and the voter fraud it engenders the Kochs to silence whole communities. These Koch-supported voter suppression laws have the intended effect of transforming constitutional and civic obligations into an endless challenge for the elderly, disabled and young voters alike. Read the rest of this entry →