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Koch Brothers: We’re Victims

1:22 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by Jesse Lava

Caricature of David Koch

David Koch (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr)

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s griping that 47% of the country is mooching off rich folks like him, Charles and David Koch are now suggesting that they, too, are victims.

The billionaire Koch brothers and their aptly-named political strategist Rich Fink spoke publicly about the family’s agenda in the The Wichita Eagle this weekend. They insist that they’re the ones under attack in America. Sure, the Kochs have $62 billion and seven homes. And yes, their combined wealth has just about doubled under Obama. And there are now reports of intimidation at Koch Industries for employees who dare speak out against the brothers’ politics.

No matter: the world is lined up against these unfortunate souls. The corruption and machinations detailed in our film Koch Brothers Exposed are, apparently, child’s play compared to the nerve-wracking obstacles these guys face.

What obstacles?

Here’s Charles Koch, lamenting that Obama consultant David Axelrod called out the brothers’ massive investment in policies that promote themselves:

When you have Axelrod, one of [Obama's] top campaign officials, saying we are contract killers—I mean, I don’t know how somebody in the administration can say that about a private citizen. It’s frightening because you don’t know what they’re going to do. They have tremendous power. They can destroy just about anybody, whether you are totally innocent or not.

And here’s David Koch:

[Obama's] criticism can stimulate a lot of anger and dislike toward us. So there’s a huge security concern.

And Fink:

We’re just besieged day and night with attacks and the more visible we are, and the more we’ve done, the more attacks we get.

Not that he expected anything less; he had warned the brothers from the outset that if they became major political players, “You guys will possibly risk the businesses that you have built and your family legacy, and there’s going to be a lot of fallback [sic] from this.”

Yes, the Kochs have so risked their livelihoods that their wealth has ballooned by tens of billions of dollars in the last couple of years.

Indeed, Fink goes so far as to say the the brothers are “just like the…American revolutionaries” in that they believe they need to “stand up and fight to save the country.” “Otherwise,” he says, “we have lost it.”

Not that America should be the Kochs’ to lose. Although they have thrown around truly massive sums to influence this election, the power in a democracy is supposed to reside in organized people, not organized money. The fact that the Kochs are able to wield such outsized influence is itself a reflection of how far this nation has strayed from its founding ideal of equal opportunity. The case we make in Koch Brothers Exposed is that Americans need to organize, organize, and organize some more to bring that ideal back.

Even if it hurts the Koch brothers’ feelings.

Correction: Originally, this post incorrectly attributed the Koch and Fink quotations to the Kansas City Star. The story actually appeared in The Wichita Eagle. This post has been updated accordingly.

Top Ten Koch Facts

3:29 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Co-authored by Jesse Lava

Everyone seems to be investigating Charles and David Koch lately, with exposés of their corrupt political behavior popping up in places like the New Yorker, AlterNet, ThinkProgress, and Brave New Foundation’s film Koch Brothers Exposed. Naturally, the billionaire brothers don’t like the attention, so they’re responding to it by smearing the activists and journalists. In their panic, they have now taken out Google ads attacking me and plastered an ominous image of my eyes on their website, like so:

They made me look like Emperor Palpatine. But who’s really representing the Dark Side here? The truth is that the billionaire brothers bankrolling the conservative movement are using their wealth in a way that should be terrifying to anyone who thinks democracy is about more than pulling a lever every two years and letting rich folks take care of the rest.

Accordingly, here are 10 facts that every American should know about who the Kochs are and what they’re doing to our country.

1. Koch Industries, which the brothers own, is one of the top ten polluters in the United States — which perhaps explains why the Kochs have given $60 million to climate denial groups between 1997 and 2010.

2. The Kochs are the oil and gas industry’s biggest donors to the congressional committee with oversight of the hazardous Keystone XL oil pipeline. They and their employees gave more than $300,000 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010 alone.

3. From 1998-2008, Koch-controlled foundations gave more than $196 million to organizations that favor polices that would financially enrich the two brothers. In addition, Koch Industries spent $50 million on lobbying and some $8 million in PAC contributions.

4. The Koch fortune has its origins in engineering contracts with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union.

5. The Kochs are suing to take over the Cato Institute, which has accused the Kochs of attempting to destroy the group’s identity as an independent, libertarian think and align it more closely with a partisan agenda.

6. A Huffington Post source who was at a three-day retreat of conservative billionaires said the Koch brothers pledged to donate $60 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 and produce pledges of $40 million more from others at the retreat.

7. Since 2000, the Kochs have collected almost $100 million in government contracts, mostly from the Department of Defense.

8. Koch Industries has an annual production capacity of 2.2 billion pounds of the carcinogen formaldehyde. The company has worked to keep it from being classified as a carcinogen even though David Koch is a prostate cancer survivor.

9. The Koch brothers’ combined fortune of roughly $50 billion is exceeded only by that of Bill Gates in the United States.

10. The Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs accused Koch Oil of scheming to steal $31 million of crude oil from Native Americans. Although the company claimed it was accidental, a former executive in this operation said Charles Koch had known about it and had responded to the overages by saying, “I want my fair share, and that’s all of it.”

That last quote — “I want my fair share, and that’s all of it” — encapsulates the unbridled greed driving the Kochs’ political activism and business dealings. Democracy cannot thrive with so much power being in the hands of men like this. If we care about democracy, we have to work to take it back.

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 →

Would the Kochs rather attack me than stop cancer? (VIDEO)

3:32 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

My filmmaking team and I recently told the story of the small town of Crossett, Arkansas, where residents are giving powerful testimony about the prevalence of cancer in their community and linking it to a nearby chemical plant owned by Charles and David Koch. This revelation came on top of the already-known facts that the Koch brothers are among the top 10 polluters in the United States and led the charge (unsuccessfully) to keep formaldehyde from being named a carcinogen.

Yet instead of cleaning up their operations, the Kochs are now attacking me personally.

Just as my new film Koch Brothers Exposed is set for release, one of the Kochs’ corporate spokesmen, Greg Guest, says I’m “a very, very slanted filmmaker” who has made “erroneous and false claims” about the Kochs’ operations. What he fails to mention is that my office has contacted the Koch brothers numerous times for an explanation of what’s false about our exposés, including the one on cancer. The billionaire brothers refused to be interviewed for the film and have yet to respond to the evidence that my team at Brave New Foundation has uncovered.

We challenge the Koch brothers to engage in an honest debate. We challenge them to see the film and show one false claim. Generalizing about bias and false claims is easy; actually rebutting what we’ve documented is another matter.

Here’s the video we did on the widespread occurrence of cancer near a Koch Industries chemical plant:

Read the rest of this entry →

What the Koch brothers say online but won’t say under oath

5:26 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Why will Charles and David Koch produce a video about their position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and not testify before Congress about it? The Koch brothers have refused to answer questions about how they stand to profit from the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile long boondoggle that would cut through six states and damage American homes and farmland.

The Koch brothers have an attack-dog website of their own, KochFacts.com, which they have used defensively and reflexively to attack me and others who’ve questioned or investigated the Koch brothers’ vast $100 billion business. The Koch brothers refuse to testify in Congress about their interest in the pipeline, but they’ll make a web video asserting their innocence.

We took the Kochs’ video retreat and added a few facts from the historical record.

Maybe the Koch brothers prefer to let their allies in Congress speak for them? House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Rep. Ed Whitfield got $15,000 in donations from Koch Industries. Is he doing the Koch brothers bidding? Read the rest of this entry →

Are the Koch brothers teaching you?

12:56 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

What’s happening to academia in Florida demands national attention. Billionaires Charles and David Koch are infringing on intellectual freedom and independence in colleges and universities. It’s an old fashioned quid pro quo where the Koch brothers get allied professors who’ll preach Ayn Rand, supply side economic policies and the values of the 19th century Guilded Age to students and the college gets some funding.

Every year, thousands of individuals move through the Koch-supported classes, lectures and fields of study, which in their totality amount to an ideological assembly line bought and paid for by the Koch brothers. There are Koch-funded agreements at more than 150 American colleges and universities.

“The Koch brothers have paid tens of millions of dollars to get their point of view instilled in classrooms, amongst faculty members and in students,” said Cary Nelson, President of the American Association of University Professors. “Programs they start tend to be one point of view only.”

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 →

Don’t Let Obama take a Koch Check

1:07 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Tens of thousands of Americans and citizens around the world have rightfully spoken out about the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a roughly 2,000 mile long development that would carve up six states and enrich the 1% even more.

Few personify the wealthiest 1% more than Charles and David Koch, who’re among the largest financial beneficiaries of dirty tar sands oil. The Keystone XL pipeline would hurt America and make the Koch brothers richer. In other words, it would give the Koch brothers more billions of dollars to buy American democracy and bend it to their whims.

This doesn’t have to be the case. The State Department and White House can veto the pipeline’s permits because it crosses an international border with Canada.

The pressure’s on. The State Department was rightfully exposed for shoddy oversight. Leaders in Congress continue fighting to further investigate the Koch brothers’ involvement, and just recently, President Obama said he would personally approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline.

It’s the biggest environmental issue from now until next year. Will President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose American safety or will they hand the Koch brothers billions more in profit that they’ll politically use against them? Read the rest of this entry →

Dear Koch brothers: will you be my guest in Arkansas?

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

2011-10-11-bouiecloseup.jpgI’d like to introduce David Bouie, who is fighting back against the Koch brothers as an important part of our Koch Brothers Exposed campaign.

I want Charles and David Koch to come visit me first hand and see how their factory and pollution have hurt my neighbors. I have heard from thousands of people all across the country, but I am still looking and listening for a RSVP from Charles and David themselves.

I told the Koch brothers I would take care of them as my guests. My wife and I would prepare pork chops or anything they wished. I simply wanted to walk with them around South Penn Road. Of 15 houses here, about 11 people have died from cancer.

I would tell Charles and David Koch that it would be a memorable experience for all of us. This is an opportunity for them to do something for good and the community here that made their factory prosper. They can stop this with a stroke of a pen.

I’m renewing my invitation to the Koch brothers. I want the Koch brothers to see the effects of their factory on our community. Their company donates to local schools and churches, but it’s poisoning our part of town. Read the rest of this entry →

More Reports of Cancer Near Koch Brothers’ Factory

5:55 pm in Uncategorized by Robert Greenwald

Billionaire political donors Charles and David Koch aren’t the only ones who saw our latest investigative film. Thousands of people have posted comments on our Facebook page and have offered additional testimony about the Koch brothers’ pollution in their communities.

In a smear campaign orchestrated in response to our investigation, the Koch brothers attacked almost all of the residents featured in our film. These individuals say they’re suffering from cancer because they live too close to a Koch Industries factory, which pollutes rivers and creeks flowing near their rural homes.

This duality between the haves and have-nots in our society is a big driver of the rising tide of Occupy movement– and for good reason. The Koch brothers personify the top 1 percent and the avarice that’s allowed the richest Americans to profit at the expense of the other 99 percent and those of us who’re hardest hit by the jobs crisis and economic recession.

Thousands of people posted comments that both reflect the goals of the Occupy movement and aid the people of Crossett, Arkansas, who are part of the other 99 percent and have volunteered to hand-deliver these messages to the Kochs. Some viewers, like Lance Blann, reached us directly and shared their personal reactions.

Read the rest of this entry →