The New Yorker made the Koch brothers famous for exposing their creation of the "grassroots" Tea Party movement, but a jaw-dropping new analysis of the billionaires' donations shows in detail how the Kochs have created their own simulacrum of society, with its own relentlessly pro-business, anti-regulation reality. The Kochs are essentially shortening the life span of the human race: the private foundations they fund work tirelessly to convince lawmakers that global warming is imaginary, and members of Congress who sign a pledge to look the other way on climate change are rewarded with campaign donations.
The pledge was created in 2008 by the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, and those who sign it promise to not spend any money fighting global warming unless that money is "balanced" with tax cuts.
While the pledge began with a marginal following, an energized turnout of conservative voters in the 2010 election swept 85 freshman Republicans into the House. Of those 85 Republicans, 76 signed the Koch pledge as candidates. And 57 of those 76 received campaign contributions from Koch Industries’ political action committee.
With the support of these newly elected Republicans, from 2011 to 2013, Congress passed increasingly smaller budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), attempted to strip the agency of varying regulatory powers and discouraged policies to address climate change across multiple federal agencies, according to the Workshop’s analysis.
Koch puppets have testified before Congress about global warming six times in 2013 alone, most recently on May 7, when Paul Knappenberger of the Cato Institute told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, "The more we learn, the less responsive it seems that the earth’s average temperature is to human carbon-dioxide emissions."
Last week President Obama outlined a list of actions that the Executive Branch would take to fight global warming, the most significant of which is EPA regulation of greenhouses gases in existing power plants. Jane Mayer reports that in 2011, the EPA found that the three oil refineries owned and operated by Koch Industries belched 24 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the equivalent of five million cars.
The new report, which was written over the course of two years by the Investigative Reporting Workshop, shows that the Kochs have donated $41.2 million to 89 different nonprofit groups from 2007-2011, with little scrutiny from the federal government.
Private foundations cannot by law “be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests,” and they are required by law to disclose their charitable contributions to the Internal Revenue Service. But enforcement of potential violations is generally regarded to be sporadic and somewhat mysterious. For example, even if the IRS actually decides to investigate a private foundation or tax-exempt organization grantees, initial communications between the government and the organization in question are private — no formal notice is available in any public record.
The Kochs have also donated $30.5 million to 221 universities, the largest recipient being Beltway barnacle George Mason University, which received $16 million from 2007 to 2011. What does that money buy?
At the core of the Kochs’ philosophy are the works of Ayn Rand, the objectivist philosopher and author of “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” (Rand’s writings are also emblematic of the readings recommended to students by the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University). The new course that the Charles G. Koch Foundation wanted approved at Florida State was called “Market Ethics: The Vices, Virtues, and Values of Capitalism,” featuring the work of Rand as required by the memorandum of understanding. Through their charitable foundations, the Kochs gave $100,000 to the Ayn Rand Institute from 2009 to 2011.
The executive editor for the Investigative Reporting Workshop explained to Mayer why the center chose the Koch brothers as subjects: “There is no other corporation in the U.S. today, in my view, that is as unabashedly, bare-knuckle aggressive across the board about its own self-interest, in the political process, in the nonprofit-policy-advocacy realm, even increasingly in academia and the broader public marketplace of ideas.”
As if to prove the extent of the Koch's reach, the report notes that American University, which hosts the IRW, received $17,500 from the Charles G. Koch foundations.
Read the whole fascinating, enraging, disquieting report here.