Billionaire oil moguls Charles and David Koch have had a pernicious effect on climate and energy policy, a host of other progressive issues, and American democracy itself, as we’ve reported many times before. But a new report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University reveals even more about how the Koch brothers have undermined climate action.
Since 2008, the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity has been urging candidates and politicians to sign its “No Climate Tax Pledge.” In 2010, we noted that many Republican House and Senate candidates had signed it, and in 2011, that at least one GOP presidential candidate had.
But it turns out the pledge has been far more widespread and influential than most people realized. From the Investigative Reporting Workshop:
A quarter of senators and more than one-third of representatives have signed a little-known pledge — backed by the Kochs — not to spend any money to fight climate change without an equivalent amount of tax cuts.
They are among 411 current office-holders and politicians, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II, Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, three members of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the Oklahoma schools superintendent, the Idaho state treasurer and three justices of the peace in Arkansas who have signed the “No Climate Tax Pledge.” …
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.
The investigative study tracks the political influence wielded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who have harnessed part of the fortune generated by their company, Koch Industries, the second largest private corporation in the country, to further their conservative libertarian activism. Charles Lewis, the Executive Editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop explained that the I.R.W., a non-profit news organization attached to American University, spent two years focussing on Koch Industries because, “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.” Formerly head of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, Lewis has focussed for years on the way money affects American politics. “The Kochs’ influence, without a doubt, is growing,” he believes. A spokeswoman for the Kochs declined to comment.
In its multi-part report, “The Koch Club,” written by Lewis, Eric Holmberg, Alexia Campbell, and Lydia Beyoud, the Workshop found that between 2007 and 2011 the Kochs donated $41.2 million to ninety tax-exempt organizations promoting the ultra-libertarian policies that the brothers favor—policies that are often highly advantageous to their corporate interests. In addition, during this same period they gave $30.5 million to two hundred and twenty-one colleges and universities, often to fund academic programs advocating their worldview. Among the positions embraced by the Kochs are fewer government regulations on business, lower taxes, and skepticism about the causes and impact of climate change.
The study recounts that the Kochs have influenced the congressional climate-change debate in other ways, too, which include funding an array of nonprofit groups whose experts have testified in Congress questioning the cause, the severity, and the necessity of, acting on climate change.
The investigation makes it clear that, in today’s America, money talks — and the climate bakes.
Here’s the pledge in its entirety, short but deadly: