Monday, July 08, 2013

How Much Harm Will The Kochs Do Society Before We Have A Leader Brave Enough To Defend Us Effectively?


No human being is perfect-- and that includes politicians. Even FDR made some mighty big mistakes. I think all Americans with their heads screwed on properly will agree that Roosevelt made a gigantic, historically-tragic error by not having the plotters involved in the 1933 Wall Street plot against America tried and hung. If J.P. Morgan, Irénée du Pont, Grayson Murphy, Precott Bush and the plutocrats from Remington, Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodyear, and Maxwell House been dragged before the courts and firing squads in 1934, would the Koch brothers be trying to subvert American democracy to set up their own plutocracy in 2013? I don't think so.

In fact, the Koch-scum wouldn't be sitting around plotting against Hillary Clinton's presidency now if not for Roosevelt's big error. Lee Fang's new book, The Machine, delving into the way the Kochs target political leaders who fight on behalf of ordinary families instead of catering to the plutocrats.
In the first two years of the Clinton administration, Koch front groups had played a similar, albeit smaller, role. The Koch group Citizens for a Sound Economy organized large rallies to kill the BTU tax, energy legislation that would have hit their refineries. In a strategy that was a precursor to the Tea Party movement, Koch operatives corralled conservative activists to ambush lawmakers on Capitol Hill with yelling matches about the BTU bill. The defeat of the BTU tax in 1993 was followed by an increased campaign from Koch-funded organizers to block any legislation proposed by Clinton. When Hillary Clinton decided to host events around the country to save her husband’s health reform plan, Citizens for a Sound Economy followed her around, shouting her down at every opportunity. As PBS reported, Koch groups aggressively followed Clinton with a “broken-down bus wreathed in red tape symbolizing government bureaucracy and hitched to a tow truck labeled, ‘This is Clinton Health Care.’”

The post-1994 Republican Congress, elected largely by the perception that Clinton’s first two years had been a failure to accomplish anything, quickly reimbursed the Koch brothers for their assistance. A BusinessWeek investigation found that Senator Bob Dole attempted to suppress an investigation into allegations that the Koch brothers had stolen oil from Native American reservations. Speaker Newt Gingrich also attempted to attach language to his omnibus regulatory reform bill to help Koch avoid scrutiny for the Native American oil theft scandal, and in his budget, stripped power away from the EPA to investigate such crimes.

The Koch brothers had an interest in undermining Clinton, but the Obama administration’s reforms posed a far greater threat to Koch Industries. Obama’s promise to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the top earners came at a time when Koch Industries grew substantially; by 2010, the brothers’ net worth had surged by $11 billion in a little over a year. Obama’s proposed financial reforms included a new exchange system to provide oversight of the multitrilliondollar derivatives market-- a field in which Koch is a major, and secretive, player. The first derivative, based on the price of crude oil, was crafted by a Koch executive in 1986. In 1997, Koch Industries and Enron pioneered the first “weather derivatives,” complex financial instruments to help power companies bet on future weather conditions. According to the Koch Trading and Supply website, the company expanded its financial practice over the years with a variety of financial products and opened trading offices in London and Singapore. Bloomberg reported that Koch lobbyists were among the top players lobbying aggressively against provisions in Obama’s financial reform bill to address the unregulated derivatives market. However, Obama’s promise to address greenhouse gas pollution caused the most worry for Koch Industries.

Although Koch Industries is known largely as just an oil company, over the years it has expanded into some of the most carbon-intensive businesses. Much of Koch Industries’ $110 billion-a-year revenues are derived from burning fossil fuels: oil refineries and pipelines, coal-fired power plants, fertilizer and manufacturing plants, and a sprawling business based around the shipping of coal and crude oil. In 2005, Koch Industries purchased Georgia Pacific, one of the largest timber companies. By cutting down large swaths of forests, Koch also contributes to global warming by decreasing the world’s carbon sink capacity.

Koch even sets itself apart from other oil companies by specializing in particularly harmful high-carbon Canadian crude oil. One estimate made by climate journalist Brad Johnson found that Koch Industries is responsible for over 300 million tons of carbon dioxide a year-- a greenhouse gas “externality” from which Koch wildly profits.

Obama promised to act on climate change, and this terrified Koch Industries. The primary threat came from legislation. In Congress, the Waxman-Markey energy bill was proposed to set up a “cap-and-trade” plan, a market-based scheme to regulate carbon emissions. A central authority would place a “cap” on overall carbon pollution, and a system of permits could be bought and sold to incentivize the most innovative way for either reducing emissions or creating alternative sources of energy. If Congress could not find a solution, the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling in 2007, ruled that the EPA must enforce the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon pollution. Finally, Koch faced threats on the state level. A number of states, including California and the states of New England, had set up their own cap-and-trade systems. Koch set out to destroy all of these threats to their bottom line.

The threat of having to actually pay for their carbon emissions elicited a strong response from Koch Industries. Brad Razook, president of the Koch subsidiary which runs the Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota, said a low-carbon fuel standard-- which many experts agree would be the most efficient mechanism to reduce our overall carbon footprint-- “would be very bad news for our industry, our employees, and our customers.” Koch lobbyists inundated the open rule-making process website for the EPA with letters demanding that the agency avoid forcing Koch facilities to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions. They also hired top K Street lobbying firms to press their case privately with lawmakers.

However, the real lobbying muscle from Koch came from the Koch brothers’ financing of Astroturf front groups. At the very first Tea Parties’ tax day on April 15, 2009, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group distributed talking points claiming, “the Obama budget proposes the largest excise tax in history, disguised as a cap-and-trade energy scheme.” T-shirts, signs, and other free paraphernalia distributed by Americans for Prosperity emphasized the threat of cap and trade as the greatest threat that the Tea Party should fear. The multiprong strategy Koch had pioneered descended upon members of Congress contemplating support for clean energy legislation. In southwest Virginia, Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher was positioned as a key negotiator for the bill given his relationship with other conservative and rural Democrats. Koch fronts descended on his district, running attack ads and organizing Tea Parties. After Boucher ultimately voted for the bill, a Koch-backed candidate named Morgan Griffith ended Boucher’s twenty-eight-year career. Griffith benefited from Koch campaign donations and received a boost to his campaign from three different Koch-funded bus tours in the district.

Although the clean energy bill passed the House, it died a slow death in the Senate. A group called Institute for Energy Research, funded by Koch, ExxonMobil, and coal interests, funded a series of rallies pressuring key senators to oppose the legislation. Koch-funded policy experts, from places like the Heartland Foundation, George Mason University, the Heritage Foundation, and elsewhere, provided a steady stream of anti–clean energy testimony before hearings. The combination of ads, Tea Party fury, constant attack ads, and insider pressure successfully pushed weak-kneed senators from even bringing the legislation to an up or down vote.
Why should any wealthy people refrain from misbehaving-- no matter how much grievous harm they do society-- when there is no accountability of any kind? Will displaced people in Miami be able to sue them when their homes are washed away? Will families denied health coverage because of the millions of dollars they spend on self-serving lies have any recourse against them?

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At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer the question of the title: The Koch roaches will do all the harm to society they desire because there is NO leader on the horizon 1/4 brave enough to try defend us, much less do so effectively.

The last glimmer of hope was Kucinich who was forced out of congress by his own party (remember the Air Force One conference). He was last seen defending whining, tea bag, would-be tax frauds on FOX.

Note: no, I did not read the entire article because I didn't want to risk harfing dinner all over the electronics.

John Puma


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