The dirty money behind the US election: The Koch brothers
Protest on 7th November US embassy!
In all the coverage of the US election you will see in the UK, you are very unlikely to find a mention of brothers Charles and David Koch. Yet behind the scenes, they have played a major role in setting the priorities of this election: both the Republican party’s shift towards the extreme right, and the fact that climate change has become the great unmentionable.
The Koch brothers together own controlling shares in Koch Industries, a massive conglomerate ranked as the second largest, privately owned company in America, largely based on fossil fuel extraction (‘one of the primary sources of carbon pollution in the US’). Their wealth is listed as $31 billion , and a major part of their ‘philanthropic’ activities focus on removing any threat of regulation from their industrial empire. A Greenpeace report in 2010 found that they are now the leading funder of organisations working to manufacture doubt on climate change (outdoing the previous leaders, ExxonMobil).
They played a critical role instigating and funding the far right Tea Party movement in its early stages, especially through their front group ‘Americans for Prosperity’. The Obama campaign has accused them of spending $200 million campaigning against him this year – they deny the exact figure, but it is certain major sums were involved.
In addition to this, other fossil fuel companies have also been weighing in in an effort to maintain $4 billion annual subsidies. Ninety percent of these companies’ campaign contributions of almost $50 million have gone to the Republicans, while over $150 million has been spent on TV ads promoting fossil fuel interests. For example, the Koch brothers’ ‘Americans For Prosperity’ ran an advertisement alleging that Obama’s clean energy stimulus only created foreign jobs, not domestic ones, based on completely untrue claims.
What have the results been?
Not long ago, Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, was in favour of improving many environmental protection regulations and encouraging fuel efficiency in transport. He claimed to be committed to renewable energy.
In June 2011, he said “I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing”. But by October 2011, he was already backing off. “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
His energy plan unveiled in August this year committed to:
- maintaining the $4bn subsidies for oil companies;
- stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate carbon dioxide;
- eliminating the production tax credit for wind projects;
- removing regulatory obstacles to coal development; and
- approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas on the first day of his administration.
Already, the current House of Representatives is the most anti-environment in Congressional history, averaging at least one anti-environment vote per day to eliminate or undermine pollution protections, many benefiting these same oil companies.
The Koch brothers and other fossil fuel funders will believe that their money has been well-spent if Romney wins the election on 6 November. For the rest of the planet, the chances of avoiding catastrophic climate change will have just taken a significant step back.
And what if Obama wins? Will he do more than he has in his first term? As well as buying up politicians to ensure their support of favourable legislation, the fossil fuel industry’s promotion of climate denial and its media manipulation has been wildly successful. This summer large swathes of the US suffered under drought and unprecedented heatwaves. Hurricane Sandy is just part of the pattern of increasingly freakish weather events in our changing climate. Yet for the first time since 1984, climate change was mentioned in not one of the presidential debates.
Campaign against Climate Change protest: Wednesday 7th November
The Koch brothers prefer to keep a low public profile for their more controversial activities. But on 7th November we will be taking our super-size banner to their London office and then moving on to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square. Whoever wins the US election, we will not be complicit in the silencing of climate scientists and the buying of politicians with dirty fossil fuel money.
3-5pm: Demonstration outside the UK HQ of ‘Koch International’ at Fountain House, 130 Fenchurch Street, EC3M 5DJ. Map here.
5-6pm: Join us on our “Dirty money and climate lies” open-topped bus in a ride from the City to the US embassy at Grosvenor Square, W1A 2LQ.
6pm: Tea Party at the US embassy, with speeches and stunts from Occupy and other campaigners.
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Article by Claire James