RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Mayer writes: "If there was any lingering doubt that a tiny clique of fossil-fuel barons has captured America's energy and environmental policies, it was dispelled last week, when the Trump Administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord."

The Koch Brothers used to fly far below the radar. Now their astounding influence-buying and efforts to keep the U.S. from embracing climate-change legislation have become more obvious. (photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)
The Koch Brothers used to fly far below the radar. Now their astounding influence-buying and efforts to keep the U.S. from embracing climate-change legislation have become more obvious. (photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

In Trump's Withdrawal From the Paris Accord, the Koch Brothers' Campaign Becomes Overt

By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

11 June 17


f there was any lingering doubt that a tiny clique of fossil-fuel barons has captured America’s energy and environmental policies, it was dispelled last week, when the Trump Administration withdrew from the Paris climate accordSurveys showed that a majority of Americans in literally every state wanted to remain within the agreement, and news reports established that the heads of many of the country’s most successful and iconic Fortune 100 companies, from Disney to General Electric, did, too. Voters and big business were arrayed against leaving the climate agreement. Yet despite the majority’s sentiment, a tiny—and until recently, almost faceless—minority somehow prevailed.

How this happened is no longer a secret. The answer, as the New York Times reported, on Sunday, is “a story of big political money.” It is, perhaps, the most astounding example of influence-buying in modern American political history.

As the climate scientist Michael Mann put it to me in my book “Dark Money,” when attempting to explain why the Republican Party has moved in the opposite direction from virtually the rest of the world, “We are talking about a direct challenge to the most powerful industry that has ever existed on the face of the Earth. There’s no depth to which they’re unwilling to sink to challenge anything threatening their interests.” For most of the world’s population, the costs of inaction on climate change far outweigh that of action. But for the fossil-fuel industry, he said, “It’s like the switch from whale oil in the nineteenth century. They’re fighting to maintain the status quo, no matter how dumb.”

Until recently, those buying the fealty of the Republican Party on these issues tried to hide their sway, manipulating politics from the wings. But what became clear this past weekend is that they can remain anonymous no longer. With their success dictating America’s climate policy, the fossil-fuel industry’s political heavyweights have also won new notoriety. Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of the Kansas-based fossil-fuel leviathan Koch Industries, used to attract attention only from environmental groups such as Greenpeace, which labelled them “the Kingpins of Climate Denial.” They were so secretive about their political activities that, when I first wrote about their tactics in The New Yorker, in 2010, the article was titled “Covert Operations.” But now references to the Kochs are becoming almost as commonplace as the Dixie Cups, Lycra, and other household products that their business produces. As the Times noted, Republican lawmakers’ swerves to the right on climate issues “did not happen by themselves. Republican lawmakers were moved along by a campaign carefully crafted by fossil-fuel industry players, most notably Charles D. and David H. Koch, the Kansas-based billionaires who run a chain of refineries. . . .” The Kochs were called out on the Sunday talk shows this past weekend, too. On ABC’s “This Week,” former Vice-President Al Gore cited “dark money” from fossil-fuel companies as the explanation for Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord; on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Secretary of State John Kerry specifically chastised the Kochs.

Now that they have been flushed from the shadows, the Kochs and their political operatives have proudly taken credit for obstructing the U.S. government from addressing climate change. Charles Koch, who is a hardcore libertarian, has argued that government action was only “making people’s lives worse, rather than better,” as he put it in an interview with Fortune last year. Meanwhile, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ main political-advocacy organization, has boasted about the group’s success in killing the careers of politicians who broke with the brothers’ anti-climate-change agenda. Phillips recounted to the Times that, after 2010, when the group spent tens of millions of dollars in campaigns aimed at defeating congressmen who wanted to take action on climate change, no Republican candidate has dared cross the Kochs on the issue again. “After that,” he said, support for renewable energy “disappeared from Republican ads. Part of that was the polling, and part of that was the visceral example of what happened to their colleagues who had done that. . . . It told the Republicans that we were serious, that we would spend some serious money against them.”

President Trump may be the face of America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, but, as deeper reporting is making clear, it’s the Kochs and their fellow fossil-fuel industry donors who really own the policy. Whether responsibility for such a consequential move will redound to their favor remains to be seen. But it’s worth remembering that Fred Koch, Charles and David’s father and the founder of the family company, had a favorite admonition. He warned his boys to keep a low profile and stay below the surface, because, as he put it, “It’s when the whale spouts that he gets harpooned.” your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+23 # dotlady 2017-06-11 22:32
We got a whale out there already spouting on Twitter. Meantime the oil barons beneath the surface, The Koch Bros. and their ilk, have already done and are doing a great deal of damage since the Citizens United decision, quietly buying elections. Ethics and human welfare are nowhere in their playbook.
-37 # 2017-06-12 06:32
We've had almost a decade of "green" crony capitalism during which favored "green" businesses have been looting taxpayer pockets while progressives cheer. While President Obama handed over more than $90 billion taxpayer dollars to the companies that contributed to his campaign coffers and lobbied for hand-outs, at least 36 of those subsidized firms have gone bankrupt. And the alternative energy advocates include many super-wealthy folks who have spent vast sums to sell their snake oil -- much, much more than the Kochs could dream of -- think Soros, Steyer, Bloomberg among the most prominent and generous.

Mayer's obsession with demonizing the Koch's for spending their money on a cause they believe in, makes her blind to the "beam in her own eye." At the least the Koch's never looted taxpayer funds to profit themselves and at least they didn't go bankrupt wasting taxpayer money and putting hard-working people out of work.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+11 # no2oil 2017-06-12 10:45
The Koch brothers and their inherited fortune have created more dirty energy jobs and pollution at the public expense than any other modern empire in the late 20th early 21st century.

To the facts -- the Koch's are beneficiaries of $5 Trillion plus annual and taxpayer funded global fossil fuel subsidy (IMF 2015 report).

They claim to be libertarians, but operate like socialists on corporate welfare, their agenda is no less than control of the American government, and with their aligned fossil fuels, here and abroad, have mostly achieved that goal in the questionable 2016 US election.

Read Jane Mayer's insightful book "Dark Money", that is if your read books, the Koch's fund massive amounts of government influence in front organizations to further their grip on democracy, they are no better than Russian plutocrats.

You may work for these guys, but you're working against the continued habitability of planet Earth on which everyone, include you and your family depend.
+11 # ericlane 2017-06-12 13:24
Inason, "green" businesses have been looting taxpayer pockets? That sounds like fossil fuel propaganda. The oil and gas industry has been looting America since the 1870's and continues unabated to this very minute. We have military outposts all over the world for one reason, to protect our oil lines. I don't see our military fighting wars to protect our solar panel trade. The Kock brothers are 21st century robber barons and are corrupting our institutions to protect their greed. That simple.
+2 # librarian1984 2017-06-13 08:18
Has anybody noticed that MSDNC is running Koch commercials, has been for almost a year.

And now they have shows for Joe Scarborough, George Will, Megyn Kelly, Greta von Sustern, Nicole Wallace ... I think they have decided which side of the fence they're on. They are the embodiment of the cozy relationship between neoliberals and neocons, as they agree on the sacrifice of all other programs in support of American empire. They support privatization, tax cuts and Wall Street.

The left is right, but the left has no support from the establishment. We must turn that into a strength.
+2 # Conan-the-Younger 2017-06-13 23:46
Miss Mayer, I have read your “Dark Money” book. And I have read Kenneth S. Deffeyes’ Beyond Oil: The view from Hubbert’s Peak. It has a simplified mathematical framework of the Theory of Peak Oil. And the Oil Industry has spent billions on making sure the public thinks Peak Oil is a myth or a hoax. And they have been very successful. But it is real, very real. How would you know the US hit national Peak Oil in December of 1970? Check the crude oil field production numbers from 1920 to 2015 published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the US Energy Dept.
In Game Theory, we can go straight to the third scenario; what is the actions of a 1% person to the situation of a shrinking set of resources and a growing number of players. The answer is to reduce the number of players in order to extend the resources for the survival of the reminder. How do you determine who to save and who to die? First, you dehumanized the losers. For instance, call the losers “takers” and the winners “makers”. According to Mitt Romney, 47% of Americans are ‘takers’. And the ‘takers’ are the losers in Paul Ryan’s budgets since 2011. This is also the reason for the absolute opposition to “ObamaCare”.
Miss Mayer tells Charles Koch's joke when asked to share was “I just want my fair share – which is all of it.” A note to the 99%, you are in a war of survival and you are losing!m

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.