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How influential are the Koch brothers? New Yorker investigates

The Koch brothers are leaving their mark everywhere.

On Aug. 19, Progressive Media reported that the Kansas-based Koch Industries is the lead funder of a “grassroots” group organizing support for Proposition 23, the ballot initiative that would kill California’s energy climate change law.

The company is also recognized as funding the Pacific Research Institute, an organization that has produced several seminal studies designed to discredit and undermine AB32, the climate change law.

But in this week’s New Yorker magazine, the investigation of the Kochs has taken a step further with a devastating portrait of the Kochs.

Jane Mayer, the author of the article, examines the family's motivations and tactics in fighting climate change legislation, trying to debunk the science and change public perception.

Toward the end of her article, she takes a look at a Koch-funded Smithsonian Institute exhibit that explores human evolution in terms of climate change.

Here’s a long but telling excerpt:

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is a multimedia exploration of the theory that mankind evolved in response to climate change. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

Such ideas uncannily echo the Koch message. The company’s January newsletter to employees, for instance, argues that “fluctuations in the earth’s climate predate humanity,” and concludes, “Since we can’t control Mother Nature, let’s figure out how to get along with her changes.” Joseph Romm, a physicist who runs the Web site ClimateProgress.org, is infuriated by the Smithsonian’s presentation. “The whole exhibit whitewashes the modern climate issue,” he said. “I think the Kochs wanted to be seen as some sort of high-minded company, associated with the greatest natural-history and science museum in the country. But the truth is, the exhibit is underwritten by big-time polluters, who are underground funders of action to stop efforts to deal with this threat to humanity. I think the Smithsonian should have drawn the line.”

Cristián Samper, the museum’s director, said that the exhibit is not about climate change, and described Koch as “one of the best donors we’ve had, in my tenure here, because he’s very interested in the content, but completely hands off.” He noted, “I don’t know all the details of his involvement in other issues.”

The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation”—or even, he added, “a big oil company.”

You can read more about the Koch brothers here and here. Also, check out this video posted last week that shows Americans for Prosperity's Margaret Turney telling David Koch that her grassroots group will help take over California.


Filed under: Environment, Daily Report


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Sunflower Pipes's picture
I think the point about the Koch Brothers is that their companies that they release toxins into the air to improve their profit margins, They structure their companies so that most of the taxes are sent over seas, They pay their employees as little as possible and cut corners on safety, They regularly violate US law as long as the fines don’t exceed the profit motive. They have hidden their political activities from the public and from the Tea Party itself. They promote studies that will manufacture false results that will save their company money. In short they are exploiting the environment, American law and the American people, sending money abroad and creating a false political and environmental reality. http://www.SunflowerPipes.com

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