Koch Industries' Climate Misinformation Highlighted

Protection of vested interests by billion dollar ad blitzes, misinformation campaigns designed to confuse the public about reality, and corporate influence over politics may be the most important barriers to addressing climate change in the United States. These tactics for derailing progress also form a large part of the toolbox for Koch Industries, one of the foremost supporters of anti-progressivism in this country. As the role of Koch Industries in preventing climate change action becomes clear, more and more people are taking notice. This weekend when brothers Charles and David Koch met with conservative and Tea Party political figures in Palm Springs, California, they were greeted by around a thousand protesters determined to highlight Koch Industries’ dirty activities.

Koch Industries is among the biggest privately held corporations in the United States, and also one of the largest funders of misinformation about climate change. The Koch brothers are major contributors to the corporate-backed Tea Party movement, which has made denying the existence of climate change a central tenet of its political platform. According to Greenpeace, Koch Industries has devoted $31.3 million to sowing climate change denial since 2005. Just last fall the Kochs donated $1 million to the failed “Yes on Prop 23” campaign, which if successful would have suspended California’s most important climate law.

Last year’s Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision gave corporate interests the green light to spend unlimited amount of money to elect politicians of their choice. Koch Industries is also expected to pour an unprecedented amount of funding into the 2012 elections. However as the Kochs’ ability to influence politics grows, a truly grassroots movement is emerging expose how the Koch brothers have stalled action on climate change and prevented big polluters and other industries from being held accountable.

“These billionaires are spending unprecedented amounts of money to elect politicians who will promote greater profits and fewer rules for insurance companies, polluters, banks and mortgage companies,” said Gabriel Elsner, Campaign Director for the California Student Sustainability Coalition, one of the groups protesting outside the Koch brothers’ meeting in Palm Springs on Sunday. “We need public officials who will stand up to the private interests and take the side of America's middle class.” Twenty-five people were arrested at the demonstration, after peacefully entering the Rancho Las Palmas Resort where the meetings were taking place.

Sunday’s protest wasn’t the first example of people power taking on the Koch brothers, nor is it likely to be the last. In the run-up to the 2010 elections, California students launched a campaign to turn out youth voters and defeat Prop 23. As part of this effort Cal State University senior Joel Francis recorded a widely-viewed YouTube video challenge to Charles Koch. Francis, a Marine Corps veteran, explained that rolling back California’s climate law would damage the green economy, and challenged Charles Koch to a public debate. Though Koch never met the challenge, the story was picked up across the media and helped focus attention on the role big businesses in financing Prop 23.

“Our democracy, our health, and our prosperity should not be in the hands of the polluters, bankers, and secret groups of billionaires meeting behind closed doors,” said Francis at Sunday’s protest in Palm Springs. “We need a power shift, and that begins by taking corporations out of our democracy and giving our government back to We the People.”

Photo credit: Mikael Miettinen