How Koch Front Groups Influence Laws

Dave Johnson

Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to continue tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies. Every Republican voted to support the tax breaks and subsidies.

Thursday House Republicans are expected to introduce legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the CO2 put into the air by burning oil and coal.

Why does the oil industry have so much influence over our government?

Think Progress examines the influence just one oil company has over our government in a series:

From the report series, Part 1:

As ThinkProgress has carefully documented over the last three years, Koch groups have spent tens of millions to influence government policy — from financing the Tea Parties, to funding junk academic studies, to undisclosed attack ads against Democrats, to groups promoting climate change denial, to a large network of state-based and national think tanks.

[. . .] Koch funds both socially conservative groups and socially liberal groups. However, Koch’s financing of front groups and political organizations all have one thing in common: every single Koch group attacks workers’ rights, promotes deregulation, and argues for radical supply side economics. Not only do the Koch’s front groups pad Koch Industries’ bottom line, they supply the Koch brother’s talking points.

From the series Part 2:

Koch Industries has cornered the market in monetizing some of the most dirty industrial businesses. Koch imports oil from the Middle East, refines high-carbon Canadian crude, maintains coal-burning plants, owns one of the largest oil pipeline networks in America, runs environmentally hazardous lumber mills, produces toxic chemicals, and manufacturers fertilizer. The University of Masschusetts Amherst has scored Koch as among the top ten worst air polluters for its carcinogenic chemicals.

Much of the entire Koch political machine is geared towards ensuring that Koch Industries never has to compensate the people and ecosystems damaged by Koch Industries pollution. Koch front groups — from Tea Party groups to think tanks — have diligently promoted Koch Industries’ bottom line by denying global warming, fighting regulations on Koch’s cancer-causing chemicals, and snuffing out investigations into Koch’s environmental crimes:

The report shows how a series of Koch-funded organizations — some even tax-deductible supposed “charities” — are presented to the public as “independent” and are used in a campaign to persuade the public that climate change is a “hoax” or that different ways that Koch Industries pollutes are actually not harmful and should not be regulated.

Not Just Pollution Laws

While the Think Progress series examines how Koch Industries uses front groups to influence the government’s efforts to enforce pollution laws, Politico examines an entirely different way that Koch Industies is using front groups to influence government. In For right, Wisconsin battle was years in making, Politico examines how Koch and others waged a campaign to convince voters that public employees, their pensions and their unions are responsible for state budget deficit, leading up to efforts like the ones in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states to get rid of public employee unions.

From the Politico story,

The conservative assault on public sector unions that seemed to explode out of nowhere in Wisconsin and spread across the Midwest was in fact months – if not years – in the making, the result of methodical polling, lobbying, messaging, grassroots organizing and policy crafting by a coterie of well-funded conservative groups.

The Politico story provides an important piece of the puzzle in understanding what has happened to us, our wages, our jobs and our democracy in recent years. But the story is hardly limited to influence over pollution laws or the fight over public-employee unions. Other investigations have looked into other uses of these front groups, astroturf, think tanks and other influencers. For example, looking just at Koch influence see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,and so many more.

See also Think Progress‘ related posts:

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