The Koch Brothers' Tangled and Far-Reaching Web
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Meanwhile, Koch has lobbied to preserve some of the oil industry’s coveted tax breaks and credits.
One benefit is known as the Section 199 deduction, approved by Congress several years ago to help the hard-pressed U.S. manufacturing sector. In light of the oil and gas industry’s hearty profits, the Obama administration and members of Congress have sought to end the Section 199 subsidy for energy firms and save the U.S. Treasury $14 billion over 10 years. But Koch lobbyists and trade associations have worked to preserve the deduction.
Another industry tax break that drew the support of Koch representatives is the venerable “LIFO” (last-in, first-out) accounting rule. It allows energy companies effectively to raise the value of their existing inventory (and thus pay lower taxes on profits from sales) when the price of oil soars.
Under LIFO, the oil in a company’s inventory, no matter what it actually cost, is valued at the cost of the last-acquired (usually highest-cost) barrel. The LIFO rule has been a target in recent years for both Democrats and Republicans in Washington, who would like to raise revenue without raising taxes.
Bush Tax Cuts
Koch lobbyists listed the expiring Bush tax cuts as a lobbying objective last year, and the Koch brothers were among an elite, relatively few Americans who profited when the income tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year were extended in a year-end deal.
Another of the Bush tax breaks had special meaning for the Koch brothers. Charles Koch, 75, and David Koch, 70, are tied for fifth place, each with a net worth of $21.5 billion, in the latest Forbes rankings of the wealthiest Americans. Included in the deal to extend the Bush tax cuts was a proposal to reduce the federal estate tax. The Kochs have, historically, been players in an ongoing effort by wealthy families to curb or eliminate the tax on inheritances.
The final tax deal reached by the White House and Republicans in Congress in December set the estate tax at 35 percent. That makes the new rate considerably more favorable than during the Clinton (55 percent) or even the Bush (45 percent) years, and the lowest it’s been since the 1930s. If one of the patriarchs should die while the new rate is in effect, it would save the Koch family billions of dollars.
Terrorism and National Security
Another major preoccupation of Koch Industries lobbyists during recent sessions of Congress was the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, a federal effort to identify and regulate chemical facilities that could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
In 2009, the House passed legislation that would toughen the standards, and require manufacturers like Koch to use safer chemicals and processes to add another level of protection and minimize the effects of toxic releases from terrorist attacks or catastrophic accidents.
Koch opposed the changes, claiming they “increase cost and regulatory burden while shifting focus away from security and toward environmental considerations.” The chemical security provisions were listed as lobbying targets by Koch representatives in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
According to EPA records, Koch has four facilities that use chlorine dioxide—in Palatka, Fla.; Zachary, La.; New Augusta, Miss.; and Camas, Wash. It has an Invista plant that uses formaldehyde in LaPorte, Texas. Its Flint Hills refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, uses hydrofluoric acid in refining gasoline.
Mandatory use of safer technology would “result in even more job losses and higher consumer prices as American manufacturers struggle to comply,” Koch contends in a statement on the chemical safety standards on its website. The House legislation would “restructure, and likely add additional cost to security programs currently in place for Koch companies’ facilities.”