The 5 Most Toxic Energy Companies and How They Control Our Politics
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4. Koch Industries
By now you likely already know about how the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have their fingers in just about everything, from funding union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to trying to take down public education to i nsider dealings with Iran. The brothers run one of the largest privately held companies in the world, Koch Industries, and one of its key business targets is energy. The company's crude refineries can process up to 800,000 barrels of oil per day; its pipelines stretch 4,000 miles, carrying oil, natural gas and chemicals; and it's in the business of supplying and burning coal as well -- all under a variety of subsidiaries.
As a privately held company, there is much we don't know about the Kochs -- like exactly how much money their empire pulls in. Estimates are somewhere around $100 billion in annual revenue and Forbes estimates the brothers' worth at $43 billion. But what's crystal clear is that the more we know (and we're learning every day), the higher this company is going to move in our rankings.
Let's start with its environmental impact. Wonk Room estimates Koch Industries belches 300 million tons of CO2 pollution annually. "The immense profitability of their carbon holdings depends on their freedom to pollute without consequence -- a toxic freedom they have sold to the American public, and particularly the Tea Party faithful organized by the various Koch front groups, as inherent to the American dream," writes Brad Johnson on ThinkProgress. "If their pollution was fairly priced in a free-market system such as the cap-and-trade markets the Koch successfully demonized in Washington (but failed in their attempt to do so in California), the Kochs would be facing costs of anywhere from $1 billion to $40 billion a year."
In order to keep the money machine oiled, the Kochs have worked to slander the EPA and weaken environmental protections, contort public opinion on the science behind global warming and roll back regulations. All of this has been done by lining the pockets of politicians and lobbyists. From 1989-2012 CRP found that more than $12 million of Koch money went to federal candidates (90 percent to Republicans), making them the second highest in that category on our list.
Additionally, from 1998-2011 CRP reports that Koch Industries spend $59 million on lobbying (fourth highest on our list) and just this year they have hired 26 lobbyists (also fourth highest on our list). In 2008 alone they spent $20 million on lobbying. According an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, "Koch's lobbyists are known on Capitol Hill for maintaining a low profile. There are no former U.S. Senators or House committee chairmen on the payroll."
However, many of Koch's registered lobbyists on its payroll "are Washington insiders with previous experience as congressional staffers or federal agency employees." For instance, Greg Zerzan served as senior counsel for the House Financial Services Committee and later as deputy assistant secretary for financial institutions in the Department of Treasury during the Bush administration. In 2010 he became a lobbyist for Koch Industries after a stint at the International Swaps and Derivatives Association.
When it comes to political campaigns, CRP reports that, "Koch is also one of the Republican Party's most reliable donors. In every election cycle since 2000, people and political action committees associated with the company have donated at least 83 percent of their cash to Republican candidates and committees." In 2010, the number was more than 92 percent for Republicans. In that election, Koch Industries gave more than $1.6 million to federal candidates or their PACs.