Andrew Langer is a man who knows how to brew a Tea Party, or so he would have you believe. He is the president of the Institute for Liberty, a right-wing think tank which published a guide on the subject. Yet Langer’s real expertise isn’t in the brewing of the tea; it’s in the selling of the movement. A recent New York Times article has revealed that Mr. Langer is far from a folksy tea party organizer who sticks up for the average American consumer. In fact he is a professional bloviator with a history of work with corporate funded anti-regulatory front groups.
One of his most recent projects, and the one that earned him attention from the Times, is called the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity.
Begun in August of 2010, the Consumers Alliance for Global Prosperity is an attempt to use the tea party movement to derail sustainable forestry in one of the world’s most endangered rainforest - for the benefit of an Asian paper corporation. Here is an example of the destructive practices the Consumers Alliance supports:
Langer's pro-deforestation campaign, called “Pulp Wars,” attacks environmental groups, labor unions, and American businesses, accusing them of conspiring to keep Indonesians poor and American retail prices high. The mission of Pulp Wars, according to a facebook page for the group, is to fight the “Empires of Collusion,” defined as “greedy corporations, scheming union bosses and radical environmentalists -- that are working hard to restrict free trade in an effort to make countless everyday products more expensive for consumers.” According to CAGP, the empire includes such unlikely colluders as Greenpeace, WWF, and Staples.
In spite of the absurdity of the claims, Pulp Wars is not the only place they are made. Asia Pulp & Paper, a massive corporation responsible for clear cutting the Paradise Rainforest, made the exact same claims about in a report called “Green Protectionism.” Tellingly, APP’s report came out three days before Langer released the Pulp Wars version. The Times writes:
“Three days later, Mr. Langer came out with his own detailed report that hewed to these same themes, and put up a Web site, pulpwars.com, to promote it. Titled “Empires of Collusion,” it reads like a brief for Asia Pulp & Paper and has been followed by reports on subjects like palm oil and American paper industry subsidies that are important to Asia Pulp & Paper and its parent company, Sinar Mas. He has worked these issues into podcasts, Facebook postings and opinion columns, often with a folksy Tea Party-friendly twist... Although some of his material cites Asia Pulp & Paper, Mr. Langer insists that he had not even heard of the company.”
In addition to suspiciously similar reports, Langer is linked to other people and groups who have run public relations campaigns for Asia Pulp and Paper, as this graphic by the New York Times shows.
Langer and his institute are a perfect example of how professional apologists masquerade as tea party populists, couching pro-corporate propaganda in democratic language. But he is not the biggest or the baddest in the corporate shill industry. Groups like the Koch funded American’s for Prosperity and Dick Armey’s Freedomworks (both of whom Langer has worked closely with), are much better funded, yet their funding and motives are equally obscure. As Greenpeace’s Scott Paul says: “If you can spend as much money as you want and remain anonymous, then it doesn’t matter if you’re an overseas company or the Koch brothers, you pay the same network of anti-regulatory front groups.”
Less than a year since BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded into flame, killed eleven rig employees and initiated an uncontrolled oil gusher that blasted over four million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the London-based oil giant is asking for more.
The Gulf ecosystem is still reeling from the dramatic oil and gas pollution that created underwater plumes that spanned for miles and effectively turned the ocean floor into a “graveyard.” While former BP CEO Tony Hayward promised his company would “make this right,” 300,000 Gulf residents still await their share of the $20 billion BP set aside for compensation.
Residents continue to worry about the quality of Gulf seafood and their own health:
As put by Greenpeace Research Director Kert Davies in an interview with ABC (above), "This is not even a year since the worst environmental disaster this country has ever seen and the culprit is being led right back to the scene of the crime and being given the keys."
Meanwhile, the offshore drilling contractor that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, Transocean, is now apologizing for handing out absurd bonuses to executives for safety in 2010, including a $200,000 salary increase to CEO Steven L. Newman. Newman made $5,374,687 in 2009.
The Department of the Interior has challenged Transocean's safety claims, and has stressed that no agreement to resume drilling has been made with BP, although the company continued other operations throughout 2010 and into 2011, as had Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Royal Dutch Shell recently obtained permission for a new drilling project off the coast of Louisiana.
Photo Credit: the Guardian
Memo to: the Koch PR team
Re: over-zealous PR unlikely to help your clients
Dear Koch PR team
It's good to know who you are now – thanks to a story over at Politico. But perhaps we can offer you a little bit of advice?
We note that you’ve been getting to work on your new Koch account, placing stories in the New York Times about funding cancer research and the like. (Good distraction tactics!).
We also note how active you’ve been on the Koch Industries, Inc Facebook page
We understand that the brief from the Kochs is to fight back against the terribly bad name they’ve been getting over the last year.
And while we know the Koch brothers fund the deniers (as documented in this Greenpeace report), we also know that they’ve made you go to great lengths to distance them from any involvement. Major fail for you then when Wikipedia found out that your web guys, New Media Strategies, had created sock puppets to edit out the links and banned them from the site. Ouch!
But did you take another step too far last week? A new post appeared on Koch Industries’ facebook page on 19 March saying:
“A Berkley scientist explains how activist scientists managed to "hide the decline" in recent global temperatures. "You're not allowed to do this in science," Richard Muller explains.”
ClimateProgress has unearthed what Muller is up to – he’s co-chairing the rather prestigious-sounding “Berkely Earth Surface Temperature Study” – another recipient of Koch Funding.
Seems the whole project is a ruse to challenge Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick findings from the early 1990’s – a challenge raised by the so-called "climategate" scandal. As Think Progress points out:
"why would Berkeley want to be associated with the Kochs?"
And why investigate the Hockey stick findings, which have been backed up by at least five other studies? The deniers have focussed on the Hockey Stick argument (that shows global temperatures spiking upward, like a hockey stick) as their benchmark for whether global warming is happening and whether it’s caused by human activities. But this is despite strong signals from different areas of science that all point in the same direction.
That’s the same Richard Muller who has, as Climate Progress points out:
"has actually worked to undermine credibility in well-established science.”
(Latest: Climate Progress has now discovered that the Berkley project is not turning out the way Muller and the Koch’s want it to go – turns out that their preliminary results show that the temperature records are dead right. Oops! Findings are summarised:
“We are seeing substantial global warming” and “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.”
The presence of Muller and climate-scientist-turned-denialist Judith Curry is bad enough.
But Haywood? Do you not know who this guy is? If ever there was a Koch-funded climate denial mouthpiece, it’s Steven F Haywood. He’s a fellow at four of the Kochtopus-funded think tanks. They’ve all had quite a bit of funding from your clients 1986-2009:
Reason Foundation ($2,536,521),
Heritage Foundation ($4,110,571),
Pacific Research Foundation ($1,515,800) and
American Enterprise Institute (only $150,000 from Koch but Exxon gave them $2.8 million).
So the total Koch money to Hayward’s groups is $8,312,892. Add Exxon’s $4,341,000 and that adds up to a massive $12.65 million of denial punch.
No wonder you guys were excited about linking to his piece. But was it wise? Does Koch really want to be openly associating itself with Hayward and Muller – and “climategate?” This is the first time we’ve seen such an open association by Koch to undermining the climate science. Very useful for us – but doesn’t this rather undermine the Koch’s ongoing denial that they are linked with these climate deniers?
And finally, while we’re discussing your Facebook page, another word of advice: if you’re going to promote stories that you’ve managed to place in blogs, perhaps drip them out slowly?
During the Wisconsin protests, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group led the tea party in support of Scott Walker and Koch became a lightning rod for protestors. (Bet that got you going).
Nice work lining up all the bloggers to support Koch - but posting them all in one day on Facebook? Six posts in just a few hours? 4th March was a busy day for you. But seriously, if you’re going to go on the offense, maybe make it a little less obvious?
We know you must be paid an awful lot by this client – are they really getting their money’s worth? Or did you leave your Facebook promotion up to New Media Strategies?
ExxonMobil, proud owner of the gas company XTO (bought in 2010 for $31B), attempted to parry criticism of the gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing in a recent letter to the editor featured in the New York Times. The letter, written by Vice President Ken Cohen, contained all of the untruths and PR manipulations one would expect from the anti-climate, anti-environment, oil and gas supermajor ExxonMobil.
Ken writes in retaliation to a New York Times Business Day article by largely pro-gas and pro-industry “journalist” Christopher Swann, in which Swann refers to ExxonMobil’s strategy of forming a “united front against regulation" as “myopic.” Ken tacitly denies opposing regulation, saying “Along with other companies, ExxonMobil works with state regulatory authorities to develop sound, science-based regulations for oil and gas drilling.” If the implication of this statement is that Exxon supports legitimate fracking regulation, then this is a lie. Exxon opposes any attempt at regulation of their business reflexively and has opposed all attempts at regulation on fracking specifically.
Ken goes on to parrot the industry mantra of how vital “clean-burning” gas is for “national energy security” and “well-paying jobs.” No mention of how fracking poisons drinking water with radiation and toxic sludge. When weighing the importance of fresh water versus the “billions of dollars” that stand to be made by energy profiteers, Ken has definitely picked a side. Ken’s letter also spouts the common industry-created rhetoric that fracking has been used safely since 1940. The truth is that the type of fracking practiced currently is significantly different than the processes used since the 40’s, and none of these processes should be labeled 100% safe. Just ask the residents of Wiliamsport, Pennsylvania, where Exxon and XTO spewed 13,000 gallons of toxic sludge into waterways used for drinking water. So much for the “responsible development” touted by Ken Cohen and ExxonMobil.
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has profiled some of Chevron's most offensive operatives as part of their campaign to make the oil giant take responsibility for massive pollution in Ecuador. After almost three decades of drilling activity that ended in 1990, over 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste was knowingly and haphazardly abandoned by Texaco, which was purchased by Chevron in 2001.
Despite documented human rights abuses worldwide, Chevron has insisted it is not guilty of poisoning Ecuadorian people (and the soil and waterways that sustain them). Chevron has crafted its case through aggressive denial, distracting advertising, staggering amounts of money, and "Human Rights Hitmen" willing to dodge and lie at the expense of people and ecosystems, intentionally boxed out of sight and mind.
RAN profiled the following Chevron Human Rights Hitmen:
- R. Hewitt Pate: Chevron vice president and general counsel. Pate was a Justice Department lawyer during the Bush Administration, branded by RAN as "Chevron's Karl Rove" for his distraction tactics, fabricating small-scale scandals on part of Ecuadorians and their allies in order to ignore Chevron's large-scale guilt.
- Diego Borja: Chevron's self-described "dirty tricks operative." Beyond linking Chevron to an "independent" U.S. lab testing samples from contaminated waste sites, Borja videotaped an Ecuadorian judge presiding over the lawsuit against Chevron and released footage edited to imply that the judge had accepted a bribe (he had not). The judge was dismissed from the case.
- Andrea E. Neuman and Randy M. Mastro. Both Neuman and Mastro are veteran corporate influence peddlers with DC law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, drawing attention away from the suffering of plaintiffs against Chevron by conjuring pointed personal attacks and claims of bias by the Ecuardorian legal system. Neuman specializes in stomping wronged citizens at the behest of major polluters like Dole Foods and Lockheed Martin.
- Sam Anson: Working for Kroll, one of several PR companies hired by Chevron, Anson was caught attempting to hire a journalist to spy on Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing Chevron. The journalist turned down the $20,000 offer and made the scandal public.
More on the campaign to hold Chevron responsible for its crimes in Equador can be found at Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, among others documenting the true cost of Chevron's toxic legacy [PDF]. More on Chevron can be found in our Polluter Watch profile.
Researchers at IndyWeek.com have created a graphic display of Art Pope's network, including Americans for Prosperity, Koch Industries, and the North Carolina legislature. Art Pope is the CEO of Variety Wholesalers and is a financier of a broad range of self-serving policies that favor the elite over the public interest. Through the wealth of the John William Pope Foundation, named after Pope's father, Art Pope has single-handedly contributed over $24,000,000 to groups that deny the science of global warming, dovetailing with the operations of Charles and David Koch.
Pope's network of political operatives peddle public doubt over established climate science, elect politicians who deny global warming, push for repeal of successful energy policy (and instruct to "abandon" further attempts), attack socio-economic integration in public schools and push for widespread privatization of schools and the Internet, among other deeds.
More on Pope's network can be found on his PolluterWatch profile.
In another explosive exposition of the natural gas industry, Ian Urbina of the New York Times documents how industry and elected officials kept EPA findings on the dangers of fracking from becoming public. One EPA scientist said "The industry was going to get what it wanted, and we were not supposed to stand in the way.”
In a ground breaking expose of the natural gas industry, Ian Urbina of the New York Times chronicles the dumping of radioactive watewater into the rivers and streams of Pennsylvania, among other abuses. The article describes how natural gas companies have taken advantage of lax regulation and unprepared regulators to thwart what few environmental safeguards exist to control gas extraction. Natural gas is extracted through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short. This process uses millions of gallons of water, which becomes contaminated with heavy metals, radioactive elements, and other toxins. This wastewater must then be disposed of. In Pennsylvania the waste has been dumped into waterways, upstream of freshwater intake for cities and towns.
Here is a video describing the fracking process. Keep in mind it was made by Chesapeake Energy, a company heavily invested in hydrofracking, so there is no mention of what happens to the toxic wastewater.
Natural gas has long courted a "green" image because gas is less carbon intense than coal and some other fossil fuels. Gas companies have even gone as far as calling the burning of gas an inexpensive form of clean energy. However, the cost of natural gas is enormous: polluted water, the release methane (a powerful green house gas), exploding houses and water wells, cancer, and waste of money and capital that should be going to real clean energy (i.e. solar and wind).
In a move that exposes the repeated and predictable habit of Congressional polluter allies, House Republicans have ignored a $53 billion handout over the next 25 years to oil companies that are not required to pay royalties when obtaining leases for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This year alone, according to House Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), $1.5 billion in absent lease royalties will benefit oil companies seeking to expand offshore drilling.
The leases, which give oil giants access to public property for their own profit, is another slap in the face to taxpayers who have already watched their land (and for many, their fragile livelihoods) become poisoned by industry abuse and maintained by federal incompetence. As fiscal conservatives in the U.S. House selectively look for government spending to trim, the main targets seem to be social programs instead of unncecessary billions doled out to the world's largest oil companies. As Congress scratches the back of Big Oil, fresh reports emerge of continued devestation on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico, a direct result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Noting the twisted irony, Rep. Markey stated, "Republicans once again sided with BP, Exxon and the oil companies, not with the American taxpayer and the poorest Americans most in need of help. This legislation focuses on just the kind of special interest loophole that should be closed before we open attacks on programs for the poorest Americans.”
This failure to save wasted taxpayer money is but a small portion of the sickening annual handouts to the oil industry through subsidies. Oil Change International explains, "Estimates of the value of US federal subsidies to the domestic oil and gas industry alone (not coal) range from 'only' $4 billion a year, to an amazing $52 billion annually. Coal subsidies are roughly another 10 billion annually."
Through its DirtyEnergyMoney tabulation website, Oil Change International reports that the 111th House of Representatives has some powerful allies to the oil industry across party lines. From 2009-2010, thirteen House members were each awarded over $100,000 by oil companies alone:
- Roy Blunt (R-MO) -- $269,400
- Dan Boren (D-OK) -- $205,750
- Chet Edwards (D-TX) -- $176,130
- Joe Barton (R-TX) -- $150,870
- Mike Ross (D-AR) -- $135,350
- K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) -- $132,600
- John Sullivan (R-OK) -- $125,800
- John Fleming (R-LA) -- $123,550
- John Boehner (R-OH) -- $119,400
- Jerry Moran (R-KS) -- $113,600
- Eric Cantor (R-VA) -- $110,600
- Charles Boustany (R-LA) -- $109,000
- Harry Teague (D-NM) --$100,300
More information on all of these companies can be found on our PolluterWatch profiles for each company, as well as in-depth looks at their Congressional funding through DirtyEnergyMoney.com
The same oil and gas companies that set up a front group to campaign against regulations over hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) have spent a combined total of more than $126 million on lobbyists, while pouring money into the campaign coffers of the Hill’s loudest fracking regulation opponents.
DeSmogBlog recently exposed “Energy in Depth” as an oil and gas front group set up to lead the charge against anyone legislating against or even investigating the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that pose public health and water contamination threats.
Purportedly set up to represent “small, independent oil and natural gas producers,” instead “Energy in Depth” is funded by some of the largest oil companies on the planet, such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Occidental, along with the American Petroleum Institute and other trade associations.
The “Independent” Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) memo obtained by DeSmogBlog was written in 2009, five days before the introduction of bills aimed at closing loopholes around the chemicals used in fracking.
In 2009, Congressional Democrats introduced two bills proposing to close the current loopholes around the use of chemicals used in fracking– The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act (S. 1215), and The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (H.R. 2766).
Greenpeace (thanks to OpenSecrets.org, DirtyEnergyMoney.com and MapLight.org) looked at the recent lobbying records of the giant oil and gas interests that describe themselves as “small and independent” operators that funded EID. During 2009 and 2010, the EID funders spent a combined $126.8 million on lobbying.
Of course these companies were also lobbying on other issues, but the two fracking bills were key issues listed in their lobby registration documents.
A ProPublica investigation into oil and gas money received by members of the Natural Gas caucus found that they received 19 times more money on average than members of Congress who signed a letter in support of a proposal to require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they use when drilling on public lands.
All of the five members of Congress mentioned in the leaked “Energy in Depth” memo testified against the proposed legislation before it was tabled. For their efforts, each have received regular payments from a majority of EID members, including the IPAA itself. (See financial figures, compiled below)
The Congressional battles over regulation continue with Republican Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) taking up the issue late last year, and another key fracking supporter, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) pressuring Ken Salazar to back off a proposal to introduce new regulations through the Department of Interior if Congress refuses to act.
2010: $5.51 million (some of this was likely spent to deny culpability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster due to their 25% stake in BP's Macondo well)
2009: $2.81 million
Total Anadarko lobbying and political contributions.
Dan Boren (D-OK), chair, House Natural Gas Caucus.
For the 2009-2010 election cycle Dan Boren raked in $216,250 from the oil and gas industry. He is the natural gas transmission and distribution industry’s top recipient, and second highest for the oil and gas industry. Among his funders are Chevron, Occidental, Anakardo, Marathon, and, of course, the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Doc Hastings (R-WA)
At $84,671 in contributions, the oil and gas industry is Hastings' top contributing industry with regular payments from the EID member companies.
Hastings has been fighting any rules or transparency around fracking and its chemicals, writing to Ken Salazar late 2010 arguing that such rules would “ threaten thousands of jobs, deepen the federal deficit through reduced revenues, and harm natural gas development and our nation’s energy security.”
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Lamborn’s second-highest industry favorite was oil and gas, at $31,500, again with EID members prominent in the ranks.
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Gohmert raked in $48,550 in oil and gas money in the last election cycle. The oil and gas sector was his third highest donor by industry, a contributions from EID members included Chevron, Marathon and Halliburton.
John Fleming (R-LA)
Oil and gas was Fleming's second biggest earner at $123,500, including Chevron, Occidental, Marathon, IPAA, Halliburton.
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Lummis’s top funders are the oil and gas industry, with $89,550 in 2010 dirty donations.