Chicago

Exposed: ALEC's new anti-environmental agenda in Chicago this week

  • Posted on: 7 August 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

New internal documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveal new methods that fossil fuel companies, agrochemical interests and corporate lobbying groups will influence certain state policies in the coming months through the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC's annual meeting is taking place in Chicago this week, just as Common Cause and CMD have filed a complaint to the IRS over ALEC's corporate-funded "Scholarships" for state legislators--ALEC is a tax exempt non-profit despite their mission of facilitating an exchange of company-crafted laws with state legislators in closed-door meetings.

ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force is drafting new model bills on behalf of its members like Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and Peabody. ALEC's anti-environmental agenda in Chicago is available for viewing (see E&E PM and Earthtechling). These are the new model bills ALEC and its energy, chemical and agricultural interests are finalizing this week.

The Market-Power Renewables Act and the Renewable Energy Credit Act: ALEC and other Koch-funded State Policy Network groups like the Heartland Institute haven't had much success with their attempts to repeal state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws through the ALEC/Heartland Electricity Freedom Act. The Market-Power Renewables Act and Renewable Energy Credit Act are two newer, more subtle attempt to weaken RPS laws by phasing in a renewable power voluntary program, creating space for existing and out-of-state energy credits to displace new clean energy, and eventually repealing the RPS requirements entirely.

To slow the growth of clean energy competition, ALEC's fossil fuel members wrote these bills to allow increasing portions of a states clean energy generation requirements to be fulfilled by Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs. RECs are allowed to qualify in some states' RPS laws already, often in limited amounts, and they are not created equal. For instance, the benefits of burning gas leaking from landfills--something waste management companies would be selling anyway--are not on par with the societal benefits from building new sources of clean energy and displacing older, dirtier sources. You can see why ALEC member companies like American Electric Power or Duke Energy may take issue with this, given their reliance on coal and gas electricity generation.

Increasing the amount that RECs can qualify for state RPS targets means allowing more out-of-state energy. This could displace in-state jobs and economic benefits from clean energy development. The RECs may also come from sources that aren't defined as "renewable" in some states' RPS laws, or are only allowed in limited amounts, such as hydropower, biomass or biogas, creating a lowest common denominator effect. At the end of any given year, the ALEC bill would allow states to bank any extra energy generated from RECs beyond what the RPS law requires and use them to meet RPS targets for the following year. This could continually delay the growth of new, clean energy.

Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax: Despite support for a carbon tax from ALEC members like ExxonMobil, ALEC is creating a model bill to weigh in on what will become the keystone policy battle for climate change science deniers, a battle that is already creating a rift among conservative groups, like the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute against the R Street Institute. R Street formed when Heartland's Fire, Insurance and Real Estate program split away last year, after Heartland's insurance company funders were uncomfortable with the group comparing those who acknowledge climate change to the Unabomber.

Pre-Emption of Local Agriculture Laws Act: This bill would prevent governments under the state level (cities, towns, counties) from creating new laws or enforcing existing laws that have to do with the regulation of seeds and seed products--ie crops, flowers, and pretty much all food products grown in a state. This would allow companies like Monsanto (indirectly represented in ALEC through its membership in CropLife America, an agrochemical front group and ALEC energy task force member) to bottleneck regulations of their GMO seeds and products at the state government level and stop community resistance to their abusive patent laws and enforcement through lawsuits.

For examples of what ALEC has already been busy with this year, check out PR Watch's roundup of 77 anti-environmental ALEC bills that have popped up in state legislatures in 2013, supporting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project, rolling back renewable energy incentives and making it illegal to document animal abuse, among other issues.

More info on ALEC's broader corporate agenda can be found on ALEC Exposed.

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Heritage Foundation crisis clogs Koch Brothers outreach to Hispanic voters

  • Posted on: 13 May 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

The Heritage Foundation isn't helping billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch reach Hispanic and Latino voters.

If you were the Koch brothers and you wanted to connect better with Latino and Hispanic voters, after you just dumped millions of your own cash into a presidential election that didn't go in your favor, you'd probably be annoyed if one of your favorite front groups started undermining your voter outreach.

That's exactly what's happening with the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation. Heritage is having a public relations crisis after releasing a contentious report claiming that immigration reform would cost $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years, indebting taxpayers to support people who live in the U.S. illegally. The offensive kicker is that the Heritage report's freshly-resigned co-author, Jason Richwine, previously published a dissertation claiming that Hispanic and Latino immigrants have lower IQs than White people.

Here's a helpful meme for Mr. Richwine:

As Heritage Foundation is one of the billionaire Koch brothers' favorite groups to implement their political agenda--receiving more than $2.7 million from Koch-controlled foundations since 2005--this is a poor start for the Kochs' new interest in reaching Hispanic and Latino voters in the U.S.

Amid the fiasco, Heritage pulled out of Buzzfeed's forum on immigration sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute. See infighting over Heritage's assumptions about how so-called "illegals" contribute to the U.S. economy from the Koch-funded Reason Foundation, of which David Koch is a trustee.

Hispanic & Latino Voter Engagement is Central to the Kochs' Refined Political Plans:

After coordinating hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama with the direct help of other billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess, and Philip Anschutz, the Kochs are meticulously refining their methods of controlling U.S. politics from behind the scenes. Some of those methods already involve serious marginalization of U.S. immigrants from Latin-American countries, as I've previously written:

It’s worth noting that the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council distributed Arizona’s controversial racial profiling law, SB 1070, to states around the country so private prison companies can rake a profit off the incarceration of immigrants.

At the Kochs' most recent political strategy and fundraising meeting, the Kochs prioritized outreach to Hispanic voters, according to leaked material published by Mother Jones. Kevin Gentry, a Koch Industries employee and Koch World's central fundraiser, explained the new priority in his invitation to "several hundred of America's top business owners and CEOs" attending last month's Koch meeting:

Among other topics, in April, we'll discuss how to more effectively engage growing demographic groups, such as Hispanic and Latino voters, and how to encourage principled and effective advocates of free enterprise to run for office.

Kevin Gentry then offered mild elaboration to invitees of the Koch meeting:

Hispanic, women and youth engagement. Allies will present an approach to more effectively communicate to these growing demographics, all of which will play a critical role in advancing free enterprise.

New Heritage President Jim DeMint's History with Koch World:

It's unclear if anyone from the Heritage Foundation attended the recent Koch meeting, although Heritage's new President and former U.S. Senator James DeMint has repeatedly attended the Kochs' secretive confabs in the past. In turn, the Kochs were one of the top contributors to Jim DeMint's political piggy bank while he ran and served in the Senate (2004-2012). Sen. DeMint's campaign and leadership PACs received a total $76,000 from Koch Industries and the Koch family (see p. 21 of Greenpeace's 2011 Koch report).

Either Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation didn't heed the notes from the Kochs' latest gathering, or Heritage staff didn't realize that calling people stupid isn't the best way to sell an ideology.

On a human level, the Kochs don't get it. Even ignoring the offensive work of the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, and other Koch front groups, the recent focus on Latino and Hispanic voter outreach is clearly a self-serving political tactic, where broadly-defined groups of people are used as a means to an end.

Koch Industries bid for U.S. Newspapers includes major Spanish outlets:

The Koch brothers could potentially influence U.S. Latino voters through Koch Industries' controversial bid for a pile of major U.S. newspapers owned by Tribune Company. Tribune Co's print news in Chicago and Los Angeles isn't limited to the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times; Tribune Co. owns Hoy, the nation's second largest daily U.S. newspaper published in Spanish, as well as two major weekly outlets in Florida: El Sentinel de Florida Central and El Sentinel del Sur de la Florida, published in conjunction with two Tribune daily papers written in English, the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Each Saturday, 127,000 copies of El Sentinel is distributed to its reader base, while Hoy's weekend edition reaches over one million homes in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Tribune Company's widely distributed English newspapers also include the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, and the Allentown, PA's Morning Call and Hampton Road, VA's Daily Press.

While Koch Industries doesn't yet own any media, a network of Koch-friendly media has shown it is capable of spreading misinformation on key topics like climate change. Due to the high possibility of warped editorial reporting if Koch buys Tribune, ten public employee unions and groups like Free Press, FAIR, Forecast the Facts, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, and the Center for Media and Democracy have all urged the public and owners of the Tribune Company to reject an offer from Koch Industries.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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Koch Industries bid for Tribune Co. newspapers could expand existing climate denial in Koch media

  • Posted on: 24 April 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

Brothers Charles and David Koch have spent decades and millions of dollars to influence the news we read in newspapers, see online and watch on TV. The Kochs regularly convene high security meetings with high society attendees, many of whom work in the media, influence it, or own it.   

Now reporters across the country are eyeing the Koch's first attempt to directly own media themselves. Last weekend's New York Times confirmed Koch Industries' bid for the Tribune Company as a way for the Kochs and their allies to "make sure our voice is heard." Tribune's newspapers reach tens of millions of U.S. citizens, an ideal captive audience for Charles Koch's self-serving philosophy to promote "economic freedom," and to end "crony capitalism," an ironic choice of words for the one of country's most infamous corporate political manipulators. Tribune Co. owns eight newspapers and 23 TV stations across the country including the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune and Hoy, the country's 2nd largest daily Spanish newspaper, a clear asset for conservative politicians still reeling from their underwhelming rapport with the U.S. Hispanic population in the 2012 election. Reaching Hispanic and Latino voters will be a major topic at the Kochs' secretive "billionaires caucus" next week, which was delayed three months so the Kochs could audit the results of their 2012 electioneering activities, bolstered by hundreds of millions of dollars raised at previous Koch meetings.{C}

It's worth noting that the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council distributed Arizona's controversial racial profiling law, SB 1070, to states around the country so private prison companies can rake a profit off the incarceration of immigrants.

Existing Kochtopus Media Publishes Climate Science Denial

Preceding their bid for the Tribune Company, the Koch brothers' network ties them to media outlets promoting the climate change denial campaign infamously bankrolled by the Kochs. Read the slaughter of science yourself at the Wall Street Journal opinion page, the Weekly Standard, the National Review, the Washington Examiner, and Breitbart.com. A Greenpeace investigation detailed key media outlet owners and pundits with ties to the Kochs through their secretive strategy meetings, as did Lee Fang's ThinkProgress article on the Kochs' pet "journalists." Here are some of the Koch's key allies that own or work in the media:

  • Stanley S. Hubbard, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns TV and radio stations in major cities across the country, including Washington DC's WTOP and WFED.
  • Karl Eller, who founded the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, Clear Channel Outdoor, and launched numerous TV, radio and newspaper outlets that were absorbed by Gannett Company. Gannett owns USATODAY and dozens of other U.S. newspapers and television stations, and Clear Channel Outdoor stemmed from a Gannett advertising subsidiary purchased by Eller. Karl Eller served on the board of Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN. He was chosen by the American Advertising Federation for its Advertising Hall of Fame in 2004.
  • Ramesh Pannuru, the senior editor of the National Review, an outlet funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. National Review's "Planet Gore" blog is dedicated to dismissing global warming.
  • Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, contributor to the National Review and frequent TV news pundit. Stephen Moore used to work at the Cato Institute, which was founded by Charles Koch in the 1970's and continues to be directed by David Koch and other Koch Industries associates. Moore advises the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and regularly collaborates with the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity. In 2009, Moore told attendees of the 2009 RightOnline conference, "What would we do without the Wall Street Journal and FOX News, Right? And Americans for Prosperity?" Moore is a former director of Donors Capital Fund, according to 2010 IRS tax filings.
  • Steven Hayward, who is affiliated with numerous groups financed by the Kochs as well serving as treasurer and board member to Donors Capital Fund. DCF and sister group Donors Trust hide money from the Kochs and other corporate interests to groups like the Heartland Institute, the Franklin Center, CFACT, Americans for Prosperity, and many other groups connected to Hayward--read more on Steven Hayward and the Donors Trust network. Steven Hayward frequently dismisses global warming in the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and Powerline Blog, run by attorney John Hinderaker, whose firm has represented Koch Industries.
  • Glenn Beck, the former FOX News hysteric who thanked Charles Koch on air for providing misinformation on climate change he presented during his show.
  • Dixon Doll, the co-founder and General Partner of DCM, a venture capital firm involved in telecommunications. Dixon Doll sits on the board of directors of DIRECTV.

The New York Times included the brothers' connection to oil and gas billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, and other outlets through Clarity Media Group (check out the Weekly Standard's  puff piece on the Kochs). Phil Anschutz, a fellow financier of climate science denial groups, is one of many elites who attends the Kochs' twice-annual strategy meetings, where millions of dollars are raised to influence politics through groups like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Franklin Center, and the other members of the State Policy Network. The State Policy Network and its affiliates often gin up their own astroturf media, with the Franklin Center's "Watchdog" websites dishing out content to bolster the campaigns of Koch's flagship SPN operations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. The Franklin Center is 95% funded by Donors Trust, the "Dark Money ATM" that hides money from the Kochs and other secretive political manipulators.

Pressure from advocates and Tribune employees to reject Koch bid

Media Matters reported numerous accounts from Tribune Co. paper employees concerned they would be a "conservative mouthpiece" for Koch Industries. As reporters from Tribune's various newspapers voice their discontent, Forecast the Facts and Courage Campaign have obtained over 100,000 petitions to the Tribune Company against the Koch bid, citing Tribune reporting on climate change that could be threatened by Koch ideology. The public pressure has been acknowledged by @TribuneCo on Twitter, though the company remains noncommittal.

This post was crossposted from Greenpeace's The Witness: Koch Bros Tribune Co? Climate change denial in Koch-friendly media

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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Heartland Institute Sting Operation Triggers Greenpeace Investigations

  • Posted on: 12 March 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

PolluterWatch: Greenpeace Investigates Heartland Institute Leaked Documents -- click to see investigation and ongoing updates.

What an awkward entrance into 2012 for the climate denial machine! 

Among the ongoing dubious deeds of the billionaire Koch brothers, the American Petroleum Institute’s Vote 4 Energy propaganda and the House of Representative’s love affair with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, an indicator that policymakers refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of global warming, we already had plenty of debunking to do.

Then the Heartland Institute fell on its face, inadvertently aiding in a leak of its own internal documents outlining their strategies and finances for 2012. We are currently investigating several areas those documents drew our attention to -- see Greenpeace's Heartland Institute Investigations and the Joseph Bast PolluterWatch profile.

Heartland has played a central role in recent years gathering the global warming denial community for conversations with themselves at sporadically organized conferences to plan how they will continue to ignore, belittle and politicize the realities of climate science. Despite being a somewhat inferior player among tighter operations like the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, Heartland still managed to coax a large coalition of industry front groups and ideological hubs to follow their lead in selling climate lies to the American public.

Let’s be clear, the work of the Joseph Bast and Heartland Institute is bad for this country and really bad for the planet and its people. Their actions are deliberately aimed to confuse the public about the science of global climate change and to block policy initiatives that would help solve the crisis. They are committing crimes against future generations by intentionally delaying action on global warming. This can mean life or death for vulnerable people worldwide, including here in the U.S. – note the increasingly extreme weather patterns we have experienced the last couple years, symptoms of a manipulated global climate. Bast and others in the broader industry-funded anti-science network need to be held accountable for their dangerous opposition to reality.

Ironically, it was a scientist fed up with Heartland’s lies that procured the organization’s documents. Dr. Peter Gleick’s undercover sting operation was triggered when he was mailed a document titled 2012 Climate Strategy - apparently from a Heartland Institute whistleblower. He then he duped someone at Heartland into sending him their 2012 Fundraising Plan and Proposed Budget documents which confirmed the content of the whistleblower’s memo while itemizing a pile of climate denial payments. 

Heartland is now calling the 2012 Climate Strategy memo a fake to divert attention away from the key information revealed in the other documents, the authenticity of which it can’t deny. Whoever wrote that Strategy Memo and sent it to Gleick clearly had close access to Heartland’s inner sanctum and was apparently uncomfortable with the Institute’s focus on climate denial.

At Greenpeace we have strict rules. We take no money from corporations or governments, and we are accountable for our actions. Peter Gleick’s action was in line with great citizens of the world taking personal risk to expose corporate deception. Dr. Gleick boldly identified himself as the one who pulled the curtain back on one small window into the greatest fraud ever perpetuated on modern society: an intentional campaign to confuse the public about global warming to delay solutions and increase profits for fossil fuel companies and ideologues of the 1%.

According to some scientists attending a recent conference on water laws, where Dr. Gleick was meant to speak, he would have been given a standing ovation by his peers for his act of selfless civil disobedience. "He's a hero," said Denise Fort, professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law…. "He did something that we needed to have done, which is to expose the tactics of the Heartland Institute” (E&E News Greenwire, subscription).

Greenpeace has been watchdogging Joe Bast and Heartland Institute’s global warming misinformation for more than a decade. In 2007, when they rose from a bit player to a ringleader in the global warming denier network, we wondered whose cash was enabling their work. 

By that point ExxonMobil had dumped Heartland from its climate denial team after years of $100,000 plus donations as Heartland started saying and doing things that even Exxon couldn’t be associated with. In the business of climate denial, when Exxon won’t touch you, that’s pretty fringe.

In 2007, in the wake of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, Heartland helped a new players onto the climate denial stage, like Lord Christopher Monckton, a UK denier who wasn’t getting noticed in his own country but whose title made him look important to a US audience. It launched its new “globalwarmingheartland” portal with a campaign focusing specifically on undermining Al Gore. Heartland spent thousands on an ad campaign in the New York Times and Washington post with Monckton, Denis Avery - and a range of other deniers like the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner - challenging Gore to a debate on global warming. Gore rightfully ignored it, knowing that this false “debate” on climate science was only designed to confuse the public. 

After getting no response from Gore, in 2008, Heartland went on to organize its first climate conference on Times Square in NYC in a fancy hotel with not cheap rooms. We dubbed it “Denial-a-Palooza”. The gig had to cost a million dollars to put on. They flew in every climate skeptic, denier, free-market libertarian extremist they could rustle up around the world, paying almost 100 speakers for their air fares, accommodation and offered a $1000 honorarium. Credible climate scientists noted how unusual this level of compensation would be at truly scientific events.

The deniers spent three days huddled with their lonely tribe wondering why no one was listening to them. The little media coverage that they got ridiculed them for their utter lack of credibility or authority on climate research. New York Times’ Andrew Revkin covered the conference, attended by several hundred people. He noted: “The meeting was largely framed around science, but after the luncheon, when an organizer made an announcement asking all of the scientists in the large hall to move to the front for a group picture, 19 men did so.”

During Denial-Palooza 2008 (the first—there have been six conferences), ABC News did a piece called "Welcome to the Denial Machine" on Dr. Fred Singer, the most extreme denier, who now has been revealed in Heartland’s payroll. The main question ABC had was ‘who’s paying these people?’ They included our ExxonSecrets graphic showing the longstanding connections between the attendees of Denial-a-Palooza and think tanks and front groups that were funded by ExxonMobil. 

We now know the source of funding for that period – one wealthy ideologue backed Heartland with a $3.2 million grant in 2007, over half of Heartland’s $5.8 million budget that year. Over the next four years (through 2011) Heartland pulled in over ten million dollars from this “Anonymous Donor,” and hopes to increase AD’s pledge to $1.25 million this year.

They may have trouble since Heartland’s leaked documents led the Daily Kos to make a strong case for Chicago Industrialist Barre Seid as the “Anonymous Donor.” Perhaps this is why Heartland quickly scrambled to victimize themselves for fundraising purposes in the fallout of this ‘Denialgate’ leak -- Seid appears to hate public accountability.

We now know how Heartland grew from a $1 million/year budget to over $7 million in a few short years even as ExxonMobil gave up on them. We also now know that Mr. Anonymous’ donations are shrinking steadily year by year (down to $629,000 in 2011), causing a budget deficit of $1.5 million for 2012. This may be why there isn’t a seventh Denial-a-Palooza conference in the 2012 budget. It’s certainly why Joe Bast is seeking new donors like oil superbillionaire Charles Koch. 

They better had, since they moved into their new shiny skyscraper offices from their previous “shabby” locations. 

“Heartland is moving to new office space in January, from the rather shabby and difficult to find offices on LaSalle Street we have occupied for some 15 years, dating back to when we were a much smaller organization. The new office, on the 27th floor of a Helmut Jahn-designed glass and steel skyscraper located on Wacker Drive, across from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, promises to dramatically raise our profile in Chicago’s financial community.” (Fundraising plan, p. 15).

There is clearly a small group of people and corporations who would like to change the storyline right now and direct attention away from Heartland's multimillion-dollar global warming denial campaign and focus instead on Dr. Gleick. Journalistic smugness, feigning a false sense of balance, misses the larger truth. 

When the chemical, tobacco or fossil fuel industries are exposed by whistleblowers for engaging in the manufacture of lies, society must call them to account, assuming the governments are not too deeply buried in those same pockets. Whistleblowers do not expose such truths to benefit entire industries. They do it for your health and mine - and they do so at great personal risk.

Responding to the transparency created by this incident, Greenpeace is continuing to pick apart the Heartland documents and shed some light on what makes these ringleaders of climate denial tick.

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Rising Tide's Day of Action Against Extraction [VIDEO]

  • Posted on: 25 May 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Photo Credit: It's Getting Hot in Here

April 20 Day of Action Against Extraction on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Anniversary

Rising Tide North America has put together a short video demonstrating nonviolent protests and direct action for the Day of Action Against Extraction. Events across the United States and Canada were conducted on April 20, 2011--the one-year anniversary of the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil gusher. In addition to the oil spill in the Gulf, protests called attention to other monumental forms of destruction, such as tar sands mining, mountain top removal and other forms of strip mining to extract coal, and air pollution from dirty coal plants in Chicago. In addition to the irreparable harm the fossil fuel industry places on ecosystems and the people they sustain, these products ultimately contribute to the looming global climate crisis.

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