Poor Exxon. They used to be the oil company that everybody loved to hate. This spawn of the Standard Oil breakup had it all: Obscene profits, the Exxon Valdez, a mean CEO who sneered at clean energy, blatant funding for climate deniers.
But now, the new ExxonMobil is just not that special anymore.
It turns out that all the big oil companies are buying elections, paying front-groups to spread lies about climate change and dumping their tiny investments in clean energy while continuing to put out soft-focus ads touting how green and socially responsible they are. And they just don’t seem to care that much about preventing oil spills either.
In these days of peak greed, you have to drill pretty deep in the oil patch to find the worst of the worst.
A real gusher
Well, after coming up with a bunch of dry holes, the environmental and government-reform movements seem to have found the activist equivalent of Old Spindletop: Charles and David Koch. Their oil company, Koch Industries, based in Wichita, KS, “is bigger than Intel, Dupont or Prudential Insurance, and they own it lock stock and barrel,” according to 60 Minutes.
The Kochs have quite a pedigree. Their father Fred Koch built refineries for Joe Stalin in the 1930s but then went on to co-found the John Birch Society in 1958, a bunch of zanies who branded as Commies not only FDR and Truman but also Ike. Fred left his sons $300 million.
Not-so-affectionately known as the “Koch Brothers” — with apologies to all sibling entertainers from the Smothers Brothers to the Olsen Twins to Kim, Khloe and Kourtney — the billionaire brothers with the dangerous-to-pronounce last name seem to be behind almost everything evil in American money-politics these days.
With cojones missing from most billionaires, who prefer to remain behind the scenes, David ran for vice-president on the Libertarian ticket in 1980. But after his campaign promising to cut social security, the minimum wage and corporate taxes received less than 1% of the vote, the Kochs seem to have learned the lesson that they can get more done as puppet masters behind numerous pro-corporate front groups, from the American Enterprise Institute to Americans for Prosperity.
Children of the night
Recently, information surfaced that the Kochs’ organization may have bribed Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to support the Kochs’ position in the Citizens United case, a Supreme Court decision that gave corporations the ability to make anonymous donations to political races. Stephen Colbert explains how the Kochs may have cooked Thomas.
Now, an activist group called The Other 98% has come out with a handy scorecard to rate the Koch brothers’ contributions to climate deniers, run-ins with the law and attempts to hide their role as Tea Party puppetmasters.
- The Tea Party? It’s not really a grassroots activist movement of cranky white seniors. It’s actually a front-group for the Koch brothers, who shamelessly exploit the real frustrations of lower- and middle-income conservative activists to further their own greedhead agenda.
- The ultra-libertarian Cato Institute? Their “fellows” may really believe the pro-corporate line they push on Face the Nation every other week, but Charles Koch founded the place in 1977.
- Stealing oil from American Indians? It wasn’t Kit Carson or Dad Joiner, but Koch Industries that was fined $25 million in 2001 for taking more oil than they paid for from federal Indian lands.
And whatever you think of liberal billionaire George Soros, it’s hard to skim the “George Soros — He’s No Koch Brother” infographic without coming away convinced that the Kochs have become the new cocks of the walk when it comes to oil tycoons behaving badly.
— Erik Curren