Rolling Stone exposé of Koch Brothers’ toxic empire draws fire from ‘Koch Facts’ – Author Tim Dickinson refutes their claims point-by-pointPosted by Jim at Monday, October 12, 2015
By Tim Dickinson
24 September 2014
(Rolling Stone) – The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers' fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America's second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company's stock response to inquiries from reporters: "We are privately held and don't disclose this information."
But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company's troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions – augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.
Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch's pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.
The volume of Koch Industries' toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America's air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation's waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch's climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
For Koch, this license to pollute amounts to a perverse, hidden subsidy. The cost is borne by communities in cities like Port Arthur, Texas, where a Koch-owned facility produces as much as 2 billion pounds of petrochemicals every year. In March, Koch signed a consent decree with the Department of Justice requiring it to spend more than $40 million to bring this plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act. [more]
By Tim Dickinson
29 September 2014
(Rolling Stone) – Koch Industries has written a lengthy response to our feature story on the company in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. In tweets the company apparently paid to promote, Koch bills this write-up as a "point-by-point response to Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson's dishonest and misleading story." The salient feature of Koch's response is that the company does not argue the core facts of our 9,000-word expose. Instead, Koch targets the messenger. Koch's top target here is not even Rolling Stone, but me, Tim Dickinson.
I find it, frankly, amusing that a company that has been convicted of six felonies and numerous misdemeanors; paid out tens of millions of dollars in fines; traded with Iran, and been so reckless in its business practices that two innocent teenagers ended up dead, attempts to impugn my integrity, and on the basis of my association with Mother Jones — where I worked as an editor in the late 1990s and early 2000s, on a team that was twice nominated and once awarded a National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
Koch, in particular, takes umbrage with my reporting practices.
For the record: In the weeks prior to publication, beginning September 4th, Rolling Stone attempted to engage Koch Industries in a robust discussion of the issues raised in our reporting. Rolling Stone requested to interview CEO Charles Koch about his company's philosophy of Market Based Management; Ilia Bouchouev, who heads Koch's derivatives trading operations, about the company's trading practices; and top Koch lawyer Mark Holden about the company's significant legal and regulatory history.
The requests to speak to Charles Koch and Bouchouev were simply ignored. Ultimately, only Holden responded on the record, only via e-mail and only after Holden baselessly insinuated that I had been given an "opposition research" document dump from the liberal activist David Brock. (This is false.) From my perspective as a reporter, Koch Industries is the most hostile and paranoid organization I've ever engaged with — and I've reported on Fox News. In a breach of ethics, Koch has also chosen to publish email correspondence characterizing the content of a telephone conversation that was, by Koch's own insistence, strictly off the record.
Let's now address Koch's bullet-points, in order:
- Mr. Dickinson makes a number of broad negative claims about Koch's environmental record, but only passing reference to the more than 900 awards for safety, environmental excellence, and community stewardship Koch has received since 2009 alone - information that we provided to Mr. Dickinson. In an article ostensibly about Koch's relationship with regulators, the fact that EPA has repeatedly praised Koch for a productive and collaborative approach is surely relevant to Rolling Stone readers. In addition, he excised our explanation of the long and continuing path to improve and enhance our environmental, health, and safety performance. He also ignored the discussion about our ongoing efforts to ensure we understand and meet the expectations of the EPA and other regulators, our communities, and our shareholders.
Here Koch appears to be criticizing me for not adequately doing their own PR for them. The story clearly remarks on the culture change, circa 2000, that made environmental compliance a focus at Koch Industries and quotes Holden about the company's quest for "10,000 percent" compliance. Given the company's recent pollution woes it seems that Koch is falling far short of that standard. [more]