Guest host Mark Thompson, “The War Room” host Michael Shure, Sierra Club Washington representative Lena Moffitt and BuzzFeed contributor Michael Hastings break down the Koch brothers’ involvement in petroleum coke being openly stored on the banks of Detroit River. Petroleum coke is a by-product of the oil refining process and can be harmful to the environment when burned. “This is the dirtiest by-product from the dirtiest source of oil on the planet,” Moffit says, adding that the 42817 ZIP code in Detroit “is one of the most polluted ZIP codes in the country. … This is the unfortunate lab where we can see what it means to bring tar sands to our country.”
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- Andy Potter
- Charles Koch
- Chrystia Freeland
- Citizens for Strength and Security Fund
- Climate Change
- Crossroads GPS
- Current TV
- David Koch
- Democrat Rep. Martin Heinrich
- Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman
- Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
- Detroit River
- Election 2012
- Federal Communications Commission
- Federal Election Commission
- Income Inequality
- Jane Mayer
- KXL pipeline
- Karl Rove
- Katie Oppenheim
- Keystone XL
- Koch Industries
- Lee Fang
- Lena Moffitt
- Matt Taibbi
- Mitt Romney
- Natural Gas & Oil Drilling
- New Mexico
- New Yorker
- Occupy Wall Street
- Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
- Political Ads
- Republican Heather Wilson
- Rolling Stone
- Sherrod Brown
- Tar Sands
- The Young Turks
- Tom Norris
- air pollution
- americans for prosperity
- bogus scientific studies
- carbon dioxide
- corporate special interest groups
- dark money
- donor anonymity
- environment. climate change
- environmental extremists
- major-market affiliates
- oil barons
- park avenue
- pet coke
- refinery waste
- social welfare
- tax-exempt status
- think tanks
- tv stations
- water pollution
What does $23 million in donations to public television get you? A lot more than a tote bag, according to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. A New York public television outlet, WNET, went to great lengths to placate conservative industrialist David Koch as PBS aired an Alex Gibney documentary on income inequality that focused on the conservative billionaire. The president of WNET called Koch and offered to let him film a roundtable discussion that would air after the documentary, among other conciliatory gestures. The controversy reportedly also prompted PBS to back off another Koch-focused documentary in the pipeline. All the placation didn’t work: Koch resigned from his position on WNET’s board and reportedly canceled a large donation. Also, according to Koch’s doorman, Koch’s philanthropy doesn’t extend to tips. “We would never get a smile from Mr. Koch,” he says in the Gibney film. “Fifty-dollar check for Christmas, too—yeah, I mean, a check! At least you could give us cash.”
Shortly before “Park Avenue” aired, Melissa Cohlmia, the chief spokesperson for Koch Industries, sent WNET a two-paragraph statement criticizing the film as “disappointing and divisive.” Cohlmia acknowledges, however, that neither she nor Koch had watched it. WNET aired the statement, unedited, immediately after the film. Cohlmia said that she based the critique on the trailer.
The weekend before “Park Avenue” aired, Gibney said, it was clear that “something weird had happened.” Shapiro called him at home. “He was very upset,” Gibney said. “They were thinking of pulling the program.” Gibney was told that the most pressing problem was Charles Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York. Schumer’s staff had called WNET, arguing that “Park Avenue” falsely accused the Senator of supporting tax loopholes for hedge-fund managers. Gibney double-checked his research and stood by his interpretation. Nevertheless, Shapiro told him that he planned to allow Schumer to add a response after the broadcast. But, Gibney noted, “Shapiro told me nothing about the Kochs.”
Gibney gives credit to Shapiro and WNET for airing his film uncensored. He is disappointed, though, that the station gave Koch and Schumer the last word. “They tried to undercut the credibility of the film, and I had no opportunity to defend it,” he said. Moreover, WNET replaced the introduction to “Park Avenue,” which was delivered by the actor Stanley Tucci, with one calling the film “controversial” and “provocative.” Gibney noted that he had asked to interview the Kochs while making “Park Avenue,” but they had refused. Cohlmia initially denied this, but after Gibney’s office provided me with the relevant e-mails she acknowledged that she had been contacted.
Shapiro emphasized that, by showing the Gibney film, he had made “the right call.” Still, spokespeople at WNET and PBS conceded that the decision to run the rebuttals was unprecedented. Indeed, it was like appending Letters to the Editor to a front-page article. Gibney asked me, “Why is WNET offering Mr. Koch special favors? And why did the station allow Koch to offer a critique of a film he hadn’t even seen? Money. Money talks.” He added that the Kochs’ willingness to issue a disclaimer without seeing the film “does not give me much confidence about how they might run the Tribune’s newspapers.”
When the huge black mounds that sit on the riverbanks of southwest Detroit just appeared one day, residents were puzzled and concerned.
“One of the biggest concerns when we saw the black piles is what is it, and where is it coming from?” said State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). She said residents contacted her worried that the black piles could be toxic.
U.S. Reps. Gary Peters, a Democrat from Bloomfield Township, and John Conyers, a Democrat from Detroit, sent a joint letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality urging the agency to consider the material's potential impact on the river and nearby residents.
"We fear the storage of petroleum coke along the river poses a potential threat to water and air quality. The material may contain trace amounts of metal and could have damaging health impacts if fugitive dust enters the air. Petroleum coke that enters the water may continue to frustrate efforts to prevent contamination from runoff," according to the letter.
The author of a new report on U.S. carbon billionaires give a tour of the Kochtopus — a map of the empire of Charles and David Koch. The Kochs run oil refineries and control thousands of miles of pipeline, giving them a massive personal stake in the fossil fuel industry. Democracy Now! is joined by Victor Menotti, executive director of the International Forum on Globalization.
Read the new report at KochCash.org
Full transcript after the jump.
Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law two highly controversial anti-union bills, officially making the historic union stronghold the 24th so-called "right-to-work" state in the country. On Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators flooded the state Capitol in Lansing to denounce the bill as an organized attack against labor that will lower wages and diminish collective bargaining rights.
Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! are joined by two people who attended the demonstrations: Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse and president of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, and Andy Potter, state vice president of the Michigan Corrections Organization and the chair of SEIU’s National Republican Member Advisory Committee. We also speak with Lee Fang, a reporting fellow with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, about how the bills were pushed through by powerful corporate interests and secretive billionaires.
Michigan lawmakers are also using the lame-duck session to significantly restrict women’s reproductive rights with three bills that would ban abortion coverage in many insurance plans, and another bill that would allow employers and medical professionals to refuse to cover or provide health treatment on moral grounds.
Full transcript available after the jump.
"The Koch Brothers and Their Amazing Climate Change Denial Machine" is a short animation detailing the effort of billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch to undermine belief in climate change and prevent legislation that threatens their profits. By pouring money into bogus scientific studies and funding think tanks and front groups, the public is led to believe a genuine scientific debate is raging. In truth, as one climate denier candidly admits, those doubting the science are just a small, if brilliantly coordinated, minority.
The One Percent is not only increasing their share of wealth — they’re using it to spread millions among political candidates who serve their interests. Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney’s campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why? Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama’s modest attempts at financial reform.
To discuss how the super-rich have willfully confused their self-interest with America’s interest, Bill is joined by Rolling Stone magazine’s Matt Taibbi, who regularly shines his spotlight on scandals involving big business and government, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Following the conversation, Bill shares his thoughts on corporate executives who — enabled by the Citizens United ruling — are strong-arming their employees to vote as they say, from the Murray Energy CEO who reportedly made his workers spend unpaid time at a pro-Romney rally; to David and Charles Koch, who sent anti-Obama and pro-Romney materials to the 45,000 employees of their subsidiary Georgia Pacific; to ASG Solutions boss Arthur Allen, who sent an intimidating email to his employees.
The full transcript is available here.
By Justin Elliott, ProPublica
A dark money nonprofit group that has run more than $1 million in ads in the Ohio race for U.S. Senate told the IRS last year it did not plan to spend any money to influence elections when it applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status.
ProPublica first reported on the group, the Government Integrity Fund, after information from television station political ad files became available online (see our Free the Files project), showing extensive spending by the Fund.
The group's filings with the IRS illustrate how "social welfare" nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s, are playing an aggressive role in this election, pouring tens of millions of dollars into races around the country, while taking advantage of the donor anonymity their tax status provides.
Question 15 on the application asks, "Has the organization spent or does it plan to spend any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any person to any Federal, state, or local public office or to an office in a political organization?"
Much hinges on this: Under the tax code, social welfare nonprofits may not have political campaign activity as their primary purpose, though exactly what that means is a subject of much debate.
Fund chairman Tom Norris, who signed the Fund's application, checked the "No" box on Question 15.
In a statement to ProPublica, the Fund said that "legally, the concept of ‘influencing elections' has been narrowly defined" and that "throughout its existence, [the Fund] has regularly consulted with experienced tax counsel to ensure it is in full compliance with the federal tax laws." (See the full statement.) Norris, a Columbus lobbyist, did not respond to calls.
Ads paid for by the Fund, which ran through the summer, praised Republican Josh Mandel and attacked Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. One spot features Mandel telling a veterans group, "I think this campaign is all about the past versus the future." A voiceover chimes in: "Josh Mandel served our country with two tours in Iraq. Now he's fighting for taxpayers, fighting for our future."
There are several reasons groups may prefer answering "No" to Question 15. Those answering "Yes" are instructed to explain in detail and list the amounts to be spent, which can lead to scrutiny that slows down the IRS approval process, tax experts say.
"Checking yes is a yellow flag for the IRS, which likely would cause the IRS to refer the application to an agent for consideration and follow-up questions," said Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, an expert in nonprofit tax law at the University of Notre Dame law school. "There could be donors saying, ‘I'm not comfortable giving to you until I know you are a 501(c)(4) and my identity is protected. So I want that IRS [approval] letter.'"
The Fund's IRS application did provide other clues about its intentions. In one section of the form, the Fund said its budget for 2011 was $78,000. It then projected a budget of $6.7 million for 2012, an election year, before going back down to $50,000 for 2013, a nonelection year.
Mayer said the IRS typically wouldn't scrutinize a group's spending until it files a tax return — and in the case of the Fund, the return covering 2012 could be filed as late as November 2013. If the IRS found that the Fund was improperly taking advantage of its status as a social welfare group, it could impose a fine and make the group operate as a political organization that does have to report donors.
The group's application for IRS recognition was signed under penalty of perjury, but Mayer said it was rare for the agency to pursue charges against an applicant for lying.
The IRS did not respond to a request for comment.
The Fund's application for tax-exempt status also sheds a bit more light on who is running the group. It names four men as board members, including Norris. Another of the board members, Jeffrey L. Dean, referred questions to Jonathan Petrea, who was campaign manager and district director for Mandel when he ran for the state legislature.
Petrea told ProPublica he had no official role in the Fund, but helped Norris find potential board members.
"I was just doing a guy a favor by putting him in touch with people who might be interested," Petrea said.
Norris and the Mandel campaign did not respond to questions about Petrea's relationship to the Fund or the candidate.
Petrea was also previously Ohio grassroots director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative 501(c)(4) backed by the Koch brothers, and has recently done work for Energy Citizens, a group advocating oil and gas development.
The Fund's ads have been off the air since Sept. 6, according to the Brown campaign. (After that date, certain types of ad spending had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.)
The group's attorney, William Todd, said he doesn't know about its plans "for future education efforts."
By Kim Barker and Justin Elliott, ProPublica
Dark money groups flooded Albuquerque's airwaves in August, aiming to sway a hotly contested U.S. Senate race by making more than half the political ad buys on top TV stations.
That fact, gleaned through a review of TV station political ad records now available in our Free the Files news application, highlights the role that unlimited anonymous money is playing in this year's election.
Our analysis of a month of ad orders in the Senate race between Republican Heather Wilson and Democrat Rep. Martin Heinrich is possible because of a new Federal Communications Commission rule requiring major-market affiliates of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to upload political ad files to a government website.
In statements to ProPublica, the campaigns of Heinrich and Wilson blamed each other for relying on dark money.
Wilson campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez accused "environmental extremists" of pouring money "into New Mexico to falsely attack Heather Wilson because they know her opponent, Congressman Heinrich, supports their radical agenda."
Heinrich campaign spokeswoman Whitney Potter accused "corporate special interest groups" of spending millions in secret money to support Wilson "because they know she will support their misplaced priorities that put the wealthy special interests ahead of middle-class families in New Mexico."
The Senate race has attracted national attention because, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman retiring, it is a rare open seat. The race was considered tight earlier this year. After a summer of heavy spending by outside groups on both sides, Heinrich is now the favorite.
In August, while Wilson's campaign contracted to spend about $512,000 on ads in Albuquerque, four prominent conservative groups booked almost $658,000 of ads attacking Heinrich, station records show.
That means about 56 percent of the ad orders on the Republican side came from groups that don't disclose their donors, including Americans for Prosperity, founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, and Crossroads GPS, launched by GOP strategist Karl Rove. Campaigns are required to report their donors.
Heinrich, who as a congressman has called for donor disclosure and campaign-finance reform, booked an estimated $246,000 worth of ads in August. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which also reports its donors, chimed in with another $74,000.
But nonprofits on the Democratic side spent an additional $288,000 on ads criticizing Wilson, about 47 percent of the money spent on ads overall.
The liberal dark money groups included a coalition of environmental organizations and the Citizens for Strength and Security Fund, which appears to be a successor to a nonprofit active in the 2010 election.
The spending figures are estimates because most of the files uploaded to the FCC website are ad orders. Sometimes, ordered ads never run because of changes in programming. The numbers also are not comprehensive; other TV stations in the Albuquerque market besides affiliates of the major networks do not have to put political ad files online until 2014.
While the FCC files have long been public, they were previously kept on paper at TV stations and were largely inaccessible. The files capture certain spending not reported to the Federal Election Commission and offer a detailed look at how campaigns and outside groups are spending ad dollars, including how many ads have been ordered, which stations are running them, the programs they run on, and how much they cost.
Photo taken Thursday morning of the Americans for Prosperity protesters.
An activist group founded/funded by the Koch brothers is holding a demonstration in Manhattan on Thursday to protest President Barack Obama’s economic policies and to stand up to the “Occupy Wall Street mob,” says their press release.
The group made up of "activists" from Americans for Prosperity are standing outside near Rockefeller Center as part of group’s "Failing Agenda Bus Tour," (That's one bus, by the way.) which is devoted to urging President Barack Obama to shun policies that increase the nation’s debt. Despite the group’s billionaire backers, the AFP describes itself as a "grass roots" organization. It claims to have more than 2 million supporters nationwide.
Americans for Prosperity is also launching a $25 million ad campaign in support of Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy next week, according to the Huffington Post. Americans for Prosperity has already spent $15 million on ads attacking President Obama.
A spokesman for the group’s New Jersey chapter said the protest of the thirty protesters in attendance would serve as an opportunity to disavow Occupy Wall Street.
“The Occupy Wall Street crowd is nothing but a fringe element of malcontents bent on mayhem and destruction,”said Steve Lonegan, director of Americans for Prosperity’s New Jersey branch. “These are people who despise free enterprise. They are not attacking Wall Street. They are attacking the very freedoms that everyday Americans cherish to pursue their own dreams and succeed.”
Thursday morning Lonegan added "We used Occupy Wall Street to get our message out." I'm not certain what Lonegan meant by that, as I don't see any of the livestreamers who normally cover Occupy Wall Street on hand. The group does appear to have a camera with them, however, that should suffice for their stationary "protest."
You would think the Koch brothers at least would've purchased better signs for the group.