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From Kansas to Colorado: Koch Brothers Influence Environmental Policy

October 31, 2011

ASPEN, Colo. - Campaign contributions by the controversial Koch brothers of Wichita, Kansas, are tied to decisions in Washington which directly impact environmental policies in Colorado, according to a new report. The investigation was conducted by the Colorado Independent - and it found that the Koch brothers, their companies, employees, and their anti-tax nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity, contributed upwards of a half-million dollars in the state in the past three years. The money is going primarily to Republican candidates or to push anti-environmental causes, such as opening up more of the state's public lands to coal mining.

Environment reporter Troy Hooper conducted the investigation for the Colorado Independent.

"People with money, they make that equate to power. Therefore they get a seat at the table that some other people might not. I think in the case of the Kochs, we've seen it play out where it's pretty effectively changed environmental policy."

The report found that Colorado Republican Congressman Cory Gardner is the largest benefactor of the Kochs' support - receiving more than $300,000 in campaign funds since 2010. This summer Gardner and another Colorado Republican, Rep. Scott Tipton, also a Koch beneficiary, withdrew their co-sponsorship from a bill awarding tax credits for natural gas use, after the brothers announced they opposed the legislation. Gardner's spokesperson said at the time he needed to learn more about the issue.

Greenpeace reports that the Kochs have spent more than $50 million since 1998 on attacking climate science.

The co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Tom Yulsman, worries about the influence of this sort of money on public policy, and politics.

"Where is their success? Maybe not with public opinion, but in, you know, buying members of Congress."

Reporter Hooper found Democrats also benefited from the Kochs' largess. Among them was former Third Congressional District Representative John Salazar, who backed a Roadless Rule exemption which benefited Oxbow, a Koch interest.

"I think just the fact that there are a lot of resources in that part of the state, that that was probably attractive to the Kochs and to oil and gas interests in general."

Yulsman says that, while some polls indicate Koch funds may be influencing public opinion, other polls indicate a majority of Americans support environmental protections and believe the science of global warming.

"The debate that's actually taking place? It seems to be a debate that people are having about science. In fact, it really has nothing to do with science whatsoever. It is a debate about politics."

And even with the Kochs'funding, the results don't always support Koch positions. Just last week, former climate-change denier Richard Muller reported results of his Koch-funded study in the Wall Street Journal: that global warming is real and increasing rapidly.

In addition to Oxbow, the Kochs have several other oil and gas interests, including Koch Mineral Services and Flint Hills Resources, with offices on Colorado's Front Range.

The full story is at:

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO