The author of a new report on U.S. carbon billionaires gives Democracy Now! 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. We are joined by Victor Menotti, executive director of the International Forum on Globalization.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report_. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit in Doha, Qatar. I’m Amy Goodman, and I’m here with Victor Menotti. He is with the International Forum on Globalization and has just released a report/">report called "Faces Behind a Global Crisis: US Carbon Billionaires and the UN Climate Deadlock." We’re turning to his website right now, "The Influence of Koch-Cash."
Victor Menotti, take us on a tour.
VICTOR MENOTTI: Well, you go to kochcash.org, and you click right here on The Kochtopus, what you get is this. And this is a mapping that we’ve done of how they move their money, the structure of their influence network, and it’s an unprecedented scale.
So, first of all, Charles and David Koch, we have to update this, because it’s not $76.4, it’s now $80.2 billion. They’re a single financial-political entity, more than the world’s wealthiest man, Carlos Slim. So, more cash than anybody on the planet. Their money comes from oil, gas, refining. Their father, Fred, invented cracking, which is what turns crude oil into gasoline. So, all of the technologies—
AMY GOODMAN: That’s—you said "cracking" of "fracking"?
VICTOR MENOTTI: Not fracking; cracking. Cracking. His father doubled the net energy that came out of cracking, so the whole family fortune is based on fossil fuels. But few people know that they do seven essential services in fracking also. Georgia-Pacific makes the little chemicals that prop open the microfissures and let the methane escape and pollute the water.
AMY GOODMAN: And they own Georgia-Pacific.
VICTOR MENOTTI: They own Georgia-Pacific. Tar sands, as I said, 25 percent of existing tar sands imports, they process. Chemical, ranching, fertilizer. Their biggest money, though, Amy, comes from commodity speculation and oil derivatives. They quintupled their wealth in the—quintupled their wealth in the past six years through the commodity trading, because there’s no ban on trading commodities, and they can control enough of the flow of energy and then bet on it—or not bet on it; they’ve got the rules rigged, and they cash in on it.
So, here are some of the clowns that then decide where that money is going to move, out to these different areas, which are really about controlling policy. First are the media manipulators. You know some of these faces. They invite them to their secret strategy meetings, so they’re really in on the conversation and the ideology to explain for the—the big picture to the—
AMY GOODMAN: And who are they?
VICTOR MENOTTI: Some of these folks are Rush Limbaugh; Michelle Malkin; Steve Moore, a Wall Street Journal writer; and Glenn Beck, who I’m sure you know about.
Next are the think tanks. For over 30 years, they’ve been funding some of these. The Cato Institute was originally called the Koch Institute. The Heartland Institute, big climate deniers.
Then the astroturf agents. These are the fake grassroots groups that they give money to to project an appearance of popular support. Americans for Prosperity, probably the most significant one, they kind of are the farm team for the tea party, that you can go google "billionaire tea party" and see David Koch getting a report from the field of AFP, bragging about how many members they turned out, state by state, for the tea party caucus.
And then you’ve got what we call the "wealth warriors." This is their legions of lobbyists, their armies of accountants, their tax attorneys, whose job is to keep the money out of government coffers and into the Kochs’ hands. So, that’s KochPAC. It’s ALEC. It’s the Chamber of Commerce.
AMY GOODMAN: ALEC.
VICTOR MENOTTI: ALEC. But here you see that ALEC is just a single sucker on one tentacle of the larger Kochtopus.
AMY GOODMAN: But ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council.
VICTOR MENOTTI: That’s right. That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: That puts together government officials with corporate executives, and many of the corporate executives are involved in writing legislation that’s handed to said legislators and others.
VICTOR MENOTTI: That’s right, everything from the Stand Your Ground laws that killed Trayvon Martin to all the important climate legislation—or, sorry, their rolling back important climate legislation at the state level, which is really the main thing that’s been happening in the U.S. in light of no global action here at the U.N.
So, this is just from dirtyenergymoney.com. You could type in the name of whatever contributor oil company you want, and what you’ll get is all the different members of Congress who get money from the Kochs. They’re the single-largest contributor from the gas and oil sector.
And then, of course, some of their chief ideologues. Paul Ryan now risen to party leader after the recent elections, so let’s not think the Kochs didn’t get much out of their big spend in 2012.
AMY GOODMAN: Why Paul Ryan, do you select, in particular, do you point out?
VICTOR MENOTTI: Well, he had—
AMY GOODMAN: The congressman from Wisconsin who was Mitt Romney’s running mate for president.
VICTOR MENOTTI: Because he believes in the Koch agenda of what’s called economic freedom. He’s probably the chief ideologue of that ideology, Ayn Rand’s get government out of the way, government’s the problem, and just freedom for capital to invest as it wants.
AMY GOODMAN: And you include Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
VICTOR MENOTTI: Scott Walker. There are a lot of more faces up here we could have added, but Scott Walker was sort of a testing ground for passing collective bargaining laws and—
AMY GOODMAN: That eviscerate collective bargaining.
VICTOR MENOTTI: That’s right. So that’s sort of our elected officials part of the government.
Then there’s the courtroom collaborators. Those are the like-minded judges that eventually get appointed. Kochs, for years, have been funding judicial education conferences through this organization FREE. It’s giving to some of the more radical Supreme Court justices and led to—
AMY GOODMAN: FREE is the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment?
VICTOR MENOTTI: That’s right. That’s right. It’s judicial trainings to think like the Kochs, basically. And that’s what’s led to the Citizens United decision, is that sort of—
AMY GOODMAN: You have a picture right there of two Supreme Court justices in your Kochtopus, as you call it.
VICTOR MENOTTI: That’s right, Scalia and Thomas, who actually—
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
VICTOR MENOTTI: Well, they’re known to hang out with the Kochs. They go to their summits. They go to their strategy sessions—Aspen, Palm Springs, wherever it might be. There’s a very comfortable relationship that we think is entirely inappropriate.
And then you get to your academic agents. So, they’re starting to fund universities with contracts, where they bring in their ideologues, their curriculum, and that becomes the—even at public universities. This is just a short video clip that you can see interviews with some of the people at those universities who are opposing it.
And then, of course, there’s the physical force. They’ve got control of the legal system. All of this they do is legal. But when that breaks down, they need the blue meanies out there with their billy clubs, so—and their presence is increasing as the protests against the Kochs—
AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying police contracted to—show us that part of—
VICTOR MENOTTI: Both private contract, but also when they show up, they get municipal police forces.
AMY GOODMAN: To guard secretive Koch meeting—
VICTOR MENOTTI: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: —at Rancho Mirage, California.
VICTOR MENOTTI: That was the one last year. They may do it again this January. We’re hoping they do.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the scientists, when you talk about the climate deniers? I want to go to Richard Muller, who was funded by the Koch brothers, though now is saying that climate change is a very real issue.
RICHARD MULLER: We were able to show that the poor station quality, although it affected the temperature measurements, didn’t affect the temperature changes. We were able to use 100 percent of the data, not the 20 percent that others had used. We found that data selection bias didn’t affect things. We looked at the urban heat island. It came together. We concluded that global warming was indeed real. ...
And I’ve got to admit, I was shocked when I saw the results. There was short-time—short-term variability that was due to volcanoes, essentially nothing due to the solar variation. Theoretically, that’s not too surprising, but I was surprised nonetheless. But the remaining curve, the rise in that curve, was dead on to human production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. At that point, the data had led me to a conclusion I would not have expected a few years earlier.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s scientist Richard Muller. Victor Menotti?
VICTOR MENOTTI: Well, he’s been one of the chief climate denialists, that the Kochs have funded his research over the years. And this summer, as the droughts were hitting the Midwest, his report—he, I think, was on your show and talked about, conclusively, it’s human-caused carbon emissions that are warming the planet. So, we think this kind of puts the Kochs in new legal territory now, because they’ve been informed about the impacts and causality of the products that they are producing, kind of like big tobacco. So it kind of gets into the willful ignorance territory, which could cause greater liability for them down the road.
But the question here is: What do we do about this? So what IFG is doing is we’ve been contacting all these different groups on the ground that are fighting the Kochs from different parts, whether it’s the NAACP fighting voter rights rollback in 30 different states or the United Steelworkers defending collective bargaining in Wisconsin and other states throughout the country. And we’re—first thing is to get everybody together and recognize that who we’re all fighting is the same person, because we haven’t seen a situation like this before in the U.S. You know, we first met around Seattle—I don’t know if you remember—but that was about the WTO. It’s not just about corporations or the institutions now. Globalization has concentrated wealth and power to such extremes, we have the emergence of oligarchic powers. And that’s really what this Kochtopus is all about.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Victor Menotti, I want to thank you very much for being with us, author of "Faces Behind a Global Crisis: US Carbon Billionaires and the UN Climate Deadlock" and the force behind kochcash.org, a picture of what he calls the "Kochtopus: The Influence of Koch-Cash."