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Oil Billionaires Back Climate Crisis Deniers: Koch Connection And $500m

By Countercurrents.org

27 January, 2013

The Independent, the UK daily, in an exclusive report [1] by Steve Connor said a section of the super-rich linked to fossil fuel industry back climate crisis deniers.

The report headlined “Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science” said: A secretive funding organization in the US that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate "counter movement" to undermine the science of global warming.

The exclusive mentioned two organizations that help the job:

The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funneling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.
However, an audit trail reveals that Donors is being indirectly supported by the American billionaire Charles Koch who, with his brother David, jointly owns a majority stake in Koch Industries, a large oil, gas and chemicals conglomerate based in Kansas.

Millions of dollars, said the report, have been paid to Donors through a third-party organization, called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, with is operated by the Koch family but does not advertise its Koch connections.

Referring to a number of commentators assumption the UK daily said: Such convoluted arrangements are becoming increasingly common to shield the identity and backgrounds of the wealthy supporters of climate skepticism – some of whom have vested interests in the fossil-fuel industry.

To back the climate crisis denial interests, millions of dollars have already been contributed as the report found: The Knowledge and Progress Fund, whose directors include Charles Koch and his wife Liz, gave $1.25m to Donors in 2007, a further $1.25m in 2008 and $2m in 2010. It does not appear to have given money to any other group and there is no mention of the fund on the websites of Koch Industries or the Charles Koch Foundation.

The report said:

The Donors Trust is a "donor advised fund", meaning that it has special status under the US tax system. People who give money receive generous tax relief and can retain greater anonymity than if they had used their own charitable foundations because, technically, they do not control how Donors spends the cash.

Anonymous private funding of global warming skeptics, who have criticized climate scientists for their lack of transparency, is becoming increasingly common. The Kochs, for instance, have overtaken the corporate funding of climate denialism by oil companies such as ExxonMobil. One such organization, Americans for Prosperity, which was established by David Koch, claimed that the "Climategate" emails illegally hacked from the University of East Anglia in 2009 proved that global warming was the "biggest hoax the world has ever seen".

$500 million

The report said:

Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, has estimated that over the past decade about $500m has been given to organizations devoted to undermining the science of climate change, with much of the money donated anonymously through third parties.

The trust has given money to the Competitive Enterprise Institute which is currently being sued for defamation by Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania University, an eminent climatologist, whose affidavit claims that he was accused of scientific fraud and compared to a convicted child molester.

Dr Brulle said: "We really have anonymous giving and unaccountable power being exercised here in the creation of the climate countermovement. There is no attribution, no responsibility for the actions of these foundations to the public.

"By becoming anonymous, they remove a political target. They can plausibly claim that they are not giving to these organizations, and there is no way to prove otherwise."

The two brothers

Steve Connor in another report [2] writes about the super-rich Koch brothers:

Even by the standards of the super-rich, Charles and David Koch are extraordinarily wealthy. Together they own most of Koch Industries, one of the largest private conglomerates in America with annual revenues of around $100bn (£62.5bn), and interests as diverse as energy, petrochemicals, pulp and paper.

The two brothers share a similar political outlook. They are right-wing libertarians who believe in minimal regulation of industry, smaller government, lower corporate taxes and less generous social services. They are also closet "skeptics" when it comes to climate science.

Charles, 77 and the elder of the two, has effectively run the family business since the death of their father, Fred, in 1967. He is described as a hands-on executive, whereas David has played a more junior role.

Nevertheless, the spectacular growth of the family firm has put them both among the richest men in America – and the world.

Each of the Koch brothers has his own charitable foundation and they have given generously to organizations that share their free-market outlook. They have both funded opposition campaigns to many of the policies of the Obama administration – so many, in fact, that their opponents have dubbed their ideological network "The Kochtopus".

Together, the two brothers have given millions of dollars to non-profit organizations that criticize environmental legislation and support lower taxes for industry.

The Kochs have also contributed vast sums to promote skepticism towards climate change, more even than the oil industry according to some estimates. Greenpeace, for instance, has calculated that ExxonMobil spent $8.9m on climate-skeptic groups between 2005 and 2008; over the same period the Koch brothers backed such groups to the tune of nearly $25m.

Americans for Prosperity, a group established by David Koch, did much to foment public outrage over the "climategate" emails stolen from the computers of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2009. The organization claimed the emails proved that global warming was the "biggest hoax the world has ever seen".

Meanwhile, Charles and his wife Liz have established a little-known organization called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, which appears to have been set up to channel Koch money into a third-party organization called the Donors Trust.

The Donors Trust is a "donor advised" fund, which means it has special status under the US tax system. One of the benefits of donor-advised funds for billionaires such as Charles is that their names are not linked to funds given out by the Donors Trust to other organizations.
Among the beneficiaries of Donor Trust money is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is being sued for defamation by Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania University, an eminent climatologist, whose affidavit claims that he was accused of scientific fraud and compared to a convicted child molester.

Professor Mann was one of the scientists named in the stolen emails from the UEA and has been a target of climate skeptics keen to rubbish his work on temperature records, which produced the now famous "hockey stick" graph showing a rapid temperature rise in the 20th century.

[I]n 2003, Donors received just 3 percent of the funding that eventually went to climate skeptic groups such as the ultra-conservative Heartland Foundation, which has led the attack on climate scientists. Professor Brulle said this had risen by 2009 to about a quarter of the total funding of the climate countermovement dedicated to denying the link between greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and global warming.

The link between the Koch family and Donors was discovered by Professor Brulle and John Mashey, a retired software engineer living in California, who has trawled through hundreds of official tax records, including the US Inland Revenue Service's "990" forms of the Knowledge and Progress Fund, which mention that it had given Donors millions of dollars for "general support".

"The Kochs decided it was better to go underground and foster all these think-tanks. Charles Koch has often said publicly that anyone should be able to give money to anyone without having to make it public," Dr Mashey said. "The point of all this is that Koch wants to anonymise his giving as much as possible."

Whitney Ball, the chief executive of Donors Trust, said the fund has given more than $400m to about 1,600 beneficiaries since it began in 1999 but that only a few of them are involved in promoting climate skepticism.

"We don't disclose our list of donors, any more than other donor-advised funds… We are not legally required to do so. We have been referred to as a black box but this is a misleading and unfair characterization. We are no different from any other donor-advised fund," she said.

"There are all kinds of reasons why people want to be anonymous. Imagine you lived a fairly modest lifestyle and you wanted to give charitably. You could do it through a donors-advised fund and no one would treat you differently," she said.

Asked whether the Donors Trust or Donors Capital Fund have any connection with the Koch family, Ms Ball said: "I wouldn't say we have a relationship. We are knowledgeable about some of the groups that they fund and we are ideologically sympathetic."

Asked if she could explain how the money from the Knowledge and Progress Fund was spent, she said: "There's been a lot of hyperventilating about this… Like other donor-advised funds, we don't disclose that information."

The Koch Foundation and Koch Industries declined to comment

Anonymous donations to Britain's leading climate-change skeptic organization have more than doubled over the past year – but the registered charity has consistently refused to comment on the identity of its backers.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, which was set up in 2009 by Lord Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor, received £408,641 from anonymous donations in 2012, compared with £158,008 in 2011.

The foundation has repeatedly refused to name its financial supporters, although a leaked email last year suggested that Michael Hintze, a wealthy Tory donor and philanthropist, was one of its main backers.

Benny Peiser, a founder member of the foundation, said the charity does not receive any corporate money from the fossil-fuel industry, but denied it is being secretive about its backers.

"Our concern is about transparency of the science, not the funding. We don't take funding from vested interests and we make sure there is no conflict of interest before accepting donations," Dr Peiser said. "The main reason why they want to remain anonymous is so that people like you [the media] don't harass them," Dr Peiser explained.

Hate campaign against a scientist

Steve Connor’s another report [3] said:

A climate scientist who says he has been subjected to a vitriolic hate campaign has denounced the way that American billionaires have been able to secretly finance the climate-skeptic organizations that have attacked him.

Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania University, who has been targeted by climate-change skeptics for his work on global temperature records, said it was wrong for wealthy individuals such as the oil billionaire Charles Koch to surreptitiously finance the “counter-movement” that denounces the science of global warming.

It was only when he was researching a book that he became aware Koch was assisting some of the organizations that he says have been attacking him and his colleagues for so many years, Professor Mann said. He said the skeptic organizations had “single-handedly sought to poison the public discourse over human-caused climate change. In the process they have potentially mortgaged the futures of our children and grandchildren. You couldn’t invent villains like this if you tried.”

He said: “I think its intent is to frighten scientists away from participating in the public discourse, and prevent communication to the public of the true risks of the potential climate changes that will result from fossil-fuel burning. No doubt it has frightened some scientists from participating in the discussion or even from pursuing research that might incur the ire of fossil-fuel vested interests,” he added.

Professor Mann said it is ironic that the same organizations that he says have pursued him and his colleagues for alleged lack of transparency are being funded anonymously by people who are so closely tied to the fossil-fuel industry.
“There are some of us, however, who have been emboldened by the attacks. We don't take kindly to propaganda campaigns intended to smear scientists and confuse the public,” he said.


[1] Jan 24, 2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/exclusive-billionaires-secretly-fund-attacks-on-climate-science-8466312.html

[2] The Independent, Jan 24, 2013, “How the 'Kochtopus' stifled green debate”,

[3] The independent, Jan 25, 2013 “Top climate scientist denounces billionaires over funding for climate-skeptic organizations”, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/top-climate-scientist-denounces-billionaires-over-funding-for-climatesceptic-organisations-8467665.html





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