Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Koch Industries: Betraying America for Profit

I've had a problem with Koch Industries for quite a while.

They're the second largest privately held company in America, and they're one of the most powerful hyper-conservative forces in the world today.

They were the main reason Governor Walker fought so hard to kill public unions in Wisconsin earlier this year, and they heavily funded his campaign.  They basically own Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group that describes itself as supporting business and opposing regulation.  They basically paid for and invented the "Tea Party," financially backing groups that have trained thousands of Tea Party activists.  They've donated tens of millions to groups that deny global warming, and millions more to groups that oppose clean air laws. 

Koch Industries clearly doesn't care about us. 

Of course, it's standard conservative politics to argue that companies should be allowed to pollute as much as they want, and screw everyone else.  So what about Koch is worth singling out?

Bloomberg recently published an article about Koch Industries that is simply excellent.  You should go read it now.  It's a long one, though, so I'll summarize.

In 2008, Koch's compliance officer and ethics manager found evidence that its companies were engaged in bribery and corruption in France, India, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.  Koch's own investigation substantiated these findings, but the company still responded by calling her incompetent and firing her. 

They've also:
  • sold millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran, in violation of US law.
  • stolen oil from Federal land.
  • built a shoddy pipeline that exploded and killed two teenagers, neither of which were trespassing or hanging around any hazardous equipment. 
  • lied to regulators, and asked their employees to falsify information to the government.
  • been involved in a felony to restrain trade.
  • exposed its workers to an illegally high level of benzene, a known cause of leukemia, and hid that information from regulators.
  • stolen oil from American Indian reservations.

Let me clarify something.  It has been illegal to trade with Iran since 1995, when it was declared a threat to national security.  Koch Industries immediately began working on ways to trade with Iran anyway. 

They don't care about national security.  They only care about money.  Conservatives use "national security" to scare their peasants into giving them power, but this proves they will risk that security in an instant as long as it makes them money. 

So how has Koch Industries been punished for these illegal activities?  Have the hyperwealthy Koch brothers been forced to answer for these crimes?  Of course not.  They've blamed their employees and they've paid fines.  Millions of dollars worth of fines.  That might sound like a lot, but they make at least one hundred billion dollars a year.  (Exactly how much they make is unknown; they're a private corporation and are very private about their finances.)  As a corporation, Koch Industries has basically no actual liability whatsoever. 

Let's put this into perspective: in 1999, Koch had to pay $296 million because their negligence caused two teenagers to be burned to death.  That's the largest wrongful death damages ever awarded against a corporation in the United States. 

That's less than a third of one percent of what they make in a year. 

That's not a punishment.  That's not even a slap on the wrist.  For letting two people burn to death.

Koch Industries has no problem destroying the land, polluting the air, engaging in bribery, or selling equipment and supplies to known threats to national security.  Of course they're against government regulation.  They break regulations on a day-to-day basis!  Think of how much money they have to spend lying to the government and hiding their illegal activities! 

It's a much better investment for them to put Republicans into office.  Koch Industries has donated money to Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and more.  Basically, they've paid for the campaigns of the entire Republican party.  And that's no wonder!  Bachmann, Gingrich, and Perry have all sworn to shut down the EPA as soon as they get elected as President.

These Regressives don't disagree with the EPA's focus, or think the agency should be handled differently.  They disagree with the very concept of protecting the environment.

And considering that they've each been bought and paid for by corporations like Koch Industries, that's no surprise.

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