By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 7, 2020 ~
Charles Koch is the billionaire owner of Koch Industries, one of the largest private companies in the world with vast interests in fossil fuels, refineries, chemicals, lumber, paper and glass manufacturing. A subsidiary of Koch Industries is Koch Supply and Trading, which engages in commodities trading on a scale rivaling the largest banks on Wall Street.
Charles Koch also heads an operation variously known as the Koch Network or the Kochtopus, because its tentacles are strangling the life out of representative government in the United States. The operation hosts semiannual strategy sessions where obscenely rich Americans get together to jointly commit hundreds of millions of dollars to keep Congress and the Oval Office in the hands of fossil fuel-friendly candidates who have demonstrated an obedience to a deregulatory agenda.
Koch Foundation money and two dark money groups, Donor’s Capital Fund and Donor’s Trust, have pumped billions of dollars over the years into a vast array of right-wing “news” sites, think tanks and climate change denial groups. In recent years, Koch Industries has developed a sophisticated data mining operation that uses artificial intelligence to extract data to gin up elections for candidates of their choice. The company is called i360. (See our report here.)
We have been researching Charles Koch and his brother David, who died in August of last year, for the past 15 years. In 2010 we broke the story of how Donor’s Capital Fund, a dark money group with Charles Koch’s fingerprints all over it, had donated $17,778,600 to the Clarion Fund to distribute 28 million DVDs of a race-baiting, fear-mongering film just weeks before the 2008 presidential election when the first black candidate in history, Barack Obama, was the Democratic presidential nominee. The DVD was stuffed into the Sunday edition of some of the biggest newspapers in America as well as included in a direct mail campaign.
At the time, Obama was being falsely targeted as a Muslim. The film distributed through the newspapers was called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” In the leadup to the election, David Horowitz, a man who has grown rich from corporate financing of his related nonprofits, was promoting an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” program to over 100 college campuses, with the “Obsession” film made available for viewing.
David Horowitz and his “news” website, FrontPageMag.com, came to mind last week when the Reuters news agency reported that a Russian-backed news site tied to the Internet Research Agency, the Russian group that meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has been caught in the radar of the FBI as meddling in the current presidential election. The website is called the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens or NAEBC.com. According to a Tweet from Chris Vickery, the Director of Cyber Risk Research at UpGuard, the user account “rttvqiwi,” “is the account in control of the NAEBC site.” RT-TV sounds a lot like the RT television network (formerly Russia Today) which is a state-controlled international television network. Vickery reports that Qiwi is a payments service company headquartered in Russia, that was used by the Internet Research Agency to pay Facebook, in rubles, to run ads.
The reason that David Horowitz came to mind is that the content on the front page of NAEBC.com looks a lot like the content on the front page of FrontPageMag.com. There is a strong anti-minority emphasis and a strong pro-Trump attitude. Then we noticed something else that was striking. One writer, Jack Kerwick, was not only a contributor at the Russian-linked NAEBC.com but was also a longstanding writer for the David Horowitz website, FrontPageMag.com.
In this recent article for NAEBC.com, Kerwick encourages conservatives to arm up. (That came on the heels of Donald Trump Jr. calling for a “Trump Army” of poll watchers to keep the election from being stolen from his Dad.) In this article for FrontPageMag.com in August, Kerwick wages a war on the wearing of masks (despite leading scientists agreeing that it is the primary means to save Americans right now from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic).
According to SourceWatch, the David Horowitz Freedom Center has received more than $500,000 in total from Donor’s Capital Fund and Donor’s Trust in the four-year period of 2014 to 2018.
Another website that looks a lot like NAEBC.com and FrontPageMag.com is the Heartland Institute. It combines a pro-Trump, anti-minority focus with a prominent climate change denial posture. Charles Koch has confirmed that his foundation previously provided funding support to the Heartland Institute. For more on that controversy, see this DeSmog report.
Is it just a coincidence that the Kochtopus and Russia-backed “news” sites have an uncannily similar content messaging? Consider this: both Russia and Koch Industries rely on fossil fuels for income. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Russia was the third largest oil producer in 2019. Therefore, both Koch Industries and Russia benefit from climate-change denial. Both benefit from anti-regulatory politicians in Congress and the Oval Office.
But the connection goes deeper than that. Koch Industries has significant operations in Russia. The website for Koch Industries shows that three of its companies, Molex, Guardian Industries, and Koch Engineered Solutions operate in Russia. In 2017, Koch Industries publicly announced that it completed the acquisition of Guardian Industries after acquiring a 44.5 percent minority interest in 2012. According to the Guardian Industries website, it has two large glass manufacturing plants in Russia, one in the Rostov Region and one in the Ryazan Region.
In addition, according to ImportGenius.com, in the past seven years Koch Supply and Trading has purchased large amounts of oil from two Russian companies, Gazprom Neft and Surgutex.
Which raises the question: if the U.S. really wanted to send a message to Russia to stop meddling in U.S. elections, why wouldn’t it cut off U.S. imports of Russian oil. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. imports of Russian oil are now at a seven-year high, reaching 190 million barrels last year. (See chart below.)
Then there is the fact that a front group for Koch Industries, Freedom Partners, spread staff throughout the Trump administration and mapped out their marching orders for Trump in a formal memorandum on which he delivered: withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord; massive tax cuts for corporations and the one percent; turning the Environmental Protection Agency into a shadow of its former self. And on the very day of Trump’s inauguration, Koch Industries’ law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its law partners to take on key posts in the Trump administration. (See How Did Koch Industries’ Law Firm Grab Control at the White House?)
The bottom line is that two fossil fuels special interest groups – Koch Industries and Russia – put Donald Trump in the White House and right-wing Republicans in Congress by funding a climate of fear, hate and distrust. There is growing evidence that the scene is being replayed in this election.