By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 22, 2020 ~
Anyone who has carefully studied the presidency of Donald Trump knows that his job is Distractor in Chief. Investigative reporters for the New York Times have spent endless hours compiling Trump’s tax evasions and unreported foreign bank account in China. The Washington Post has spent endless hours compiling more than 20,000 lies Trump has told since taking office. But the real man in charge of directing the agenda of the Trump administration, fossil fuels billionaire Charles Koch, has received far less scrutiny.
Yesterday, former President Barack Obama delivered a speech at a campaign rally in Philadelphia for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. During the remarks, Obama got to the core of what Charles Koch’s political network and money machine has done to gut the safeguards for everyday Americans at the federal regulatory agencies that previously protected them. Obama didn’t mention Koch by name, but said this:
“The Environmental Protection Agency, that’s supposed to protect our air and our water, is right now run by an energy lobbyist that gives polluters free reign to dump unlimited poison into our air and water.
“The Labor Department, that’s supposed to protect workers and their rights, right now it’s run by a corporate lobbyist who’s declared war on workers, guts protections to keep essential folks safe during a pandemic, makes it easier for big corporations to shortchange them on their wages.
“The Interior Department, that’s supposed to protect our public lands and wild spaces, our wildlife and our wilderness. And right now, that’s run by an oil lobbyist who’s determined to sell them to the highest bidder.
“You’ve got the Education Department, that’s supposed to give every kid a chance, and that’s run by a billionaire who guts rules designed to protect students from getting ripped off by for profit colleges and stiff arms students looking for loan relief in the middle of an economic collapse.”
Obama barely captured the real nightmare reality of what is going on at these agencies.
Let’s start with the first agency Obama mentioned – the EPA. The dedicated researchers at American Prospect provide us with this analysis of who is now running the EPA.
The head of the EPA is Secretary Andrew Wheeler, “a former coal lobbyist whose top client was Murray Energy. That company’s CEO, Robert Murray, is a climate change denier and a major backer of Donald Trump,” writes the American Prospect.
American Prospect notes further:
“David Dunlap, deputy assistant administrator for research and development, is a former policy director for Koch Industries. At EPA, Dunlap has had a role in regulating formaldehyde despite the fact that one of the country’s largest producers of formaldehyde, Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, is a Koch subsidiary.
“David Fischer, deputy assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, is a former industry lawyer and senior director of the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical companies.
“Alexandra Dunn, assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, was also employed by the American Chemistry Council.
“As an industry lawyer, Susan Bodine, now assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, had defended polluting companies against Superfund cleanup responsibilities.
“Peter Wright, assistant administrator for land and emergency management, oversees toxic waste site cleanup. He used to work for DowDuPont, which has been implicated in problems affecting roughly one-seventh of all toxic waste cleanup sites…
“Dennis Forsgren, deputy assistant administrator for water, was a lobbyist for GE and Exxon, among others.”
That brings us to the U.S. Department of Labor. You might recall that Trump had first nominated Alex Acosta as Labor Secretary. Acosta then stepped down after revelations surfaced that while he was serving as U.S. Attorney in Miami, he had arranged that sweetheart plea deal for sexual predator and alleged sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein. Then Trump nominated Eugene Scalia, the son of the late right-wing U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. Under Eugene Scalia, a wrecking ball has been taken to the Labor Department’s OSHA division. An April report by the National Employment Law Project included these findings:
“OSHA has failed to fill 42 percent of its top leadership career positions, leaving the agency without requisite expertise and direction to protect workers.
“The number of OSHA inspections per year under the Trump administration is more than 5,000 inspections less per year than the average number of inspections under the Obama or Bush administrations.
“OSHA has reduced the number of complex, time-intensive investigations. There has been a 25 percent drop in heat-related inspections; a 66 percent drop in inspections related to musculoskeletal injuries; a 27 percent drop in inspections where OSHA measures workers’ chemical exposures; and a 38 percent drop in the highest penalty ‘significant cases.’ ”
As for the Interior Department, Huffington Post reported that the man nominated by the Trump administration to be its top lawyer, Daniel Jorjani, had “held a senior policy position at the Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Institute from 2010 to 2012 and served as general counsel at the Koch-backed Freedom Partners from 2012 to 2017.”
Why would Charles Koch have an interest in the Interior Department and its public lands? In 2000, the CBS investigative program, 60 Minutes, did a story on Koch Industries, revealing the details of what one of the dissident brothers, Bill Koch, was alleging in Court documents. “Bill Koch filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that much of the oil collected by Koch Industries was stolen from federal lands. At the trial, 50 former Koch gaugers testified against the company, some in video depositions. They said Koch employees had a name for cheating on the measurements.” It was called the Koch Method. “The company used the Koch method with virtually all its customers. In the 1980s alone, Koch records show those so-called adjustments brought the company 300 million gallons of oil it never paid for. And it was pure profit. Bill Koch says that profits from that oil were a minimum of $230 million…In December 1999, the jury found that Koch Industries did steal oil from the public and lied about its purchases – 24 thousand times.”
We wrote about Freedom Partners in July of 2018. At that time, eight of the nine members of its Board of Directors was a current or former Koch company employee.
Charles Koch has been Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries for more than a half-century. It’s a fossil fuels juggernaut with pipelines and refineries, a large commodities trading operation known as Koch Supply & Trading, and chemical interests. In 2005 Koch Industries bought the paper and lumber company, Georgia-Pacific. That division produces the following consumer brands: Dixie disposable paper plates, bowls and cups; Northern Quilted and Angel Soft bath tissue; Brawny and Sparkle paper towels; and Vanity Fair and Mardi Gras table napkins. (If you’re not really into a fossil fuels takeover of government, you might want to consider not buying these brands when you shop.)
Koch Industries and Charles Koch have used nonprofit front groups to further their agenda for at least four decades.
In November of 2017, the respected watchdog, Public Citizen, reported that 44 Koch allies were staffing the White House and other agencies. And as we have reported at Wall Street On Parade, that’s on top of the 12 lawyers from Jones Day, Koch Industries’ long-time outside law firm, who took their seats in the Trump administration on January 20, 2017 – the day of Trump’s inauguration.
Trump had barely sat down at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office when Freedom Partners issued a list of regulations it wanted gutted – like the Paris Climate accord (which Trump revoked on June 1, 2017) and numerous EPA rules – and threatened those lawmakers who didn’t get on board, writing that “Freedom Partners will hold lawmakers who oppose regulatory relief accountable for their positions.” That means that they will run a challenger against them in the next Republican primary.
Two other nonprofits that actively engaged in the 2016 presidential election were Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Action Fund. Not only did the Koch network fund Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Action Fund ads portraying Democrats as reckless tax and spend bureaucrats but the Koch-controlled i360 voter database and voter-targeting operations may have tipped the scales in voter turnout.
And finally, there is billionaire Betsy DeVos who heads the U.S. Department of Education. Sourcewatch reports that the DeVos family fortune, which comes from Amway household and beauty products, funds school privatization projects, anti-union and pro-school voucher groups. SourceWatch also notes that in 2011 the DeVos Foundation gave $3 million to Americans for Prosperity. SourceWatch writes further: “The DeVos Foundation gave another $2.5 million to the Koch Network conduit DonorsTrust from 2009 to 2010” and has “contributed millions of dollars to other right wing organizations such as the State Policy Network, Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Federalist Society, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and others.”
One of the seminal books on the Koch agenda is the 700-page tome by Christopher Leonard: “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.” Leonard was interviewed about the Koch’s view of public education on the Podcast, “Have You Heard.” (We highly recommend listening to it.) Leonard explained the Koch view as follows:
“Know what the blueprint is. Koch’s influence machine is multi-faceted and complex and I am just telling you, in a very honest way, there is a huge difference between the marketing materials produced by Americans for Prosperity and the actual behind-the-scenes political philosophy. There’ a huge difference. And here’s the actual political philosophy:
“Government is bad. Public education must be destroyed for the good of all American citizens in this view.
“So, the ultimate goal is to dismantle the public education system entirely and replace it with a privately run education system, which the operatives in this group believe, in a sincere way, is better for everybody. Now, whether you agree with that or not is the big question, but we cannot have any doubt, there’s going to be a lot of glossy marketing materials about opportunity, innovation, efficiency. At its core though, the network seeks to dismantle the public education system because they see it as destructive. So that is what’s the actual aim of this group. And don’t let them tell you anything different.”