Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stephen Harper, the Tea Party and the Koch Brothers

It has already been established that the Koch Brothers are heavily invested in the Tar Sands, and that the Harper government has deep connections with Americans for Prosperity, the AstroTurf group that finances the Tea Party.

And clearly he shares their views on climate change and commitment to sabotaging any move toward addressing it. And for the Koch brothers, environmental crimes go much deeper. Or maybe I should say getting away with crimes.

In 1995, the U.S. government-mandated limit on benzene releases was six metric tons, but when Koch employee, Sally Barnes-Soliz, measured the benzene releases at one of their sites, she warned management that the plant had released 91 metric tons of benzene, well over the limit.

She later discovered that the report she had submitted did not reflect the data she had collected, so complained to company officials, who allegedly responded by transferring her and giving her a poor evaluation.

And when she complained to authorities, Koch made her life so difficult that she was eventually forced out. A 1997 wrongful termination suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Charges were laid against four Koch executives: David Lamp, Vincent Mietlicki, John Wadsworth, and James Weathers Jr. , but when George Bush became president, he made it all go away:

No one called for a congressional investigation of why criminal charges were dropped against Koch Industries, the largest privately held oil company in America, whose CEO and vice president are the brothers Charles and David Koch. In September 2000, the federal government brought a 97­ count indictment against Koch Industries and its four employ­ees—Lamp, Mietlicki, Wadsworth, and Weathers, who were Koch's environmental and plant managers—for knowingly releas­ing 91 metric tons of benzene, a cancer-causing agent, into the air and water, and for covering up the deadly release from federal regulators.

This wasn't Koch's first run-in with the law; it wasn't even their first that year. Earlier in 2000, Koch had been fined $35 mil­lion for illegal pollution in six states. But with the George W. Bush's election "decided," Koch's for­tunes suddenly changed. Koch executives had just contributed some $800,000 to Bush's presidential campaign and other Repub­lican candidates and causes. In January, as John Ashcroft waited in the wings, the government dropped the charges first from 97 to 11 and then to a mere nine.

Koch Industries, however, still faced fines totaling $352 mil­lion. Bush's new administration, now firmly in place, quickly fixed that. In March, they dropped two more charges. Then, two days before the case was to go to court, Ashcroft's Justice Department settled the case. Koch Industries pled guilty to a new charge of falsifying docu­ments, and the government dropped all environmental charges against the company, including all felony counts against their four employees.

Following hard on the heels of their generosity, the Koch executives facing possible prison terms were freed from any pros­ecution. The company itself had all 90 of the serious counts against it dismissed and in the end paid a fine that wiped out the 7 remaining counts. According to the Houston Chronicle, "Koch executives celebrated the conclusion of the case," company spokesman Jay Rosser crowing about how the dropping of charges was proof of Koch's "vindication." (1)
This is why the U.S. and Canada will never have a viable environmental policy under any neoconservative government. People like Koch are far too generous with their money, when it comes to buying politicians.


1. Stupid White Men: And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Union, By: Michael Moore, Regan Books, 2001, ISBN: 0-06-039245-2, Pg. 198-199

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