Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


The Koch Brothers’ ‘pledge’

From Congress to state legislatures, hundreds of lawmakers have signed a Koch-sponsored ‘pledge’ not to raise taxes on generators of greenhouse gas emissions

It isn’t as famous as Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” but the billionaire Koch Brothers have apparently been getting candidates to sign a pledge to oppose any effort to address climate change by imposing a net tax on the sale and use of fossil fuels. (The Kochs are in the fossil fuel game.)

Signatories to the pledge promise to vote against “legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts.” And they’ve had quite a bit of success.

An American University-based outfit called The Investigative Reporting Workshop has released a reporting project on the Kochs, their campaign spending, and the pledge. Here’s a little chunk:

“An analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop found that from 2007 through 2011, Koch private foundations gave $41.2 million to 89 nonprofit organizations and an annual libertarian conference. Koch Industries and Charles and David Koch contributed $8.7 million to candidates and the Republican Party in the three election cycles between 2007 through 2012. In addition, Koch private foundations contributed $30.5 million to 221 U.S. colleges and universities and $46.3 million to the arts and other more traditionally charitable purposes during this period.

Article continues after advertisement

And while Koch Industries’ lobbyists were spending $53.9 million to further the giant corporation’s federal and state policy agenda, the nonprofits it funded were simultaneously ‘educating’ the public and lawmakers about energy, the environment and other issues in public testimony on Capitol Hill.

For example, in 2011 and 2012, Koch Industries Public Sector LLC, the lobbying arm of Koch Industries, advocated for the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would have rolled back the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could regulate greenhouse gases. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and co-signed by 92 Republicans (and three Democrats), 61 of whom signed an anti-climate tax ‘pledge.’ An economist with the American Council for Capital Formation — a nonprofit group that receives Koch money — testified about that same bill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Margo Thorning told members of the House in February 2011 that regulation of greenhouse gas emissions ‘makes little economic or environmental sense,’ according to her testimony.”

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker writes that “Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action.

Piggy-backing on the Workshop’s findings,  Mayer  put up a summary that emphasizes the pledge, including:

“Starting in 2008, a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate greenhouse gasses as a form of pollution, accelerating possible Congressional action on climate change, the Koch-funded nonprofit group, Americans for Prosperity, devised the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge. It has been, according to the study, a component of a remarkably successful campaign to prevent lawmakers from addressing climate change. Two successive efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions by implementing cap-and-trade energy bills died in the Senate, the latter of which was specifically targeted by A.F.P.’s pledge. By now, four hundred and eleven current office holders nationwide have signed the pledge. Signatories include the entire Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, a third of the members of the House of Representatives as a whole, and a quarter of U.S. senators.

The 2010 mid-term elections were a high watermark for the pledge. The Kochs, like many other conservative benefactors, gave generously to efforts to help shift the majority in the House of Representatives from Democratic to Republican. Koch Industries’ political action committee spent $1.3 million on congressional campaigns that year. When Republicans did take control of the House, a huge block of climate-change opponents was empowered. Fully one hundred and fifty-six members of the House of Representatives that year had signed the ‘No Climate Tax Pledge.’ Of the eighty-five freshmen Republican congressmen elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, seventy-six had signed the No Climate Tax pledge. Fifty-seven of those received campaign contributions from Koch Industries’ political action committee. The study notes that more than half of the House members who signed the pledge in the 112th Congress made statements doubting climate-change science, despite the fact that there is overwhelming scientific consensus on the subject.”