The Washington Post Responds To Me, and I Reply to the Post

On Thursday, the Washington Post published an article by Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin titled “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.” The article’s first paragraph included this claim:

The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

The theme of the article was that the Keystone Pipeline is all about the Koch brothers; or, at least, that this is a plausible claim. The Post authors relied on a report by a far-left group called International Forum on Globalization that I debunked last October.

So Thursday evening, I wrote about the Post article here. I pointed out that Koch is not, in fact, the largest leaser of tar sands land; that Koch will not be a user of the pipeline if it is built; and that construction of the Keystone Pipeline would actually be harmful to Koch’s economic interests, which is why Koch has never taken a position on the pipeline’s construction. The Keystone Pipeline, in short, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Koch brothers.

My post garnered a great deal of attention, and Mufson and Eilperin undertook to respond to it here. It isn’t much of a response: they don’t deny the truth of anything I wrote, and they don’t try to sustain the proposition that Koch is even in favor of the pipeline, let alone the driving force behind it. They lamely suggest that if Koch leased 2 million acres, rather than 1.1 million as they reported on Thursday, then Koch might be the largest leaseholder. But they make no attempt to respond to the official Province of Alberta maps that I posted, which clearly show that Canadian National Resources, Ltd., for example, leases more acreage than Koch.

The Post’s response attempted to explain “Why we wrote about the Koch Industries [sic] and its leases in Canada’s oil sands.” Good question! What’s the answer?

The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year. That’s why we wrote the piece.

So in the Post’s view, it is acceptable to publish articles that are both literally false (Koch is the largest tar sands leaseholder) and massively misleading (the Keystone Pipeline is all about Koch Industries), if by doing so the paper can “stir and inflame public debate in this election year.” I can’t top Jonah Goldberg’s comment on that howler:

By this logic any unfair attack posing as reporting is worthwhile when people try to correct the record. Why not just have at it and accuse the Kochs of killing JFK or hiding the Malaysian airplane? The resulting criticism would once again provide “strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year.”

Juliet Eilperin

Juliet Eilperin

Let me offer an alternative explanation of why the Washington Post published their Keystone/Koch smear: 1) The Washington Post in general, and Mufson and Eilperin in particular, are agents of the Left, the environmental movement and the Democratic Party. 2) The Keystone Pipeline is a problem for the Democratic Party because 60% of voters want the pipeline built, while the party’s left-wing base insists that it not be approved. 3) The Keystone Pipeline is popular because it would broadly benefit the American people by creating large numbers of jobs, making gasoline more plentiful and bringing down the cost of energy. 4) Therefore, the Democratic Party tries to distract from the real issues surrounding the pipeline by claiming, falsely, that its proponents are merely tools of the billionaire Koch brothers–who, in fact, have nothing to do with Keystone one way or the other. 5) The Post published its article to assist the Democratic Party with its anti-Keystone talking points.

Which frames a very interesting contrast. The Keystone Pipeline is by no means the only energy-related controversy these days. “Green” energy is also highly controversial. “Green” energy is controversial, in part, because, unlike the Keystone Pipeline, it harms the consumer: solar and wind energy are inefficient, and therefore raise energy costs to consumers. “Green” energy is also controversial because it harms taxpayers: because they are inefficient, solar and wind energy can survive only through taxpayer-funded subsidies. Further, the federal government has invested in numerous “green” energy projects that have gone bankrupt, sticking taxpayers with the tab. Solyndra is only one of a number of such debacles.

“Green” energy is also controversial because it has been used to enrich government cronies. Let’s take, for instance, the billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer has made much of his fortune by using his government connections to secure support for uneconomic “green” energy projects that have profited him, to the detriment of consumers and taxpayers. See, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. As is explained here, Tom Steyer is a bitter opponent of the Keystone Pipeline. His financial interests, in “green” energy and perhaps also in pre-pipeline oil sources like BP, stand to benefit if Keystone is killed.

Haven’t heard much about Tom Steyer, you say? Maybe that’s because he isn’t heavily involved in politics. Heh–just kidding. Steyer, as you probably know, is one of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party and its candidates. This year, he has pledged to contribute $100 million to the campaigns of Democratic candidates, as long as they toe the line on environmental issues–which includes, presumably, taxpayer support for “green” energy and opposition to Keystone.

So the Post could have written a very different story about the Keystone Pipeline. The Post could have written that opposition to the pipeline is being funded in large part by a billionaire who has a personal financial interest in the pipeline not being built. And that’s not all! The billionaire is a political crony who has used his connections in Washington to get rich and to fleece consumers and taxpayers. Now, with Keystone, he is doing it again! How is that for a story that would “stir and inflame public debate in this election year”?

The Post, of course, didn’t write that story. But the Post has written about Tom Steyer. Not only that–what a coincidence!–Juliet Eilperin has written about Steyer. In this February 2013 puff piece, to which Mufson also contributed, she promoted Steyer’s campaign to be named Energy Secretary:

John Podesta, who chairs the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said Steyer has “got the right skill set, the understanding and attitude to lead an energy transformation in this country.”

“I think he would be a fabulous choice for energy secretary,” Podesta added, “and I’ve let my friends in the administration know that.”

Here is a thought experiment: imagine Juliet Eilperin writing about a campaign to get Charles Koch named Secretary of Energy. Eilperin went on to describe a public appearance by Steyer in glowing terms:

On Sunday, he spoke to a crowd that organizers estimated at 35,000, gathered on the Mall to call for a stronger national climate policy.“I’m not the first person you’d expect to be here today. I’m not a college professor and I don’t run an environmental organization,” he said. “For the last 30 years I’ve been a professional investor and I’ve been looking at billion-dollar investments for decades and I’m here to tell you one thing: The Keystone pipeline is not a good investment.”

The move stems from an uncomfortable conclusion Steyer has reached: The incremental political victories he and others have been celebrating fall well short of what’s needed to avert catastrophic global warming.

There is lots more, all of it adoring. Of course, neither Steyer nor Eilperin mentioned that killing Keystone, capping carbon emissions and so on would all benefit Steyer financially.

So we have a contrast that couldn’t be clearer: the Washington Post published a false story about support for Keystone because it fit the Democratic Party’s agenda. It covered up a similar, but true story about opposition to the pipeline (and about “green” politics in general) because that, too, fit the Democratic Party’s agenda. I don’t think we need to look any further to connect the dots.

And yet, a still deeper level of corruption is on display here. Juliet Eilperin is a reporter for the Washington Post who covers, among other things, environmental politics. As I wrote in my prior post, she is married to Andrew Light. Light writes on climate policy for the Center for American Progress, a far-left organization that has carried on a years-long vendetta against Charles and David Koch on its web site, Think Progress. Light is also a member of the Obama administration, as Senior Adviser to the Special Envoy on Climate Change in the Department of State. The Center for American Progress is headed by John Podesta, who chaired Barack Obama’s transition team and is now listed as a “special advisor” to the Obama administration. Note that Ms. Eilperin quoted Podesta, her husband’s boss, in her puff piece on Tom Steyer.

Oh, yes–one more thing. Guess who sits on the board of the Center for American Progress? Yup. Tom Steyer.

This kind of incest is common in Washington. You can’t separate the reporters from the activists from the Obama administration officials from the billionaire cronies. Often, as in this instance, the same people wear two or more of those hats simultaneously. However bad you think the corruption and cronyism in Washington are, they are worse than you imagine. And if you think the Washington Post is part of a free and independent press, think again.

Responses