Mark Andrew is a former chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic (DFL) Party. He also writes an occasional column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Today he attacked Flint Hills Resources, which owns a refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota. Why? Because Flint Hills is owned by Koch Industries. What was the occasion? Flint Hills sponsors an annual “International Children’s Festival” in conjunction with the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, and the festival got underway today.
To hear Andrew tell it, Flint Hills is an appalling corporate malefactor:
Flint Hills Resources’ Pine Bend oil refinery is located near Highway 52 en route to Rochester from St. Paul. You might not know it is a Flint Hills refinery because there is no highway signage to identify it. But judging from its belching stacks and anti-utopian visage, one can figure out it is owned by the notorious Koch Brothers.
Flint Hills and Koch Industries are on the short list of America’s filthiest companies.
They operate in the fields of petroleum refining, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading, oil and gas exploration, chemicals and polymers, fertilizer production, ranching and forestry products.
What make’s [sic] their businesses so dirty is not just what they do, but how they do it. Koch Industries’ corporate ethos is to pollute the American landscape with impunity.
Andrew goes on to criticize the Ordway for accepting the contribution from Flint Hills that makes the annual children’s festival possible:
The Ordway management, while not exactly dancing with the devil, are up close and personal with benefactors that are out of step with the spirit and magic that emanates from their stages.
Andrew’s fact-free tirade is nonsense, of course. Flint Hills, and Koch Industries generally, are renowned for their cutting-edge environmental stewardship. That is why Koch Industries and its operating companies have received at least 792 awards for safety, environmental excellence and community service since January 2009, including several hundred from the Obama administration’s EPA.
But that is just standard Democratic Party boilerplate. What makes Andrew’s article the most epically hypocritical smear of all time is that in 2009, Andrew not only recognized Flint Hills’ environmental excellence, he made a business proposal to partner with Flint Hills to advertise and promote the company’s stellar environmental record!
Andrew owns an environmental public relations company called GreenMark. In his Star Tribune byline, Andrew describes GreenMark as “a leading environmental marketing agency.” In December 2009, Mark Andrew, on behalf of GreenMark, made a proposal to the management of Flint Hills Resources to partner with GreenMark and the University of Minnesota to promote Flint Hills’ contributions to the environment. The price tag that Andrew attached to his proposal, over a three-year period, was $1.2 million. You can read the proposal here. These are some excerpts; first, the cover page. Click to enlarge:
Andrew proclaimed Flint Hills Resources to be “as Minnesotan as Gopher football.”
The particular Flint Hills environmental initiative that Andrew proposed to highlight was “Project Green Fleet,” which reduces emissions from school buses and other equipment throughout Minnesota, and is financed by Flint Hills. Project Green Fleet received the EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award in 2008, and the 2009 Minnesota Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention. Andrew’s theme was that Flint Hills wasn’t getting enough public credit for its environmental achievements. Thus, he proposed working with Flint Hills to get the company named the “Official Green Transit Partner for TCF Bank Stadium,” where the football Gophers play:
By hiring Andrew’s PR firm, Flint Hills would be able to showcase itself as a “valuable employer for the state of Minnesota, providing critical jobs and a tax base in challenging economic times.”
Further, hiring Andrew as its PR partner would solidify Flint Hills’ reputation as “an indispensible state asset.”
This is what Andrew promised he could do for Flint Hills:
I don’t think Andrew got consent from the people listed below to be identified as “figureheads” for his PR initiative:
More about how to publicize Flint Hills as “a valuable state asset” and “its contributions to the regional economy:”
There is much more, but let’s close with these two. First, “Flint Hills Resources is a responsible leader in our communities, region and state:”
All of this, Andrew’s PR magic could obtain for a mere $1,200,000:
Flint Hills turned Andrew’s proposal down. A responsible company officer told me, “I was concerned their approach was mostly superficial and would be perceived as greenwashing. We are more interested in approaches that reduce actual emissions or directly benefit the environment.” Also, Andrew’s 2009 proposal was not his only effort to get business from Flint Hills. He has approached Flint Hills “many times” to suggest that Flint Hills should partner with GreenMark to promote the company’s environmental accomplishments.
In response to Andrew’s column, Flint Hills put out a statement that was more sorrowful than angry:
Mr. Andrew’s comments do a tremendous disservice to the Ordway Center, their employees, and the many volunteers who work hard every year to bring the Children’s Festival to life. Thanks to their efforts, the Children’s Festival has become one of the top events of its kind in the world, delighting more than 50,000 people every year. Flint Hills supports numerous community causes like the Children’s Festival out of a commitment to being a good corporate citizen. Our employees are proud to call Minnesota home, and we want to do our part to contribute to all the things that make this such a special place to live and work. We are equally committed to making sure our refinery operations in Rosemount remain among the safest and cleanest in the country, which they are today. Mr. Andrew himself is well aware of this commitment.
This photo was taken today at the Flint Hills children’s festival. Let’s hope that the Ordway Theater doesn’t succumb to the slanders perpetrated by Mark Andrew and others. Click to enlarge:
So there you have it: my nominee for the most epically hypocritical Democratic Party smear ever. In December 2009 and thereafter, Mark Andrew knew that Flint Hills Resources is a great corporate citizen, a leader in environmental stewardship, an “indispensable state asset,” “a valuable employer” and “a responsible leader in our communities, region and state.” Now, he says Flint Hills is a “filthy,” “dirty” company whose “corporate ethos is to pollute the American landscape with impunity.” Flint Hills is so “filthy,” in fact, that non-profits should turn up their noses at the company’s contributions. (Andrew, of course, wasn’t going to turn up his nose at the fees he hoped to obtain from Flint Hills.)
What has changed since December 2009? Not Flint Hills Resources; Flint Hills is the same company it always was. What has changed is that the Democratic Party has made a tactical political decision to attack Koch Industries and its affiliates, like Flint Hills, at every opportunity, in order to enrage that party’s base and to deflect attention from the failure of the Obama administration’s policies. Today, Andrew was simply carrying water for his party. He knew that what he wrote was false, but for the Democrats–Andrew, remember, is a former state party chairman–truth always gives way to political advantage. This kind of sickening hypocrisy should cause every Democrat to look in the mirror and ask: what has my party become?