The Democrats’ Latest Koch Smear Falls Flat

Left-wing political operative David Brock’s group, American Bridge, released a report today titled “Legacy of Loss: Koch Industries’ Layoffs and Environmental Harm in Battleground States.” The reference to battleground states eliminates any doubt as to the report’s purpose; it is basically a pastiche of news stories and rumors cobbled together from an internet search or two, intended for this year’s Congressional campaigns.

The quality of the report, as one expects from a David Brock product, is dismal. Details to follow. But first, the report’s introduction says:

Koch Industries and its subsidiaries own facilities in 35 states across the country, including battleground states like Iowa, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and North Carolina — states where the Republican candidates are closely tied to the Koch brothers. These states have been subject to job loss, significant environmental damage, or both, at the hands of the Kochs’ business empire.

Left-winger David Brock

Left-winger David Brock

Emphasis added. Brock’s reference to “job loss” is perverse, and reflects his (and the Left’s) broader ignorance of the economy. Koch Industries operates in 35 states because it is a large, highly successful company. Koch employs 60,000 Americans–a steadily-growing number–and 100,000 worldwide, mostly in high-quality, good-paying jobs. Yet this history of massive job creation is ignored: if Koch has ever had to close an inefficient plant or shut down an unprofitable business, like any other company, that is “job loss”–never mind the 60,000 net jobs created! And, of course, those 60,000 jobs are in the 35 states identified in the American Bridge report.

How accurate is the report? You could write a book about David Brock’s deceptions, but let’s settle for a few examples.

West Virginia:

January 2014: Freedom Industries Leaked 5,000 Gallons Of Chemicals Into West Virginia’s Elk River, Leaving 300,000 Residents Without Tap Water And Costing The Economy $61 Million

Freedom Industries Leaked The Chemical Crude MCHM, Consisting Mostly Of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, Into West Virginia’s Elk River. According to Was Virginia Gazette, “The state Department of Environmental Protection said Freedom Industries violated the West Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Act and the Water Pollution Control Act by allowing the chemical ‘Crude MCHM,’ consisting mostly of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, to escape from its facility, just upstream from West Virginia American Water’s regional intake in the Elk River.” [Was [sic] Virginia Gazette, 1/10/14]

But wait! You will note that this story contains no reference whatsoever to Koch Industries. What’s the connection? The report adds:

2008: Georgia-Pacific Chemicals Named Freedom Industries As A Distributor Of Its Talon Mining Reagents For West Virginia And Other States. According to a Georgia Pacific press release published by PR Newswire “Georgia-Pacific Chemicals has named Freedom Industries, a supplier of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries, as a distributor of its Talon Mining Reagents for West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Minnesota, Kentucky and Michigan.” [PR Newswire, 4/29/08]

But six years later, in 2014 when the MCHM spill occurred, Koch no longer had any business relationship with Freedom Industries. And, in any event, Georgia-Pacific Chemicals did not make MCHM. The spill had nothing to do with Georgia-Pacific Chemicals or Koch Industries. The rumor that Koch had something to do with the Elk River spill was started by a blogger and repeated uncritically by Brock’s group. But, hey, what’s a lie when Democratic control of the Senate is at stake?

Iowa:

This one is actually pretty hilarious. The report accuses Koch Industries of having an “anti-Iowa agenda.” Seriously? Anti-Iowa?

Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch Opposed Ethanol Subsidies. According to the Des Moines Register, “Charles Koch – the new owner of ethanol plants at Fairbank, Iowa Falls, Menlo, and Shell Rock – has come out against tax credits or other subsidies for biofuels. Koch’s position isn’t necessarily a surprise; the Koch family has long espoused conservative political positions. In an article in the Wall Street Journal last week, Koch, who is CEO of Koch Industries, wrote ‘because of government mandates, our refining business is essentially obligated to be in the ethanol business. We believe that ethanol – and every other product in the marketplace – should be required to compete on its own merits, without mandates, subsidies or protective tariffs. Such policies only increase the prices of those products, taxes and the cost of many other goods and services.’ Koch’s voice is new among Iowa ethanol producers. Koch’s Flint Hills Resources bought ethanol plants at Menlo and Shell Rock last September, and two more at Iowa Falls and Fairbank, from Hawkeye Energy of Ames.” [Des Moines Register, 3/6/11]

Well, yes: as is well known, Koch opposes subsidies even when those subsides benefit its own businesses. Many Iowans agree. But Brock’s report ludicrously ignores what is reported in the very news story it quotes: Koch has invested heavily in the ethanol industry in Iowa. Flint Hills Resources, a Koch Industries subsidiary, owns six ethanol plants and an interest in a biodiesel plant that is under construction. FHR believes that ethanol can thrive on its own merits, without government subsidies and mandates. So you’re only pro-Iowa if you think the ethanol industry is a cripple that needs government favoritism to survive? That’s what the Democrats believe, apparently.

One of Flint Hills Resources' Iowa ethanol plants

One of Flint Hills Resources’ Iowa ethanol plants

Arkansas:

The American Bridge report quotes uncritically a seemingly-sensational CBS report from 2011:

Georgia-Pacific Paper Mill Was Accused Of Pumping Hazardous Materials Into Coffee Creek, Including Ammonia, Chloride, And Mercury. According to CBS News, “A Koch Industries paper mill is violating the Clean Water Act by pumping out massive amounts of pollution into an Arkansas waterway, according to an EPA enforcement complaint to be filed tomorrow by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Ouachita Riverkeeper. The complaint alleges that a Georgia-Pacific paper mill on the Coffee Creek in Arkansas – owned by the billionaire Koch Brothers -emits 45 million gallons of paper mill waste including hazardous materials like ammonia, chloride, and mercury each day.” [CBS, 3/6/11]

What the report doesn’t tell you is that CBS’s effort at a scoop fizzled out. Just a month later, the EPA wrote a letter dismissing claims about the discharges, concluding that “there are no enforcement issues” associated with the paper mill or its operating permit, and “we do not believe it is appropriate for EPA to reopen GP Crossett’s current NPDES permit or to begin civil enforcement proceedings against the facility.”

Minnesota:

Once again, one wonders whether the authors of the American Bridge report bothered to read the news stories to which they linked. Maybe they didn’t: the report has a slapdash quality that suggests it was assembled by student interns over a weekend. It devotes a page and a half to a 2003 sale of land by Flint Hills Resources to the City of St. Paul for a residential development. What’s wrong with that?

2003: Flint Hill Resources Agreed To Sell Land To Minnesota For 1,000 Housing Units. According to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, “St. Paul’s drive to turn a large industrial tract along the Mississippi River into a thriving residential neighborhood has gotten hung up on pollution issues. The city aims to buy the vacant 64-acre Koch-Mobil site and then sell it to a development company, which proposes to build more than 1,000 housing units during the next several years. But the city hasn’t been able to close a deal with Flint Hills Resources, a Kansas-based firm formerly known as Koch Refinery Co. The firm owns nearly half the property, which was once a sprawling field of large petroleum tanks.” [Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 7/23/03]

This is a great example of Koch’s civic-mindedness. The company didn’t want future residents of the area to be exposed to old fuel that might be in the soil, so it cleaned up the land and then sold it to the city. The fact that this took time, and the expenditure of a great deal of Koch’s money, is entirely to the company’s credit. The Brock report itself admits that Koch’s efforts were successful:

Home Construction Commenced In 2006 On Land Formerly Owned By Flint Hills. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Brighton Development has already started construction on a 22-acre parcel formerly owned by Flint Hills, and Shalom Community Alliance is planning a campus of senior housing on a smaller parcel. David Wickiser, president of the Fort Road Federation, said the decision is a relief. The neighborhood group has been an ardent supporter of the plan, and Wickiser said leaving out one phase would weaken the project. Taken together, the parcels would create an enduring neighborhood, he added.” [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/30/06]

That’s a happy ending, unless you are a Democrat trying to fabricate a grievance.

Here is another one from my home state, which cites a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article:

Flint Hills Was Minnesota’s “Third-Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitter.” According to the Star Tribune, “But Flint Hills’ plans faced potential opposition from environmental groups, including the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), a nonprofit environmental law organization based in St. Paul that often intervenes in regulatory matters.

That’s because Flint Hills, the state’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, needs state regulatory approval to modify its air quality permit to release additional emissions, including those linked to climate change.” [Star Tribune, 4/17/13]

Flint Hills owns the state’s principal oil refinery, so, yes, it will emit some CO2. But if you actually look up the April 17, 2013, Star-Tribune article, you find that the title is, “Flint Hills refinery signs deal with environmental groups over expansion,” while the subheading states, “The owner of the state’s largest oil refinery reached out to environmental groups and modified a planned upgrade to win their support.”

The Flint Hills Resources oil refinery in Rosemount has agreed to limit the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and curb other air pollution in a deal that removes potential obstacles to its planned $400 million upgrade of the refinery, the company said Tuesday.

Under the agreement reached with two environmental groups, Flint Hills also will contribute $1 million to a Minnesota effort called Project Green Fleet that helps owners of school buses, construction equipment and other vehicles retrofit diesel engines to make them cleaner. Flint Hills is a founding sponsor of the program, and contributed $1 million previously.

Bear in mind that the American Bridge report is intended to highlight the worst news stories about Koch Industries over the last 20 years. But, hey, wait–how about those job losses?

The project, slated to begin next year, would increase the daily construction workforce from about 500 to 1,000 for five years, and add about 100 permanent jobs, said Scott Lindemann, vice president and manufacturing manager for the refinery.

Then there is this, also from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, about the same project: “Rosemount refinery project could boost area’s fortunes: A large upgrade proposed at the Pine Bend Refinery could have economic ripple effects in Rosemount and neighboring communities.”

Flint Hills Resources' Pine Bend refinery, located near my house

Flint Hills Resources’ Pine Bend refinery, located near my house

The idea that Koch Industries, one of the world’s most dynamic companies which employs 60,000 Americans, hurts the economies of the states in which it does business is too stupid for anyone but a liberal to believe. I will give you a six-pack for every mayor you can find who wouldn’t love to have a Koch facility in his town. (If he is a Democrat, he has to pass a lie detector test.)

Certainly, if you operate in the physical world–refining and transporting petroleum products, manufacturing building products and chemicals, and so on–you will have to monitor and control emissions, and inevitably, you will have a few spills and other environmental incidents. But Koch Industries is one of the world’s leaders in environmental compliance, having received literally hundreds of awards from the Environmental Protection Agency for its state of the art environmentalism. Out of touch Democrats appear to believe that we can be a nation of app designers–no emissions, no chemicals, no messy industrial processes, only hirings but never any layoffs. No contact, really, with the physical world. Sure: for starters, we just need unicorns to fly us from place to place, emission-free. In the world that actually exists, Koch Industries is perhaps the best corporate citizen we have.

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If Democrats were honest, they would say: “Charles and David Koch believe in individual freedom, while I am an advocate of state power. Therefore, we are political opponents.” But honesty doesn’t come easily on the Left. So instead, we see endless, brain-dead smears of Charles and David Koch and their companies–and, implicitly, of their 60,000 American employees. David Brock’s latest report is one more in that dreary series of lies and evasions.

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