William Koch targeted for changing his support for renewable energy
The notorious Koch brothers are hitting the media these days like a group of aging rock stars. Within the past few days, Charles Koch has been called “the scariest man in America” by Alternet’s Paul Buchheit. His younger brother William — whose name Charles is said never to speak — has shifted his political loyalties to protect his investments, according to The Center for Public Integrity.
CPI released a new profile of William Koch entitled, “William Koch Emerges from Shadow of Famous Siblings,” Charles and David Koch.
Prior to 2012, CPI’s Michael Beckel of explained, “Billionaire businessman William Koch … operated green energy plants on multiple continents and had a reputation for being more politically moderate than his better-known brothers, Charles and David. These Koch Brothers are the principal owners of Koch Industries, Inc. and founders of the American Legislative Economic Council, which gives business leaders access to legislators who will promote industry-friendly legislation.”
When William Koch engineered the break-up of the family energy conglomerate in 1980, he touched off a family fight that kept the brothers in court for most of the decade. In the final agreement, brothers Charles and David took ownership of Koch Industries, Inc., while William accepted a multibillion-dollar settlement.
With his share, William built his own Oxbow Carbon LLC business network, which includes coal mines in the North Fork Valley of western Colorado. In his early years with Oxbow, William took advantage of high government subsidies for wind energy and other renewable energy sources to invest in the international wind farm network described by Beckel.
Once a champion of renewable energy and an advocate for slowing climate change, William now “rejects the ‘apocalypse of global warming’ (and) says investing in alternative energy is ‘foolhardy.’ ” Beckel said.
A CPI analysis of data from January 1989 through June 2013 by the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics showed that “During the 2012 election cycle, (William) Koch’s support for the GOP surged. Prior to that time, nearly two thirds of his giving benefited Democrats.”
By 2012, Oxbow was in the vanguard of opposition to government subsidies for renewable energy. “The alternative energy business is uneconomical unless you get a government subsidy or a government-enforced contract,” William Koch said.
As subsidies declined, William divested himself of renewable-energy investments and increased his holdings in heavily polluting industries until his assets grew to closely resemble those of his brothers.
So did his political giving. In the 2012 election cycle, William Koch’s companies contributed $4.35 million to GOP super PACs — more than any other company, according to a CPI analysis of federal records.
The majority of that sum — $3.75 million — went to Restore Our Future, the main super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful presidential bid.
Other conservative recipients of William Koch’s largesse in 2012 included former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Florida Rep. Allen West and Florida’s incumbent Sen. Connie Mac IV. All were defeated in the 2012 election.
As William Koch divested himself of renewable energy stocks, Oxbow Carbon LLC, the “holding company for all Oxbow business,” focused its interests on natural gas, coal, petroleum coke and sulfur — the same dirty commodities exploited by his brothers.
Beckel seems to feel betrayed because William Koch has shifted his position on renewable energy over the years.
William spent millions of dollars in 2012 to “aid politicians he sees as more business-friendly and to fight the Obama administration’s moves to combat climate change.”
Failure in that fight could mean costly new regulations for Koch’s expansive Oxbow Carbon LLC business network.
It seems William Koch escaped from the shadow of his brothers only to find that he now casts the same shadow over his own image.
Rather than complain about William Koch’s change of heart, Beckel and CPI need to be preparing for 2014, when Democrats will need to take on all the Koch brothers over their ambitious plans to extend their influence on American energy policy.