Billionaire Polluters Pay a Million to Foul California’s Air-Who’s Behind Prop 23?

By Ann Notthoff

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

Of one thing you can be certain: when the Koch Brothers ride into town, dirty money follows. This is particularly bad news for California as the Koch Brothers arrived last week to join other out of state polluters paying big bucks to sully the air of the Golden State.

The two billionaire siblings, David and Charles Koch, own Koch Industries, a Wichita-based oil conglomerate that maintains refineries in three states and 4,000 miles of pipeline.

As energy companies go, Koch Industries is something of a stealth entity. The Center for Public Integrity recently completed a major report on the company, noting that “Koch Industries could be the biggest oil company you have never heard of.” While it is little known to the public, its estimated revenues in 2009 were about $40 billion, making it bigger than AT&T, Microsoft or Merrill Lynch.

Koch Industries has been named as one of the country’s top ten air polluters in a University of Massachusetts / Amherst report. As reported by the New Yorker and the Los Angeles Times, the Koch (pronounced “coke”) brothers are strident in their denial of climate science findings, opposing any and all attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and move the nation to a sustainable energy path.

Moreover, they’re giving millions of dollars to groups fighting environmental protection and the dissemination of accurate, peer-reviewed climate data. Koch Industries is also the biggest oil industry contributor of campaign money to federal and state candidates.

Now the Kochs have set their sights on AB 32, California’s landmark clean energy legislation.  A bipartisan bill supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders, AB 32 will create thousands of clean energy sector jobs, fund alternative energy R&D, cut global warming pollution and establish California at the cutting edge of the clean energy revolution that is transforming the global economy.

That doesn’t sit well with the Kochs, of course. They make their money in dirty high-carbon fuels and they, and they perceive any shift toward sustainable energy as a threat to their bottom line. Along with Valero and Tesoro Corp., the Kochs have funded Proposition 23, a Trojan horse of an initiative that would derail AB 32. Proposition 23 is a bald-faced attempt to assure the continued dominance of the fossil fuel industry. If passed in November, it will effectively kill AB 32.

So far, more than $8 million has been pumped into the Proposition 23 campaign. Of that amount, 97 percent has come from oil interests, and 89 percent came from out-of-state companies. Last week, the Kochs kicked another $1 million into the Proposition 23 kitty, as did Tesoro.

Proposition 23, therefore, is not a simple state proposition. It has national ramifications, and it could well determine the direction of the country’s energy policy. California has a history of being America’s evolutionary engine for technology: witness Apple, Intel, Google, the thousands of other firms that have shaped the way we work, play, interact – even think.

Clean tech is no exception. Through AB 32, we have established a template that the rest of the world can follow.  

Luckily Californians know better than to buy the snake oil these out-of-state dirty energy companies are selling. People from all over the political spectrum are lining up to fight the measure.

For example, San Francisco investor Tom Steyer and President Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Shultz are co-chairing of the No on 23 Campaign, which aims to keep oil industry carpetbaggers out of California’s public policy. But they can’t do it alone – we need everyone’s help. Join us at:

And show up at the polls on November 2 to send the Kochs and their cronies packing. In the process, we can send a message to Dirty Oil that the clean energy economy is here to stay.