U.S. energy giant lobbying province: Koch Industries owned by billionaire brothers who fund Tea Party

Edmonton - An American energy conglomerate owned by two powerful billionaire brothers who help fund the Tea Party and climate change denial movements in the U.S. has registered to lobby the Alberta government.

Alberta's lobbyist registry shows that on March 15, Koch Industries signed up to lobby the province on energy and resource development policy issues, as well as taxation and economic development.

The company is run by Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world.

Koch Industries spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia did not respond to interview requests Wednesday but released a one-sentence statement.

"Koch companies want to add value by providing quality services and products our customers desire and value in a way that is compliant with all laws and regulations," she wrote.

She did not say what the company hopes to achieve by lobbying the government.

The registry shows the company's lobbying activities started March 3, and there is no fixed end date.

The federal lobbyist registry has no record of Koch Industries.

Calgary-based lobbyist David Keto of Global Public Affairs has been hired to arrange meetings and conduct grassroots and informal communications on behalf of the company.

Keto was executive assistant to cabinet minister David Coutts for two years ending in 2003. His company biography says he most recently worked in Alberta Finance as the project manager for the Alberta royalty review secretariat.

The extent of Koch Industries' holdings in Alberta is not known.

The company website says subsidiary Flint Hills Resources is among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. The company operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. It also has offices in Calgary.

Flint Hills' Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota was specifically designed to process Alberta's bitumen. Some reports suggest that refinery processes 325,000 barrels of crude oil a day and that 260,000 of those barrels come from Alberta. Cohlmia did not respond to a request to confirm those numbers.

Forbes magazine says Koch Industries is the second-largest private corporation in the United States with interests in pipelines, refineries and a host of other businesses.

The magazine's ranks Charles and David Koch at 24th in the list of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $17.5 billion.

The company came to public attention in 2010 when New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer published an article titled Covert Operations, in which she characterized the brothers as "primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America."

The brothers help fund the Tea Party organization, a right-wing political movement in the United States.

Mayer reviewed tax records that showed the pair poured more than a $100 million into dozens of "seemingly independent organizations," which Mayer says amount to the "subsidization of a pro-corporate movements."

"Many of the organizations funded by the Kochs employ specialists who write position papers that are subsequently quoted by politicians and pundits," Mayer wrote.

In 2010, a University of Massachusetts research institute named Koch Industries one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States.

The same year, Greenpeace reported that foundations controlled by Koch Industries contributed nearly $25 million to organizations that oppose clean energy and climate policy. The environmental advocates called the company "a financial kingpin of climate science denial."

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan worries the company's lobbying efforts will undermine the province's relationship with unions.

The New York Times has reported the Koch brothers were among the largest contributors to Wisconsin Senator Scott Walker's campaign. After weeks of rancorous protests, Walker on March 11 signed into law a bill that limits bargaining rights for most government workers in that state.

"The Koch brothers are the drivers behind the attacks on working Americans. We're concerned that they're going to start peddling the same kind of divisive and destructive policies here," McGowan said.

Premier Ed Stelmach said the province has good relationships with unions and has no plans to change its practices.

"We have the least days of labour disruption in this province. We are doing quite well, we have a good working relationship," he said. "Why would we change?"

Edmonton Journal, Wed Mar 23 2011
Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 23 2011
Byline: Karen Kleiss

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