Connor Gibson

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Connor Gibson is a researcher for Greenpeace USA and a guest author for DeSmogBlog. He focuses on polluting industries, their front groups and PR operatives. He specializes in tracking those who professionally deny climate change science and obstruct policy solutions to global warming. Connor Gibson is based in Washington, DC.

The Koch Brothers Dished Out $21M to Front Groups Defending Exxon In NYT Ad

This is a guest post by Connor Gibson, crossposted from Greenpeace USA

The Kochs have spent over $88 million in *traceable* funding to groups attacking climate change science, policy and regulation.

Of that total, $21 million went to groups that recently bought a full page New York Times advertisement defending ExxonMobil from government investigations into its systematic misrepresentation of climate science. If you're an executive at a big oil company watching as ExxonMobil is finally exposed for studying climate change, covering up the science and spreading misinformation, you're probably worried now that state attorneys general are knocking on Exxon's door.

Charles and David Koch must be worried, anyway. Their foundations gave more than $21 million to the people and groups that signed a recent, full page New York Times advertisement that defends ExxonMobil's longstanding efforts to ruin the public's understanding of climate change science.

Koch Controversy at George Mason University: Student Abandons Economics Major

This is a guest post by Connor Gibson, originally published at Huffington Post.

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA. As the Spring, 2016 semester concluded, George Mason University sophomore Mark Hammond made a daring announcement: he ditched GMU’s economics department out of concern that Kansas billionaire Charles Koch’s preferences took precedence over his education.

GMU’s student paper, the Fourth Estate, apparently forgot to publish Mark’s op-ed online. I am republishing Mark’s writing here, with his permission. I added references to the text myself.

Charles Koch Thinks University Professors Make Great Lobbyists

This is a guest post by Connor Gibson that originally appeared at Huffington Post. 

This article is the second of two posts examining Charles Koch's campus investments, as reported in Jane Mayer's Dark Money. The first post examined the history, long-term strategy, and true intent of the university “philanthropy” coordinated by Charles Koch. This post examines how Koch's academic network is openly dishonest about their work, lobbying for Koch's interests and recruiting students into his network.

From 2005-2014, Koch spent $109.7 million on 361 distinct campuses, according to Greenpeace's updated analysis of IRS filings from Koch's nonprofit foundations.

Koch Brothers View Universities As Propaganda Machines

This is a guest post by Connor Gibson that originally appeared at Huffington Post.

This article is the first of two posts examining Charles Koch's campus investments, as reported in Jane Mayer's Dark Money. The first post examines the history, long-term strategy, and true intent of the university “philanthropy” coordinated by Charles Koch. The second post will examine how Koch's academic network is openly dishonest about their work, lobbying for Koch's interests and recruiting students into his network.
 
New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer’s new book, “Dark Money,” includes details that bolster concerns publicized by UnKoch My Campus, and students and professors across the USA who have blown the whistle on Charles Koch’s co-optation of higher education programs.
 
Universities are the spine of Charles Koch’s lobbying model, which after four decades of finance has grown into an integrated network of professors, public relations agents, lobbyists, pundits, and politicians. Koch foundations started investing in campuses at an exponential pace, starting with just seven campuses in 2005.

Charles Koch Admits Climate Change is Happening, Then Denies the Problem

As the nation warily watches every Republican presidential candidate kiss the ring of billionaire donor Charles Koch for a shot at his network's $300,000,000 pool of presidential cash, Charles Koch did something unusual. Last week's USA Today interview with Charles Koch noted his shifting opinion on what he calls climate change “hysteria:”

For the record, Koch says this of climate change: “You can plausibly say that CO2 has contributed” to the planet's warming, but he sees “no evidence” to support “this theory that it's going to be catastrophic.”

Wait…Charles Koch just accepted that the planet is warming? Hold your applause.

Willie Soon's Climate Science Denial Wasn't Ever Credible: Climate Scientists

Willie Soon climate science denial

“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless.” - NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, to the New York Times

Recent revelations regarding Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon's financing and coordination with fossil fuel companies for studies undermining the science of climate change has received quite a bit of attention. Our friends at the Climate Investigations Center have links to source documents, letters to the IRS and Congress, letters to journals that Soon appears to have mislead, and some of the press covering all of this.

The drama has largely outshone the main point among most scientists: Willie Soon's work is vastly discredited. For those who aren't familiar with Willie Soon's fossil fuel company contracting over the last fifteen years, there is probably a legitimate question of whether or not this guy deserves to be in his current pinch.

Frankly, he had it coming.

Scientists and science reporters have often had to waste their time addressing the interference of Soon and his cohorts, who take advantage of the public's general unfamiliarity with scientific nuance. 

But scientists too are talking about Dr. Soon's work and what it means for the troubled peer-review process that the most stringent journals usually adhere to. Here is a summary of some of the most interesting conversations in science publications about Willie Soon's #Fakexpert scandal.

Four Years After Greenpeace Sting: PR Firm Dumps Oil Lobbyists

Crossposted from PolluterWatch.

Perhaps you heard the good news - the world's largest public relations firm, Edelman, just spun off an advertising subsidiary so that it could show a commitment to not aiding the denial of climate change science. The Guardian explains how API's contracts with Edelman were so massive–tens of millions of dollars–that it was up to 10% of the PR giant's income.

For years, Edelman has managed multi-million dollar contracts with the American Petroleum Institute (API), using its Blue Advertising subsidiary to help API run commercials selling fantasies to people: that oil and gas are our only viable, plentiful, “AMERICAN sources of energy.

In the saga that led Edelman to dump the lobbyists at API, Greenpeace had a small role to play: we infiltrated a commercial shoot, run by Edelman's Blue advertising arm for API. The commercials were to be called “Vote 4 Energy,” casting the illusion of mass popular demand for more oil and gas drilling (and more pollution, more climate change, and more government giveaways to prop it all up).

After being dressed up in a button-down, plaid orange shirt–I'm not sure what look they had in mind for me–I was put in front of the camera and told to repeat lines back. This despite the casting call for “REAL PEOPLE not Actors!” Huh.

Instead of telling them “I Vote” for oil and gas, I ran off script and demanded a prioritization of clean energy, not continued pandering to oil lobbyists at API. As I was ushered off set, the person I appealed to for a clean energy future was Robert McKernan, president of Blue Advertising, the company that Edelman is ditching. He was the last person I saw before being booted out of the studio rooms, and as we locked eyes, I appealed directly to him: “we need clean sources of energy, like wind and solar.” Here's a transcribed recording of that on-set disruption:

Coal Lobbyist Jeff Holmstead Disqualified by Federal Judge in Ameren Pollution Lawsuit

Originally published on PolluterWatch

Jeff Holmstead, perhaps the nation's prime example of a revolving door lobbyist, was dismissed by a federal judge as an expert witness in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against Ameren Missouri, a coal burning utility.

In an ongoing case, the EPA has charged Ameren with violating the Clean Air Act by not installing appropriate pollution controls at one of its coal plants. The Sierra Club has since sued Ameren, “alleging 7,880 air quality violations at three coal-burning power plants since 2009,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Judge Rodney Sippel granted U.S. Justice Department's request to remove Holmstead as a witness, confirming that the lobbyist's history at U.S. EPA posed “multiple conflicts of interest.” Here's the judge's motion to dismiss Jeffrey Holmstead, citing Holmstead's use of his EPA experience to undermine EPA's pollution enforcement actions (emphases added):

Mr. Holmstead’s legal opinions are irrelevant, speculative, and inadmissible.” […] “By his own description, Mr. Holmstead’s testimony relies on his recollection of EPA “internal meetings” that he says are relevant to the issues to be tried in this action. Such internal communications are privileged and confidential and Mr. Holmstead may not rely on his recollection of them to testify against EPA. Moreover, Mr. Holmstead received other privileged information concerning the issues about which he now seeks to testify on behalf of Ameren, and participated in power-plants enforcement cases related to this one while at EPA. Before he left EPA, he even personally provided a declaration for EPA that is at issue in this and other related power-plants enforcement cases asserting privilege claims on behalf of EPA over documents that are relevant to the opinions he now seeks to offer. Yet he now seeks to change sides and testify against EPA. Moreover, he was assisted in the preparation of his report by another former EPA attorney who was involved in the early stages of the investigation that ultimately led to the filing of this case. For the reasons discussed in the accompanying Memorandum, Mr. Holmstead should not be allowed to testify in this matter due to his multiple conflicts of interest.

This is a notable blow to Mr. Holmstead's credibility, who touts his time at EPA to obscure his lobbying to protect polluters from public accountability.

Heartland's Jay Lehr calls EPA "Fraudulent," Despite Defrauding EPA and Going to Jail

Crossposted from PolluterWatch blog on Jay Lehr.

If you're John Stossel and you want to host a segment to rail against the US Environmental Protection Agency, who ought you call?

It turns out, a man who was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for defrauding the EPA!

Stossel's guest last night, Jay Lehr, was sentenced to six months–serving three–in a minimum security federal prison back in 1991, and his organization at the time was fined $200,000. So Jay Lehr knows about EPA corruption better than anyone: he was the guy caught “falsifying employee time sheets on a government contract” for EPA, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio Clean Energy Still in Koch & ALEC Crosshairs

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog: The Witness.

Ohio is currently fighting this year's final battle in a nationally-coordinated attack on clean energy standard laws, implemented by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other groups belonging to the secretive corporate front group umbrella known as the State Policy Network (SPN).

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