Charles Koch

As Trump Unfurls Infrastructure Plan, Iowa Bill Seeks to Criminalize Pipeline Protests

People rally at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline in December 2016

The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill which critics say could lead to the criminalization of pipeline protests, which are being cast as “terrorist activities.” Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners and other companies have lobbied for the bill, Senate Study Bill 3062, which opens up the possibility of prison time and a hefty fine for those who commit “sabotage” of critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas pipelines.

This bill, carrying a criminal punishment of up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines, resembles the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, a “model” bill recently passed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That ALEC bill, intended as a template for state and federal legislation, was based on Oklahoma's HB 1123, which calls for citizens to receive a felony sentencing, $100,000 fine, and/or 10 years in prison if their actions “willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, or tamper with equipment in a critical infrastructure facility.”

According to disclosure records, corporations lobbying for the Iowa bill include not only Energy Transfer Partners, but also Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute, Valero Energy, Magellan Midstream, and others. The Iowa State Police Association has also come out in support of the bill, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa is against it. The bill has passed out of subcommittee and next goes in front of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

Congressional Committee Members Pushing LNG Exports Bills Have Deep Financial, Revolving Door Ties

Revolving doors

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce held a subcommittee hearing on two bills to expedite permitting for exports of natural gas. Domestic production of this fossil fuel has been booming in recent years, mainly thanks to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) opening up vast reserves in shale formations.

Several former and present committee staffers have either taken oil and gas industry-sponsored trips as staffers or spun through the government-industry revolving door between Congress and the lobbying sector. And all of the politicians backing the two bills under consideration have taken tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from the oil and gas industry for their 2018 mid-term election campaigns.

Anti-Regulation Law, Favored by Kochs, Used to Sue Wisconsin Education Agency

Caricature of Koch brothers and Gov. Scott Walker

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILLhas sued Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers for what it alleges was a state education agency's violation of an anti-regulatory law — long pushed by the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers — known as the REINS Act.

Wisconsin's version of REINS, or Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny, is a piece of legislation heavily lobbied and advocated in favor of for over half a decade by Americans for Prosperity, a policy and electioneering advocacy front group founded and funded by the Koch Family Foundations and Koch Industries. The bill, which has a federal equivalent in Congress, has long been seen as the crown jewel of the Koch network. It essentially gives legislative bodies full veto power over regulations, including proposed environmental safeguards, which have been proposed by executive agencies — even when those regulations are mandated by laws legislatures have passed.

WILL's November 20 lawsuit, if successful, would be the first time the REINS Act is used to halt a proposed regulation. 

ALEC, Corporate-Funded Bill Mill, Considers Model State Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protesters

Protesters march with a banner against the Dakota Access pipeline

At its recent States & Nation Policy Summit, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects state legislators with corporations and creates templates for state legislation, voted on a model bill calling for the crack down and potential criminalization of those protesting U.S. oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.

Dubbed the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, the model legislation states in its preamble that it draws inspiration from two bills passed in the Oklahoma Legislature in 2017. Those bills, House Bill 1123 and House Bill 2128, offered both criminal and civil penalties which would apply to protests happening at pipeline sites. Critics viewed these bills as an outgrowth of the heavy-handed law enforcement reaction to protests of the Dakota Access pipeline.

India May Ban Petcoke, One of Dirtiest Fossil Fuels Exported by Koch Brothers

Petcoke stockpiles

While U.S. power plants have considered petroleum coke or “petcoke to be too dirty to burn, India, on the other hand, has been importing this coal by-product of tar sands refining for years. However, it may be seeing its last days in the country which has served as its biggest importer.

In the aftermath of an Associated Press investigation published on December 1, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said the country is formulating plans to phase out petcoke imports. The AP investigation, filed from New Delhi, revealed that citizens who live near petcoke refining facilities have come down with a range of air pollution-related illnesses in recent months and years.

The AP also points out that among the largest exporters of U.S. petcoke are Koch Industries subsidiary Koch Carbon and Oxbow Carbon, the latter of which is owned by the twin brother of David Koch, Bill Koch. The advocacy group Oil Change International referred to petcoke as “the coal hiding in the tar sands” in a 2013 report documenting the carbon footprint of petcoke production and combustion.

How the Mont Pelerin Society 'Neoliberal Thought Collective' Is Influencing Donald Trump's Presidency

After Donald Trump won the US election, analysts, researchers and journalists got to work to track how this apparent political outsider would suddenly gather a team.

Despite promising to “drain the swamp” of vested interests and lobbyists, it became clear Trump was intent on refilling it with figures and ideas from the well-established network of conservative and neoliberal think-tanks.

Suddenly, staff from groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation were helping to draw up plans for a Trump administration.

Last month, Trump thanked one of those groups personally, with an address to the Heritage Foundation's annual meeting.

But those think tanks, and the people who lead and run them, have strong links to another influential group that has been trying to bend governments around the world to a particular ideology for almost 70 years.

The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) was established in 1947 by economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek — a man considered by many to be the godfather of modern free market thinking.

5 Facts About Mike Pence's Close Ties to the Koch Brothers Not Included in Jane Mayer’s New Yorker Article

This is a guest post by Scott Peterson from Checks and Balances Project.

If you’ve read Jane Mayer’s deep dive into the ties between the Koch Bros. and the Vice President, “The Danger of President Pence,” you’ll understand why it’s the high-water mark of reporting about their relationship. 

Yet there are several facts that aren’t included in the New Yorker article. Here are five facts worth knowing in addition to her excellent work.

Future Historians Will Look Back in Horror at Koch Network's Attacks on Climate Policy, says Author Nancy MacLean

Nancy MacLean

For the first few weeks after publishing, all was going pretty well.

Nancy MacLean’s book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, was “deeply important” and a “feat of American intellectual and political history,” said a review in Publishers Weekly.

The New York Times said the book joined an emerging corpus of important work of scholars and journalists that was “documenting the systematic, organized effort to undermine democracy and change the rules.”

But it didn’t take long for the apparatus of the “radical right” to swing into action, with attacks coming from many of the same individuals and institutions that the Duke University history professor documents in her book.

Koch-funded 'Expert' Attacks Electric Cars in PragerU’s 'War on Cars' Video

War on Cars video screen shot of stick figure holding a stop sign for people in cars

According to a recent video hosted by automotive expert and media personality Lauren Fix, there’s a “war on cars” raging in this country that is threatening the chief of all American values — our very freedom. No, this isn’t the war on electric vehicles that the fossil fuel billionaire Koch brothers have been waging (and which we’ve been tracking on Koch vs. Clean). Rather, says Fix, “there’s been a concerted push by government bureaucrats and environmentalists to transform car ownership from a source of pride to a source of guilt.”

What Fix doesn't mention in this video is her ties to funding from the Koch brothers. In addition, the organization behind the video she hosted, Prager University (PragerU), is a not a university but rather a non-profit founded by conservative talk show host Dennis Prager, with a stated mission to spread “Americanism” through five minute internet videos. Videos, which include such titles as “Fossil Fuels: The Greenest Energy” and “Why You Should Love Fossil Fuel.”

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