Thursday, October 20th, 2011

UPDATE Continuing Falsehoods from InsideClimate and its Owner, David Sassoon

InsideClimate News has published a “reply” to the statement we provided them on their latest story on the Keystone pipeline — a statement that they refused to run in full.  The reply itself, however, is shot through with further falsehoods.  We detail them here both to set the record straight and as further notice to readers and legitimate news outlets alike that InsideClimate is being willfully deceptive in its coverage of Koch:

Publisher David Sassoon writes:
“We are a non-partisan news organization staffed by accomplished journalists who abide by the highest professional standards.”

That is deceptive.  Perhaps InsideClimate doesn’t endorse political candidates in that sense of the word “partisan” but their entire editorial effort is on advancing an environmental agenda that is entirely consistent with the political left.  Articles on the site routinely advance policy prescriptions for legislative, legal, and regulatory actions on environmental issues.  Of those who differ with those policies, Mr. Sassoon writes, “the fossil and free market guns are focused on fear-mongering.”  What’s more, Mr. Sassoon works hand in hand with environmental activist groups and foundations — often as a paid consultant.  We have detailed all these obvious conflicts at length.

Sassoon:  ”We have made no false allegations and remain in the dark about what you think they might be.”

That is untrue.  We have made it explicitly clear for the better part of a year now to InsideClimate that Koch has no financial interest whatsoever in the Keystone project.  Yet, InsideClimate continues to mislead readers that we have some connection to the project and that approval of the project would be a “big victory” for Koch and a “great financial opportunity [for Koch to] profit.”

Sassoon:  ”We have also endeavored to involve you in our due diligence but you have not responded to our repeated queries, until yesterday for the first time…”

Utterly false.  We have been in contact with Mr. Sassoon, his staffers, and his editorial partners at Reuters for many months now, as evidenced hereherehere, and here).  Even on this latest article, we provided formal comment to InsideClimate earlier this week (not yesterday, as Sassoon falsely describes) following several exchanged emails with staffer Stacy Feldman.

Similarly, when Sassoon writes that “we contacted Koch Industries to provide an opportunity to furnish further elaboration or clarification [and] never received any response,” that is also an outright falsehood.  We sent a formal statement, attributed to the president of our government and public affairs office, to staffer Stacy Feldman earlier this week — and received a reply from her that she would only use the portion that she felt “pertained” to the topic.  (The entire statement, of course, was directly on point, as can be seen here).

Sassoon:  ”Our invitation remains open for you to explain to us what your ‘direct and substantial interest’ in the Keystone XL pipeline is.”

False in several respects.  We have detailed publicly on numerous occasions (and to InsideClimate directly) why Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, a Koch subsidiary, applied for “intervener” status with the Canadian National Energy Board.  An intervener in a NEB proceeding is entitled to gain access to information about the progress of a particular matter, in this case the “application” concerning the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  Many others also applied and were granted intervener status in exactly the same way — including individual citizens, members of various First Nation groups, businesses, and environmental activists similar to Mr. Sassoon and InsideClimate.

A complete list of interveners is found here.  Notice in particular that in the application FHR states it did not anticipate taking any active role at the regulatory hearing in question and noted that it would not appear at the hearing; true to its word, FHR did not appear or take any role at the hearing.  Indeed, other than its application to intervene, FHR did not file anything else in the proceeding.  By contrast, other groups that were given the exact same “intervener” status, such as Sierra Club Canada (which stated it would appear at the hearing), the Alberta Federation of Labour, and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, took an active role in the proceedings, presenting evidence, making final arguments, and seeking information from Keystone XL Pipeline.

When a party applies to be an intervener, they formally state that they have an “interest” in the application that is being considered.  That use of the word “interest” means, by first definition, curious or paying attention.  But InsideClimate distorts that meaning as if it meant a financial interest or stake — a secondary but altogether different meaning of the word.  That’s how, when InsideClimate writes that, “the company claimed ‘a direct and substantial interest’ in the Keystone XL,” it deceives readers.  What FHR actually said when it applied for intervener status was that it had”a direct and substantial interest in the application” — meaning it wanted to stay informed about Keystone’s application, and nothing more.  That intervener status does not mean (as Mr. Sassoon apparently wishes readers to believe) that FHR has a direct financial interest stake in the project.  In fact, if FHR or any other proposed intervener had a financial, ownership, or investment interest in the proceeding, that would have been required to be disclosed.  Of course, FHR did not have and still has no such interest in the Keystone Pipeline XL project.

All this is both well known to anyone familiar with regulatory procedure, easily fact checked, and something that we have publicly stated repeatedly.
So, to summarize, Mr. Sassoon has repeatedly and demonstrably deceived readers, misrepresented his agenda, and then, when challenged about it, either ignores the specifics or asserts further falsehoods.  It is a transparent charade and an abuse of readers’ trust and journalistic integrity generally.

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