Bill Press, a liberal media figure, has a new book that contains a rehash of numerous false statements and distortions about Koch Industries, Charles Koch, and David Koch that have been made by partisan, fringe activists and bloggers over the past few years. A clue to the type of sloppy and dishonest smear that appears in Mr. Press’ book is found in the introduction where he thanks his “good friends” at the Obama Administration front group, ThinkProgress, and laughably describes them as “one of the country’s most dependable sources of information on public policy.” Mr. Press also lauds former Center for American Progress staffer Lee Fang, whose own shoddy reporting has been derided by observers from the left, right, and center.
Below is just an initial sample of of the distortions, false statements, and dishonesty in Mr. Press’ new book.
1. Dishonesty: ”At its heart, the Obama Hate Machine is directed and paid for by two billionaires . . . .” Page 176.
Fact: The whole premise of Mr. Press’ book is false and irresponsible. Charles Koch and David Koch’s positions are not based in any way on hatred of President Obama. Koch Industries, Charles Koch, and David Koch do, however, respectfully disagree with policies of both the President and Congress that continue to increase the ruinous deficits our nation faces. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market and have a long record of supporting free market candidates regardless of party affiliation. For the past 40 years, they have consistently championed limited government, economic freedom, and personal liberty. On principle, they challenge government spending projects that are bankrupting our country. These include public health care and government stimulus packages that will cost Americans trillions of dollars while increasing individual and corporate tax burdens.
2. Falsehood: ”Matt Kibbe . . . now serves the Koch empire as president of FreedomWorks.” Page 186.
3. False Statement: ”It was revealed that [Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's] union-busting legislation also contained a provision — totally unrelated to the budget — that would allow the state to sell or contract out management of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants without getting bids or seeking approval of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. Surprise, surprise: The company best poised to take advantage of that opportunity, and make millions of dollars in the process, was Koch Industries!” — Page 217
Fact: As Koch has repeatedly stated since last February when this falsehood first arose, we have no interest in buying or leasing the state-owned power plants, which even the media that previously reported this false story conceded. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
• “Kansas-based Koch, which operates paper mills and coal transportation firms in the state, vehemently denied any interest in buying or leasing the state facilities. As it turns out, the potential buyers for the small power plants are much closer to home — including investor-owned utilities in Milwaukee and Madison. In recent investor presentations, Wisconsin Energy Corp. listed the potential acquisition of state energy plants as the first of several investment opportunities it is considering.”
4. False Statement: “Pressure from Greenpeace and others in the scientific community, and the resulting bad publicity, coincided with [David Koch's] departure from the [National Cancer Advisory Board] in October 2010. ”
Fact: David Koch was appointed by President Bush to the National Cancer Advisory Board in 2004 and served his full-term which expired in June 2010. Furthermore, the National Cancer Advisory Board never evaluated the carcinogenicity of formaldehyde when Mr. Koch was a board member. Mr. Press’ false statement is presumably based on baseless allegations made by ThinkProgress and its former staffer Lee Fang on the issue, which prompted ThinkProgress to correct their post to reflect that “David Koch left the NIH’s cancer board after serving a full term.”
5. Falsehood: “Koch Industries is also expected to benefit from various levels of government assistance in building the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will connect Koch-owned tar sands-mining operations in Canada to Koch-owned refineries in Texas.” — Page 226
6. Distortion: ”When word [of the January 2011 Koch seminar] got out, the progressive organizations Common Cause and Code Pink also joined the battle, inviting their volunteers to rally outside the gathering . . . and sponsoring an opposition panel discussion in a nearby hotel.” Page 177.
Fact: Common Cause, Code Pink, and other partisan left-wing groups sponsored a rally where their members, some of them holding signs with swastikas and violent messages, advocated lynching Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, and deporting Justice Samuel Alito. Many protesters were arrested and the protesters’ shameful misconduct led Common Cause to issue a tepid apology.
7. False Statement: “[Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas] showed up at [a Koch] January 2008 meeting in Palm Springs. Which turned out to be a problem for both Justices [sic]. Common Cause later filed a formal request with the Justice Department to determine whether or not Thomas and Scalia had, in fact, attended Koch-sponsored events –and, if so, whether they should have recused themselves when the Supreme Court later considered the campaign-finance case Citizens United.” Page 219.
Fact: Justice Scalia attended the Palm Springs conference in January 2007 and spoke on foreign law issues, while Justice Thomas attended in January 2008 and talked about his memoir. Koch was not a party to the Citizens United case and that case was not pending before the Supreme Court at the time the Justices attended the conferences. Common Cause’s “formal request” with the Justice Department has no legal basis and was a fundraising ploy.
8. Falsehood: ”Just before the 2010 midterm elections, for example, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to all of its fifty thousand U.S. employees, telling them how to vote and warning them of the consequences to them and their families if they did not vote the right way. This was not only a highly unusual move for any big corporation; it would have been highly illegal before the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision — which freed corporations to do almost anything they wanted to influence elections.” — Page 210
Fact: Mr. Press again relies on a prior false statement by ThinkProgress and other partisans. Our October 2010 letter to employees clearly stated, “deciding who to vote for is a decision that is yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are important to you.” Koch and KochPAC support candidates we believe will best advance policies that create the economic conditions needed for employees and businesses such as ours to survive and prosper. The October 2010 letter was consistent with the law and the established practices by labor unions, companies, and other groups that send communications encouraging people to vote for specific candidates.
9. Falsehood: “Americans For Prosperity oppos[ed] the Employee Free Choice Act because the last thing the Koch Brothers wanted was making it easier for any of their employees to join a union.” — Page 202.
Fact: Koch has long had mutually respectful and productive relationships with the unions that represent its employees. Indeed, one leading union official pointed out that Koch provides “the best-paid manufacturing jobs in America” and that the company “has positive and productive collective bargaining relationships with its unions.”
10. False Statement: ”While they have assembled an army of think tanks and so-called grassroots organizations to fight big government, they are also first in line to take whatever big government handouts they can lay their hands on.” — Page 226
Fact: Koch has consistently and for many years opposed government subsidies of any kind and urged the government to discontinue them.
11. False Statement: ”In 2008, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation entered into an agreement with Florida State University … As with other Koch-funded campus think tanks, however, his millions to FSU came with one big string attached: Charles had to directly approve those appointed to leadership positions.” — Page 185
False. Both the Charles Koch Foundation and the FSU administration have publicly affirmed that their agreement comports with FSU’s own, high standards for academic integrity and independence. The Foundation released a public statement last May, stating:
“When FSU faculty spoke to us about supporting its economics department, we welcomed the opportunity to work with such distinguished scholars. Our agreement with FSU is consistent with faculty governance policies and procedures, and at every step in the recruitment process, FSU faculty control the selection and hiring of professors. Opposition directed at respected FSU administrators and faculty undermines the very academic freedom that critics claim to defend. We affirm our support for academic freedom and consider it foundational in fostering a vibrant academic environment. Faculty should be allowed to pursue the research and teaching of their choice. Regardless of ideology, everyone should be supportive of research and teaching dedicated to understanding the conditions that create the most opportunity and prosperity for individuals.”