Thursday, October 20th, 2011

More Dishonesty from InsideClimate News

The latest article about Koch by InsideClimate News is a prime example of the agenda-driven, dishonest journalism that is so characteristic of coverage on the Keystone pipeline.  Here is how the InsideClimate approach works:

  • Manufacture a “news” item out of something utterly ordinary.
  • Distort the meaning of the event.
  • Disregard anything that doesn’t fit the narrative, even when the target of the attack explicitly points out the facts.
  • Then give prominent, positive attention to any politician that tries to parade the distortion.

Here are the specifics:
The headline of the article reads, “Rep. Waxman requests investigation…cites legal papers filed by Koch subsidiary, uncovered by InsideClimate News.”  Yet we have detailed repeatedly (including hereherehere, and here) in response to these allegations by Congressman Waxman and InsideClimate that we have no financial interest whatsoever in the Keystone pipeline that is at issue. What’s more, the document that InsideClimate claims to have “uncovered” was, in reality, publicly filed over 2 years ago and readily available.

It was a request we made to be classified as an “intervener” — a common term in regulatory law that enables any party or person to stay directly informed about the status of a particular issue.  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.

We spelled all this out for the writer at InsideClimate, Stacy Feldman, and she refused to include it in the article.  Instead, she suggested that we post it in the comment thread beneath the article.  The editor’s note at the top of the article, “This version of the story adds comment from Koch Industries,” further misleads readers.  The truth is that we tried several times to get Ms. Feldman to include our full comment and she would not, oddly insisting that it did not “pertain” to the issue.  That verbatim statement is posted below.

Perhaps the worst part of the dishonesty at InsideClimate is that it aims to deceive readers into thinking that it is an objective, independent news organization — and also provide their copy to legitimate news outlets as such.  We have detailed, however, that InsideClimate has multiple financial and ideological conflicts of interest.  News outlets that reprint their material as straight reporting do a deep disservice to readers and we would urge anyone that encounters their copy to regard it with deep skepticism.

Indeed that is exactly what happened last February when InsideClimate and its owner, David Sassoon, were the first to write false stories saying that we had some financial connection to the Keystone project.  They never bothered to fact check with us prior to writing that approval of the project would be a “big victory” for Koch and a “great financial opportunity [for Koch to] profit.”  Those two stories, in turn, prompted Congressman Waxman’s staff to raise the issue with us directly and then he raised it directly with the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  We detailed for his staff that we have no financial interest in the project whatsoever and also responded with the same message in response to Rep. Waxman’s letter to the Committee.  Naturally, InsideClimate touted Mr. Waxman’s efforts, again completely disregarding our explicitly stated position, and then wrote that Koch was being “accused of stonewalling.”  Yes, the deceit is that obvious and just as brazen, and we exposed it at the time.

Here is the full statement that we provided to InsideClimate News — and which they refused to include in the article:

Subject: Statement from Koch Industries

As previously stated, Koch Industries has no financial stake in the Keystone pipeline and we are not party to its design or construction. We are not a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline. We have taken no position on the legislative proposal at issue before Congress and we are not cited in any way in that legislation.

This is just the latest of many false allegations initiated by InsideClimateNews and advanced by aligned advocacy media. It is also evidence that those promoting these falsehoods do not even do the basic due diligence before attacking Koch industries. A rudimentary fact check by any legitimate investigator or reporter would reveal the clear difference between “intervening” in an application in Canada’s National Energy Board hearings, and “having an interest” in the pipeline. By definition, an intervener is anyone who wants to learn more about a project. In this case, interveners included individuals, environmental groups, businesses and many others. We challenge InsideClimateNews and other advocacy media to ask Sierra Club Canada and other interveners in this case if they have a financial interest in the pipeline.

A complete list of interveners is found here.  Notice in particular that in the application documents, our subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources, indicates that it did not anticipate taking any active role at the regulatory hearing in question.  By contrast, other groups that were given the exact same “intervener” status, such as Sierra Club and the Alberta Labour Union, took an active and role at the hearing, presenting briefs and other arguments.

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