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Tuesday June 18th 2019

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How the Koch Brothers Are Trying to Influence Your Elected Officials


Heartland publications sent to council members (Regina Cowles)

Just about every week of every year the Boulder city staff produces a Weekly Information Packet (WIP) for each council member.  Often containing up to 1,000 pages of reading, the WIP includes the agenda for the upcoming council meeting or study session, supporting documents, additional information and staff recommendations.  Many non-profits in Boulder take advantage of the WIP to include printed invitations to fundraising and other community events. Often the WIP contains newsletters from Boulder membership groups like the Municipal League and the National League of Cities.  And, anyone who writes a personal letter to council members in care of the city offices will have it included in the bike-courier-delivered WIP.

Enter the Koch Brothers and their many front groups.  By now most are familiar with the secretive ways of the Koch Brothers but it has been just under a year since they were brought to the public’s attention in an article in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer entitled Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.  The blockbuster article propelled the Koch brothers into the spotlight and documented how the brothers, David and Charles, have quietly bestowed staggering amounts of money (some say up to $100 million dollars) on libertarian and Tea Party causes.

With money inherited from their father Fred’s oil refinery business, the brothers own Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among many other products.  The Koch brothers also invest in the Heartland Institute, “a Chicago-based, industry-funded conservative think-tank, [that] has had a long history of climate denial that continues today.”

Each week, the Boulder City Council receives a packet that includes slick newspapers published by The Heartland Institute, the tagline of which is: “Discovering, developing, and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” The newspapers include such titles as, 

  • Environment & Climate News
  • Health Care News
  • Budget & Tax News
  • School Reform News

These slick publications bash science, deny climate change, and promote extreme Tea Party budget and tax reform ideas in an attempt to persuade local officials.  A city councilmember I know has, on several occasions, tried to stop the receipt of these publications but they keep coming in each packet and into the recycle bin they go.

Just by a simple Google search I came across a blog by Larry Miller, a school board member in Milwaukee, describing his experience with these very same publications:

They are completely opposed to renewable energy sources publishing studies that say they “kill jobs.” They deny global warming even claiming that “rising CO2 benefits plant life.” One of their tactical goals is to eliminate the EPA and base environmental controls at the state level. This would allow Governors to decimate environmental protections. An example is Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker proposal to cut state funding for recycling.

Are your elected officials receiving these publications?  Ask them and post your findings in the comments at the end of this article.

Best interests of the people be damned!  With the access to power that their unlimited money brings, the Koch brothers are willing to ignore open, robust debate, a tenet of democracy, in order to make back-room deals.  So as news emerges of the Koch Brothers schmoozing with Republican, Libertarian and Tea Party notables in Colorado this coming weekend remember that their influence is not limited to the upscale Beaver Creek resort but, in fact, attempts to pollute local policy.  Citizens from across Colorado will be assembling in Avon, Colorado on Sunday from 11 AM to 1 PM to protest.   Check Facebook for more details.

To show just how far the Koch Brothers are willing to go to deny climate science, you may also want to check this out, also from Greenpeace,  Factsheet: Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine

To view Heartland’s website and publications go to:



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