CASE STUDY: The Kochtopus Media Network

Page - April 13, 2011
A memo obtained by ThinkProgress.org in October, 2010 revealed an extensive guest list of business and political elites who attended Koch Brother’s secretive biannual strategy meeting in Aspen, Colorado.

The Aspen meeting occurred in June, 2010, four months before the memo was revealed. Many of the elite attendees represented at this meeting alone provide the Koch network with tremendous propaganda power through their ownership positions and ties to major media outlets.

The Koch influence on this sector of media outlets is particularly apparent in their repeated publication of articles defending Koch Industries from increased public scrutiny over the last year, especially following the Aspen meeting.

Some of the attendees with major media influence in Aspen were:

Glenn Beck -- Fox News and talk radio program host.

Beck was a featured speaker at the secret Koch Industries meeting in Aspen. Shortly afterwards, Beck credited Charles Koch during a segment of his show mocking an Al Gore presentation of climate trends. Glenn Beck has also worked in cooperation with Americans for Prosperity (AFP) to coordinate Tea Party rallies and provide material for his broadcasts

Beck publicly defended AFP on air after President Obama’s characterized the group as a front for “a big oil company.” Americans for Prosperity has received over $5.6 million from Koch foundations in the last five years.

Stephen Moore -- Wall Street Journal editorial board member and senior economics writer and former President of the Club for Growth.

Moore has ties to the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, two of the top Koch beneficiaries, and was a National Review magazine contributing editor.

The Wall Street Journal’s opinion section serves as a podium for prominent skeptics with ties to the Kochtopus, such as Bjorn Lomborg, Richard Lindzen and Patrick Michaels. Michaels, the champion denier of the Cato Institute and other Koch-backed institutions, used the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section to continue pushing “climategate” even after scientists were exonerated by formal investigations. Michaels himself is coming under scrutiny for being dishonest during a 2009 Congressional testimony about the funding he receives from the oil industry.

Between moving to the Wall Street Journal and being forced out of the Club for Growth, Moore founded the Free Enterprise Fund with Arthur Laffer and Mallory Factor, both former Club for Growth directors. Arthur Laffer’s Laffer Center for Global Economic Growth is tied to Koch Industries through its Vice Chairman, Richard Fink, and Executive Director Wayne Gable, both prominent Koch executives, and a $100,000 grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2009.

Moore is also a frequent commentator on CNBC’s Kudlow & Co and Fox News' On the Record with Greta van Susteren.

Philip Anschutz -- Owner of the Washington Examiner, the San Francisco Examiner, Examiner.com and the Weekly Standard, via Clarity Media Group.

Philip Anschutz, CEO of the Anschutz Corporation, has served on the boards of both the American Petroleum Institute and the National Petroleum Council and has ties to Union Pacific Railroad and Forest Oil. He owns the Oil & Gas Asset Clearinghouse industry auction house. Anschutz founded telecommunications company Qwest, owns the Regal Entertainment theater chain and NRC broadcasting, which operates a string of radio stations in Colorado.

Anschutz’s Clarity Media Group has played a flagship role in standing up for the billionaire Kochs over the last year. Since the Aspen meeting, pro-Koch publications from both Examiner.com and the Weekly Standard have been featured on Koch Industries’ “Koch Facts” webpage, created to dismiss allegations of Koch’s various unsavory business practices. Clarity’s outlets also published articles attacking Greenpeace after our March, 2010 release of Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Movement.

The Weekly Standard, which published a lengthy defense of the Koch brothers in March, 2011, has also been a promoter of so-called “climategate” emails. The magazine has served as a platform for prominent career climate skeptics Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green of the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Forbes estimates that Anschutz is the 34th richest American, just above Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with a net worth of seven billion dollars.

Charles Krauthammer -- Washington Post sydicated columnist, pundit and contributor to the Weekly Standard and Town Hall Magazine.

Krauthammer is a fervent climate obstructionist who refers to global warming as a “religion,” and more broadly claims that “scientists are flip floppers, constantly changing their theories.” Krauthammer focuses on vilifying environmentalists and political icon Al Gore, rather than debating actual climate scientists, in attempts to cast doubt upon the science of global warming. His disregard for accurate climate science is demonstrated by his references to Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Klaus, a notorious climate science denier, was a keynote speaker at the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. This event, run by the Heartland Institute, was a who’s who of career skeptic scientists and pseudo-experts for hire, working for institutions heavily funded by Koch foundations and ExxonMobil, among other polluters and associated foundations.

Michael Barone -- Resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, paid Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner, and Fox News commentator.

Barone was formerly a senior writer with U.S. News & World Report, an outlet that has come to the Kochs’ defense, and a member of the Washington Post editorial board. Barone is also the principal coauthor of the Almanac of American Politics, published annually by the National Journal Group. The American Enterprise Institute, which has received $150,000 from Koch foundations and over $2.8 million from ExxonMobil since 1997, has used its American blog since the Aspen meeting to defend Koch Industries.

Timothy Carney -- Lobbying editor and senior political columnist for the Washington Examiner and author of Obamanomics.

Carney has written articles specifically justifying his presence at the Koch meeting in Aspen, using them to defend the private conglomerate. Despite shielding the Koch brothers in his writing, Carney claims to have spoken at the Aspen meeting on, “the evils of corporate welfare and bailouts, and the destructive influence of the Big Business lobby in Washington.” Koch Industries has spent over $49 million on federal lobbying since 2006. Carney also disclosed that he has been paid by the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) for speaking events. The George Mason University-based IHS received over $2.4 million from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2009.

Carney’s writing often promotes Senator James DeMint (R-SC), one of the Kochs’ favorite Senators, who has also attended Koch Industries strategy meetings and has received at least $76,000 from the Kochs and company PAC since 2004 (see April 2011 Report, pg. 21). Carney’s columns have passionately discouraged environmentally sound considerations, such as outlawing energy-inefficient incandescent light bulbs.

Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior editor for National Review magazine and contributor to the Weekly Standard, Reason magazine, the New York Times, TIME and other major print and television news outlets.

The Kochs gave a $10,000 grant to the National Review Institute in 2010.

The National Review Online is host to the “Planet Gore,” blog a space dedicated to climate science misinformation, spin, and slander. Contributors from Koch-funded institutions include but are not limited to:

Nancy Pfotenhauer, President of PR firm MediaSpeak Strategies, TV pundit and former Senior Policy Advisor and spokesperson for the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign.

Pfotenhauer was a lobbyist for Koch Industries in its Washington, DC office before becoming the President, CEO and later Vice Chairwoman of the Independent Women’s Forum, which has received almost $500,000 from Koch foundations since 1997. She also was Executive Vice President of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which was established by Charles Koch and affiliate Richard Fink, and was propelled by $13 million in grants from Koch foundations. After CSE split into FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), Pfotenhauer served as President and CEO of AFP.

While studying at George Mason University for a graduate degree in economics, Pfotenhauer served as a research assistant to Walter Williams. Accessed, a substitute host on the Rush Limbaugh Show. Williams is also director of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation.

Foster Friess -- Billionaire Republican investor who spent $3 million to help launch the Daily Caller.

The Daily Caller abandoned an attempt to accuse the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer of plagiarism, including in her comprehensive expose of Koch Industries. Tucker Carlson, who runs the Daily Caller, is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, which has received over $5.5 million from Koch foundations since 1997. Charles Koch co-founded Cato, and Cato’s directors include David Koch and Kevin Gentry of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Arthur Brooks -- President and Director of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Brooks’ influence as the head of AEI leads to frequent media exposure, including through other outlets financed by Koch Foundations (the American Spectator and the Reason Foundation) or tied to Koch through other attendees at the Aspen meeting (Washington Examiner, Wall Street Journal editorials, National Review, and Daily Caller). Also on AEI’s Board: former Vice President and ex-Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney.

Cheney’s wife, Lynne, is a senior scholar at the AEI.

 

Jeff Crank -- Radio pundit and Colorado State Director of Americans for Prosperity.

The Jeff Crank show on Colorado station KVOR AM 720 is promoted as a “weekly respite from socialism.” Crank led AFP Colorado at a tea party rally in early 2010 in cooperation with the Independence Institute, which has received $141,000 from Koch foundations since 1997.

Gretchen Hamel -- Former Bush administration spokesperson, Executive Director of Public Notice and founder of PR firm Endeavour Global Strategies.

Through Public Notice., which is currently devoted to an anti-government spending campaign, Hamel has widespread influence through her work with “the editorial boards of all the nation’s leading daily newspapers, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and with specialty entertainment and news programs such as Oprah, Lou Dobbs Tonight and 60 Minutes.”

Stan S. Hubbard, chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting Inc.

Hubbard Broadcasting owns a variety of TV and radio stations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico and New York. Through a $505 million purchase of 17 radio stations from Bonneville International, Hubbard is significantly expanding its radio presence in the District of Columbia, Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. This purchase includes WTOP, a major Washington, DC news station with the nation’s second highest 2010 radio station revenue, as well as WFED, which appeals primarily to federal employees and contractors.

Peter Wallison -- American Enterprise Institute scholar and pundit on economic issues.

The Kochs also gave $4,500 to the American Spectator in 2009. The American Spectator includes writing by denier Pat Michaels, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner, and Paul Chesser of the John Locke Foundation. The John Locke Foundation is a recipient.  of funding from the Kochs and Art Pope. Pope has contributed over $24 million to organizations that deny climate change and is on the boards of Americans for Prosperity and its associated Foundation.