Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group

Center for Independent Thought: Stossel in the Classroom

Page - January 29, 2013
$155,000 received from Koch foundations 2005-2013 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997-2013: $155,000]

The Center for Independent Thought (CIT) owns and operates Stossel in the Classroom, the teaching series for middle and high school teachers based on the punditry of John Stossel, a FOX Business host who consistently denies the scientific evidence of global warming. CIT also serves as a pass-through organization for grants to Koch-affiliated organizations, according to CIT's tax filings.

The 2009 edition of ABC News’ Stossel in the Classroom featured a segment explicitly telling students there is still debate “about whether or not human activity is the cause” of climate change (14 years prior to the Stossel lesson, even 'conservative' scientific authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considered climate change proven beyond reasonable doubt by 1995).

The Stossel in the Classroom segment included numerous debunked arguments, such as atmospheric CO2 changes lag behind temperature changes or that global warming is caused by the Sun. Stossel featured several scientists with direct or indirect ties to fossil fuel companies and front groups, including John Christy, Tim Ball and Roy Spencer, who famously labeled those who recognize climate science to be "Global Warming Nazi's." Stossel mocks the notion of a “denial machine,” or a network of groups and people paid by fossil fuel interests to create doubt over climate science.

Teachers using the Stossel lesson plan were encouraged to ask questions such as, “If there is overwhelming evidence that global warming is a trend that will worsen and that we are causing it, why are people such as John Stossel questioning it?” The Stossel lesson plan encourages students to discuss quotes from people like Fred L Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and instructs students to use the Internet to find the “Oregon Petition,” a misleading petition co-published by the Exxon-funded George C. Marshall Institute. 

Complimenting its misleading portrayal of climate science, Stossel in the Classroom has promoted fossil fuel use. The program hosted  energy industry consultant Alex Epstein, who is paid by energy companies to claim that "fossil fuels improve the planet," gave a platform for author Jason Mattera that hollywood celebrities promote the "scam" of climate science, and hosted a discussion on "energy independence" with pundits from fossil-fuel funded think tanks (Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute and Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute).

Through its funding and management, CIT and John Stossel are woven into Charles Koch's political influence network. CIT past and present board members include longtime friends and fellow donors within the Koch network, such as Wisconsin Club for Growth director  Eric O'Keefe, and Cato Institute executive David Boaz, and New Year real estate mogel Howie Rich, married to CIT president Andrea Rich. 

Even the content of Stossel in the Classroom is a direct product of Koch political institutions. According to Counterpunch, professors in the Koch-funded economics department at George Mason University, as well as the Koch-controlled organizations hosted by GMU--the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies--are involved in creating material for Stossel and staffing his program.

Organizations founded and controlled by Charles Koch work closely with John Stossel, including the Cato Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. These organizations provide material and pundits that promote anti-regulatory, pro-corporate policies that mirror Koch's preferences. CIT acts as a pass-through for grants to the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. CIT itself increasingly hides its own funding through dark money funnels like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, according to Media Matters

John Stossel himself has participated in conferences put on by top cliamte denial organizations, such as The Heartland Institute and Americans for Prosperity.

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