Koch Brothers Exposed: Fueling Climate Denial and Privatizing Democracy

by Connor Gibson

April 2, 2012

UPDATE 6/20/2012: Updated Koch funding to climate science denying front groups is $61,375,781 from 1997-2010, over $37.7 million of which was spent from 2005-2010. Numbers in this blog have been updated to reflect the most up-to-date data.

Greenpeace is partnering with Brave New Foundation to promote its newest film, Koch Brothers Exposed. Check out the movie trailer, pick up a copy of the movie and register your own local premier to help expose how Charles and David Kochs money impacts the lives of all Americans.

The new numbers are in, ladies and gentleman: since 1997 the billionaire oil brothers Charles and David Koch have dumped over 61.3 million dollars into front groups that attack climate science and policies designed to solve global warming. According to the 2010 IRS records of their private foundations, the latest year available, the Koch brothers funneled another $4.38 million into the Climate Denial Machine from their private foundations.

Despite overwhelming consensus among climate change researchers and scientific institutions worldwideincluding all the Academies of Sciences in industrialized countries, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA and all other major US scientific institutionsrecognition of global warming among Americans remains startlingly low. Fueled by Koch money, the Climate Denial Machine has executed an unceasing, anti-scientific and anti-regulatory public relations campaign that mirrors the tactics used by tobacco companies to deny the health consequences of smoking.

The top recipients of Koch money in the Climate Denial Machine include Americans for Prosperity ($5.7 million since 1997), the Heritage Foundation ($2.7 million), the Cato Institute ($1.2 million), and the Manhattan Institute ($1.2 million).

By dragging credible science into the agenda-driven realm of politics and vilifying the worlds most prominent climate researchers, dirty money and fossil fuel apologists have prevailed in polluting public opinion and blocking national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Koch Industries itself has been aggressive in dismissing global warming, even suing a group of young activists who created a spoof press release on behalf of Koch announcing that it would drop support for policy groups that belittle climate science.

Ironically, the Kochs funded research that concluded the planet is warming but failed to admit their hypocrisy. The Charles G. Koch Foundation gave $150,000 to the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study in 2011, which was embraced by the denial machine until it redundantly re-confirmed that the surface of our planet has been warming increasingly for decades. While David Koch had previously claimed that global warming could be good for the planet, neither Charles nor David has explained how the BEST study they funded contradicts their denial of climate change, including when Greenpeace activists asked David Koch to his facesee the video for yourself.

Koch Brothers Exposed: Decades of Undermining Democracy

Greenpeaces updated Koch climate denial total is being announced in conjunction with the release of Brave New Foundations latest film: Koch Brothers Exposed. Koch Brothers Exposed examines the pervasive role that Charles and David Kochs money has played in American politics and society, attacking what they see as political inconveniences ranging from pollution controls to public education to voting rights. Brave New Foundation is organizing screenings of Koch Brothers Exposed around the countryjoin the effort by grabbing your own copy of Koch Brothers Exposed, registering your event with Brave New Foundation, and inviting friends, family and community members to your own local premier of Koch Brothers Exposed!

The Kochs expensive campaign to attack science mirrors what our country is becoming more and more conscious ofhow rich ideologies in the top 1% can exert substantial and undue influence on our lives, whether through policy, the courtroom, advertising, or tainting our education systems. What the Kochs have worked hard to avoid for decades is public scrutiny, a privilege they no longer have thanks to the hard work of people and organizations dedicated to exposing the Kochs self-serving political manipulations.

As influential and perversely organized as the Koch brothers are, it is important to also see the broader picture. Numerous other multi-millionaire families, foundations and corporations operate in similar and often coordinated ways with Charles and David Koch, forming an elite coalition that has been infiltrating our government and eroding our democracy for decades. Greenpeace points to the Lewis Powell Memo as a crucial example of how this 40-year campaign was established and carried out behind the backs of the American people. The recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision is a major recent development of this coordinated campaign, as have been ongoing attacks on public workers, women, ethnic minorities and students.

The Kochs themselves demonstrate this corporate takeover of our democracy in their efforts to influence the politicians, judges, media and educational institutions:

  • Koch Industries donates millions to state and federal politicians, spends millions more on lobbying them, and pressures them through campaigns such as Americans for Prosperitys No Climate Tax pledge.
  • The Kochs donate millions to influence judicial law through organizations like the Pacific Legal Foundation, and have brought Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to their secretive and partisan political fundraising and strategy meetings.
  • Koch operatives and allies pervade media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, the Examiner newspapers, and the Daily Caller. They donate tens of thousands of dollars to outlets like the American Spectator and the National Review.
  • Koch foundations craft multi-million dollar contracts with universities to influence their programs, such as influencing the hiring process in Florida State Universitys economics department. George Mason University, which hosts the Koch founded and financed Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), has received over $13.81 million from Koch foundations from 2005-2010 (the most recent IRS tax information), on top of $9.84 million and $7.75 million to Mercatus and IHS respectively in the same period.

In addition to examining the distinct social movements that are most important to each of us, we also need to look at the full picture and find the areas in which our social advocacy jurisdictions overlap. Working through bold coalitions, we can move our country and world in a direction that is most beneficial to all of its inhabitants, not just oil billionaires like Charles and David Koch.


  • Host a screening of Koch Brothers Exposed in your community. Pick up your own copy of Koch Brothers Exposed and register a local premier to show people how a small financial elite is able to buy political influence in ways that only benefit the top 1%.
  • Join the movement to amend the Constitution to undo the worst aspect of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling: protecting unlimited and undisclosed corporate spending on elections as free speech. Visit United for the People to support federal legislation that would amend the Constitution, push local and national politicians to support the effort, and work on resolutions demanding an amendment in your home.

Connor Gibson

By Connor Gibson

Connor Gibson is a former member of Greenpeace's Investigations team. He focused on polluting industries, their front groups, and PR operatives, particularly on the Koch Brothers.

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