There’s trouble brewing on Wednesday. Oct. 1 over at WGBH where activists from Forecast The Facts, the Better Future Project and others will once again try to hold that PBS flagship station accountable for the dirty (absolutely filthy) money it takes from David Koch.
From the Boston Herald:
Environmental activists and a small army of Muppets will protest outside WGBH’s Brighton studios today in an ongoing crusade to oust conservative billionaire David Koch from the PBS station’s board of trustees.
“Sesame Street characters stand for truth in education,” said Emily Kirkland of the environmental group Better Future Project, which is working with another organization, Forecast the Facts. “David Koch’s efforts to mislead the American public about climate change are directly in opposition to those values.”
Dozens of protesters — including some dressed as Elmo, Big Bird and arithmetic guru Count Von Count — will picket outside Channel 2 and deliver a petition with about 300,000 signatures, arguing that Koch’s position on the board as a “climate denier” damages the integrity of the public television station.
Koch has donated millions of dollars to WGBH — and to the science program “Nova” — since 1982.
“This isn’t about politics, this is about facts,” said Emily Southard of Forecast the Facts. “It puts WGBH’s mission into question.”
The group launched a similar protest a year ago and addressed the trustees, who took no action.
Incidentally, Esquire columnist/blogger (and former Boston Phoenix writer) Charles Pierce had a good post this week about the Kochs:
What people should be talking about today, but won’t be, is Tim Dickinson’s report on the lush criminal history of Koch Industries. Up until recently, the Kochs have been seen as a couple of plutocrats who, aided and abetted by a pliable Supreme Court and by politicians who would take money from serial murderers as long as they were anonymous, are seeking to buy the American political system for the purposes of getting even richer and promoting the Birchite nonsense they’ve imbibed since childhood. However, the sources of their great wealth have gone largely unexamined, and, as Dickinson points out, the only real difference between the Kochs and the Gambinos is that the latter dressed a lot better.
Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch’s pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers. The volume of Koch Industries’ toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch’s climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
This, of course, should be no surprise. Behind every great fortune is a great crime, Balzac warned us, but old Honore has been misunderstood by people who low-ball his warning. It is not that the great fortune begins with the great crime. It is that behind the great fortunes are great ongoing crimes. In the case of the Kochs, in fact, the great fortune is the great crime.
Almost from the beginning, Koch Industries’ risk-taking crossed over into recklessness. The OPEC oil embargo hit the company hard. Koch had made a deal giving the company the right to buy a large share of Qatar’s export crude. At the time, Koch owned five supertankers and had chartered many others. When the embargo hit, Koch had upward of half a billion dollars in exposure to tankers and couldn’t deliver OPEC oil to the U.S. market, creating what Charles has called “large losses.” Soon, Koch Industries was caught overcharging American customers. The Ford administration in the summer of 1974 compelled Koch to pay out more than $20 million in rebates and future price reductions. Koch Industries’ manipulations were about to get more audacious. In the late 1970s, the federal government parceled out exploration tracts, using a lottery in which anyone could score a 10-year lease at just $1 an acre – a game of chance that gave wildcat prospectors the same shot as the biggest players. Koch didn’t like these odds, so it enlisted scores of frontmen to bid on its behalf. In the event they won the lottery, they would turn over their leases to the company. In 1980, Koch Industries pleaded guilty to five felonies in federal court, including conspiracy to commit fraud.
The great crime that begins the great fortune never truly goes away. The corruption that the great crime embeds in the great fortune is never excised because it cannot be. It can be glossed over, camouflaged in fancy legalisms, alibi-ed by politicians that the great fortune allows the great crime to sublet, or perfumed by charitable donations that spring from a river fouled centuries ago. But the great crime — and the corruption it spawned — is eternal in the great fortune. Nobody ever gets clean.
If you don’t read Pierce at Esquire, you really should. He’s snarky yet still intelligent and writes things all the time I wish I had written.
As for the Koch brothers: they are as pure an embodiment of corporate evil as anything that has existed since certain German companies in World War II. There is nothing these guys will not pollute in the name of profit. No lie too big from the groups they fund. They live in a crazy Orwellian world where up is down, greed is good and empathy is weakness.
That we are moving into a time when people can go to prison again for being poor and unable to pay their bills, and the Koch brothers can do what they want without being arrested and jailed, just shows how the Koch brothers have been able to warp the political process in their favor.
And the fact that WGBH (and Harvard and MIT) take so much money from them is shameful.