Plutocrats’ Pay Off: Why Keystone Tops Agenda of New “Koch Congress”

You might not know this from reading most media coverage of 2014 midterm elections, but the world’s two wealthiest men just bought US Congress. Oligarchy is now official, with a nefarious new force behind much of the Republicans’ madness in Washington. Amazingly, leading Democrats are advancing the same agenda by pushing a pipeline that could double the fortunes of America’s two top plutocrats.

Even if you are aware of the Koch brothers, here are a few facts rarely connected for Americans that drive today’s big debates, the dimensions of which are different from anything before in our human history:

  • Koch has the most wealth in the world: $100 billion is the combined net worth of brothers Charles and David, compared to Bill Gates’ $80 billion, George Soros’ $25 billion or Tom Steyer’s $1.5 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires’ Index;
  • Koch has the most carbon in Canada: 2 million acres in Alberta’s tar sands territory (more than Exxon, Chevron, and Conoco’s combined), valued by energy investors at over $100 billion, with the Keystone XL pipeline possibly doubling Koch’s fortune;
  • Koch gave the most to front groups: $53 million for think tanks and Astroturf agents who have been pushing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline for the past few years;
  • Koch outspent all other oil companies – even Exxon – to block US climate action by direct lobbying, denying science, and contributing to campaigns of elected officials, whereby deadlocking any real UN deal to cut carbon and avoid a global disaster;
  • Koch spent the most on Congress: $500 million “raised” for 2014 midterms, most of it moving as undisclosed “dark money,” but KochProblem.org tracked over $90 million of it online. Even Rockefeller never had such heft. Welcome, “Koch Congress.”

Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb

Avoiding a climate catastrophe has defined the debate on Keystone, with public protests pushing Obama to pledge to reject Keystone if it “significantly exacerbates carbon pollution.” Like sucking through a larger straw, Keystone’s huge “take-away” capacity will intensify exploitation of Canada’s fossil fuel reserves faster by design, making increased emissions inevitable. Call it the Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb with Keystone as its fuse.

Keystone’s approval would create more global market access for Koch’s 32 million barrels of ultra-dirty Canadian crude still underground, while its rejection could leave Koch with epic amounts of “stranded” carbon assets in the middle of a continent.

With the most to gain (and the most to lose) from the Keystone decision, Koch has invested in elections for pro-Keystone candidates and now expects payoff in the form of fast-tracking the pipeline’s approval. Koch-funded candidates are largely leading the charge to advance a vote on Keystone.

Leaders of the new “Koch Congress” are clear that their top agenda items will align with the interests of the single largest donor to Republicans’ victorious electoral campaigns. Koch wants to punch through the pipeline now to produce more profits for themselves by poisoning our planet.

Mega Returns for Republicans’ Biggest Donor

That’s why proposals to approve the Keystone XL pipeline will surely come along with the Congressional appropriations process setting a new budget deal due December 11, 2014.

Yet even before that, Democratic Senator Landrieu will lead the charge for Keystone during the lame duck Senate, which many believe is due more to Louisiana’s being bought by the broader gas and oil industry, whose political operations are already underwritten by Koch.

Koch has created a filibuster-proof pro-Keystone majority which means Obama may have to veto anything with Keystone attached as a rider or condition for passing any basic budget, raising the debt ceiling, and/or other essential government functions soon under the influence of the Koch-heads who will hold the power of the purse.

Of course, it’s not all about Keystone; Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told his hometown newspaper that his top priority would be to do whatever he can to rein in the EPA. Coal is king in Kentucky, yet too few folks know that Koch Carbon Inc. is among the state’s largest “coal merchants” who make the big money by moving and marketing the dirty fuel. Koch is king in Kentucky, too.

Stop Koch, Stop Keystone

The “Plutocrats’ pay off” includes, among Koch’s broader ideological agenda of shrinking government, instant approval of Keystone, elimination of EPA authority to regulate carbon and avoiding any carbon tax (although the brothers already have a deal in mind since they see climate action is imminent). They just want to get paid.

The price they pay depends on all Americans standing up now against today’s oligarchs to stop Koch’s endless expansion before either our entire economy explodes, or our Earth.

All Americans can urge Senate Leader Harry Reid, who railed against Koch during elections and has since vowed to double down against them, to remind Democrats that Koch recently flooded their districts with dirty campaign dollars and negative advertising, which will inevitably increase along with Koch’s wealth if Keystone is approved.