Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tenth Anniversary of 9/11: So, Who Are the Terrorists Now?


While the United States continues to fight two endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it appears that our government is capitulating to some wealthy billionaires intent on terrorizing the American political process with hefty lobbying to protect their own interests.  Koch Industries (pronounced "coke") heads the list and it is endangering the lives millions of Americans.  Take a look at these stories.  --Olga
  

Since 9/11, Koch Industries has fought against tougher government rules on chemical plants
Koch plant in Texas.  Courtesy of AP




Koch Industries, a leader of industry resistance to proposed post-9/11 anti-terrorism safeguards at petrochemical plants, owns 56 facilities using hazardous chemicals that put 4.8 million Americans who live nearby at risk.

Schools, homes, hospitals, office parks, churches, recreation areas, nursing homes and daycare facilities dot the properties that surround the Koch plants.
In the government's "worst case" scenarios, the millions working or living near the plants could be threatened by explosions, chemical spills or clouds of deadly gas, federal records show. Among the hazardous chemicals stored and used at Koch sites are formaldehyde, chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride.

Koch's own reports to the U.S. government were reviewed by iWatch News. The records, known as risk management plans, are maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. Access is strictly controlled: members of the press and public can only examine 10 plans per month, under the watchful eye of EPA officials.
A decade after the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Koch insists that its neighbors are safe, and are adequately protected by federal and state regulations.

All chemical firms are "vulnerable to human error, acts of nature, theft and sabotage," Koch acknowledges. "It is impossible to completely eliminate every threat."

But "chemicals are at the heart of many of our businesses," the firm says, in a section titled "Chemical Safety" on Koch's website. "The ones used in our facilities are handled with care and by trained professionals."

The Kansas-based conglomerate vows that it "places compliance and safety before profit."

Koch did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment to this story over a week's time.

Koch lobbies against stricter rules

Charles and David Koch, the owners of the country's second-largest private corporation, are libertarians of long standing, who contend that government regulations, taxes and subsidies stifle individual initiative and hamper American competitiveness. In recent years, the Kochs have played an increasingly public role as financial angels for conservative causes, politicians and foundations.

In Washington, Koch is a leader in efforts to oppose counter-terrorism proposals that would require that petrochemical firms use less hazardous practices and chemicals.

Lobbying disclosure reports, filed with Congress, show that this year Koch has deployed at least 20 lobbyists, from four lobbying firms, to shape legislation on Capitol Hill and the regulatory work of federal agencies.

Aside from its own in-house team of lobbyists, Koch has hired the firms of Hunton & Williams; Siff & Associates, and Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti to lobby the Senate, House of Representatives, the Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security....

Calls for Safer Substances

Congressional calls for change, endorsed by the Obama administration, would restructure federal rules and inspection procedures and require the use of "inherently safer technology" (IST) to reduce the potential consequences of a terrorist attack....

House and Senate bills that would require that firms use safer technologies have been the top priorities of Koch lobbyists working on the issue. On its website, Koch says that IST proposals are "onerous" because they "would require manufacturers to use certain products and processes without regard for practicality, availability or cost."

"Mandating IST would result in even more job losses and higher consumer prices as American manufacturers struggle to comply with the new regulations and compete with overseas manufacturers," Koch says.

Under the current regulatory regime, Koch notes, "not one incident of terrorism has occurred."

A Flint Hills Resources oil refinery in Rosemount, Minn. Flint Hill Resources is a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Courtesy of Zachary Korb/Flickr.
According to the iWatch News analysis of EPA records, the Koch facilities with the greatest number of neighbors who would be threatened by a worst case release or terrorist attack are:
  • An Invista chemical plant in LaPorte, Texas, where a spill and vaporization of formaldehyde could threaten almost 1.9 million potential victims within 25 miles.
  • A Georgia-Pacific plant in Camas, Wash., where a chlorine spill and gas cloud could endanger 840,000 people within 14 miles.
  • A Flint Hills refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, where 350,000 people living within 22 miles would be threatened by a hydrogen fluoride spill and vaporization.
  • And a Koch Nitrogen plant in East Alton, Ill., where 290,000 people live within 11 miles, and face the potential danger of a poisonous anhydrous ammonia cloud.
READ MORE


Koch's Web of Influence
Koch Industries is spending tens of millions to influence every facet of government that could affect its global empire

By

Koch Inc., headquartered in Wichita, Kan., spends tens of millions of dollars to lobby Congress and federal agencies on issues ranging from oil and gas to the estate tax.   Larry W. Smith/Associated Press

At an EPA hearing last summer, representatives from Koch Industries argued that moderate levels of the toxic chemical dioxin should not be designated as a cancer risk for humans. 

When members of Congress sought higher security at chemical plants to guard against terrorist attacks, Koch Industries lobbyists prowled Capitol Hill to voice their opposition.

And when Congress moved to strengthen regulation of the financial markets after recent collapses, Koch Industries — a major commodities and derivatives trader — deployed a phalanx of lobbyists to resist proposed changes.

Charles and David Koch, the owners of the country’s second-largest private corporation, are libertarians of long standing, who contend that government regulations, taxes and subsidies stifle individual initiative and hamper American competitiveness. In recent years, the Kochs have played an increasingly public role as financial angels for conservative causes, politicians and foundations 

What’s not so well-known is the activity of Koch Industries in the trenches in Washington, where a Center for Public Integrity examination of lobbying disclosure files and federal regulatory records reveals a lobbying steamroller for the company’s interests, at times in conflict with its public pose.

The money that Koch (pronounced “coke”) has spent on lobbying in Washington has soared in recent years, from $857,000 in 2004 to $20 million in 2008. The Kochs then spent another $20.5 million over the next two years to influence federal policy, as the company’s lobbyists and officials sought to mold, gut or kill more than 100 prospective bills or regulations.
  • Koch Industries has increased its lobbying from $857,000 in 2004 to $20 million in the last two years.
  • Koch has 165 manufacturing facilities and lobbies against increased regulation of toxic byproducts like dioxin, asbestos and formaldehyde.
  • Koch has purchased four ethanol plants with a combined capacity of 435 million gallons; ethanol subsidies cost the government $6 billion each year.
  • Koch lobbies to protect the Section 199 deduction to help U.S. manufacturers; the subsidy for energy firms cost the Treasury $14 billion over 10 years.
  • Koch had $100 billion revenues in 2009, second only to Cargill as a private U.S. company.

Koch’s lobbyists are known on Capitol Hill for maintaining a low profile. There are no former U.S. senators or House committee chairmen on the payroll. The firm had 30 registered lobbyists in 2010, many of whom are Washington insiders with previous experience as congressional staffers or federal agency employees. 


Gregory Zerzan is a good example. Zerzan was a senior counsel for the House Financial Services Committee before serving as an acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department during the George W. Bush administration. Zerzan then worked as counsel and head of global public policy for the International Swaps and Derivative Association before joining Koch Industries as a lobbyist. 

Koch clout is augmented by campaign donations to parties and candidates for federal office — $11 million in the last two decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — and generous gifts from three family foundations to universities and conservative organizations and interest groups. 

According to IRS records, the Koch foundations are essential donors (having given $3.4 million from 2007 through 2009) to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a nonprofit known for its support of the Tea Party movement. Among the organizations that have each received a million dollars or more over the last five years from Koch foundations are the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and two conservative think tanks at George Mason University in Virginia: the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center. 

The Kochs primarily donate to conservative candidates and causes but have given more than $1 million in the last decade to the liberal Brookings Institution. And among politicians they supported last year was Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat elected governor of New York with $87,000 from the Koch family. 

The emergence of “the Koch web — political action, campaign giving, funding of groups engaged in political action and campaigns, conferences to expand political and policy influence — is a striking phenomenon,” said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. 

The Center asked Koch Industries and its lobbyists in Washington, in a dozen emails and telephone calls over more than two weeks, to comment on the firm’s lobbying efforts. Koch’s representatives declined the opportunity. 

But in a March 1 column in The Wall Street Journal , Charles Koch defended his and his company’s practices. “As a matter of principle our company has been outspoken in defense of economic freedom,” Koch wrote. “This country would be better off if every company would do the same. Instead, we see far too many businesses that paint their tails white and run with the antelope.”  
READ MORE


Who Are the Koch Brothers?

The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

David Koch in 1996.  Courtesy of The New Yorker

by       New Yorker -- August 30, 2010 

...With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge.  The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

In a statement, Koch Industries said that the Greenpeace report “distorts the environmental record of our companies.” And David Koch, in a recent, admiring article about him in New York, protested that the “radical press” had turned his family into “whipping boys,” and had exaggerated its influence on American politics. But Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said, “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.”


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