At least 16 U.S. newspapers have recently published op-eds by state officials of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' political advocacy group, urging state legislatures to oppose the EPA's plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. These newspapers have consistently failed to disclose the authors' oil industry ties, and the op-eds themselves “misleadingly” cite statistics on electricity prices from an industry-funded study, as a media fact-checker has explained.
Newspapers Publishing AFP Op-Eds Did Not Disclose Group's Ties To Fossil-Fuel Industry
At Least 16 Newspapers Have Published AFP Op-Eds Asking States To Fight Back Against EPA's Clean Power Plan. Nearly identical op-eds have been published in at least 16 newspapers across the country, each written by the Americans for Prosperity chapter director or deputy director in that state. The op-eds call for state legislatures to fight back against the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which would place the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Some of the recent AFP op-eds include headlines such as:
- “Arizona should fight useless coal regulations”
- “Protect taxpayers from EPA”
- “Protect power grid from EPA mandate”
- “State lawmakers should fight the EPA”
- “South Dakota's legislature should stop EPA”
- “Florida state lawmakers should fight EPA's dangerous economic plan”
- “Virginia state legislators should fight the EPA”
Authors Are Disclosed Only As State Officials Of AFP, With No Mention Of Oil Industry Ties. Among the newspapers examined that published an op-ed by an AFP state official, every newspaper except for one identified the author only as state director (or deputy state director) of Americans for Prosperity. The sole exception, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, identified the author as “the Texas state director of the conservative political action group Americans for Prosperity” (emphasis added). But no newspaper disclosed that Americans for Prosperity is run by the oil baron Koch brothers.
[Waycross Journal-Herald, 1/13/15, via Nexis; Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 1/9/15; News & Observer, 12/31/14, via Nexis; Wichita Eagle, 1/1/15; Lafayette Journal & Courier, 12/31/14; Evansville Courier & Press, 1/1/15; Tribune-Star, 1/7/15; Sun-Sentinel, 1/3/15; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/7/15; Pensacola News Journal, 1/20/15; Argus Leader, 1/20/15; Victoria Advocate, 1/16/15; Waco Tribune-Herald, 2/12/15; Cincinnati Enquirer, 2/2/15; Arizona Republic, 3/22/15]
Americans For Prosperity Is The Political Arm Of The Oil Billionaire Koch Brothers
Koch Brothers Co-Founded Group That Later Became Americans For Prosperity Foundation. The Koch brothers' company, Koch Industries, notes on its website that Charles and David Koch, along with two others, founded the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, which later became the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and that the AFP Foundation created the 501(c)(4) organization Americans for Prosperity. Koch Industries also acknowledges on its website that Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation have “received monetary support from Koch companies, Charles Koch, David Koch, and/or the Koch foundations.” [Koch Industries, accessed 3/25/15]
Politico: Americans For Prosperity Is "[T]he Koch Brothers' Main Political Arm." In reporting on Americans for Prosperity's political spending for the 2014 mid-term elections, Politico noted that Americans for Prosperity is the “Koch brothers' main political arm.” [Politico, 5/9/14]
Koch Brothers Are Oil Industry Billionaires. The New Yorker reported, “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.” [The New Yorker, 8/30/10]
Center For Public Integrity: “It's In The Kochs' Commercial Interest To Preserve America's Reliance On Carbon-Based Energy Sources.” The Center for Public Integrity reported that oil is the “core of the Koch business empire,” and that it is in their “commercial interest” to keep America dependent on carbon-based energy sources:
Oil is the core of the Koch business empire, and the company's lobbyists and officials have successfully fought to preserve the industry's tax breaks and credits, and to defeat attempts by Congress to regulate greenhouse gases.
It's in the Kochs' commercial interest to preserve America's reliance on carbon-based energy sources. Despite recent diversification, Koch remains a major petrochemical company with refineries in North Pole, Alaska; Corpus Christi, Texas; Rosemount, Minn., and Rotterdam in the Netherlands; an array of chemical plants; a coal subsidiary (the C. Reiss Coal Co.) and 4,000 miles of pipelines.
So it is not surprising that, when the Obama administration and the Democrats on Capitol Hill proposed to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases in recent years, Koch Industries responded with a fervent counteroffensive. [Center for Public Integrity, 4/6/11]
In 2009, AFP Was “Third Largest Recipient” Of Funding From Koch Foundations. A DeSmogBlog investigation of the funding behind AFP reported in 2009 that the group is the “third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations,” which is funded by Koch Industries. [DeSmogBlog, 2/26/09]
Media Professionals Have Expressed Concern Over Such Lack Of Disclosure
Media Professionals: Lack Of Disclosure A “Growing Problem In American Journalism.” A petition signed in 2011 by over 50 individuals currently and formerly active in the media industry expressed concern about the “growing problem in American journalism” of media outlets publishing commentaries from industry-funded contributors without disclosing their special interest ties. From the letter:
There is a disturbing trend of special interests surreptitiously funding “experts” to push industry talking points in the nation's major media outlets. When these expert commentaries appear in media outlets, their special interest ties go unreported.
Unfortunately, when media outlets quote or publish op-eds from “bought and biased” pundits, the conflict of interest goes unmentioned.
[W]e believe media outlets have the responsibility to inform their readers of opinion writers' true ties and conflicts of interest. [True Ties, 10/6/11]
AFP Op-Eds Are Being “Misleading” By Citing Dubious Study To Attack Clean Power Plan
AFP Op-Eds Cite Industry-Funded Study To Claim Clean Power Plan Will Be Expensive For Consumers. Every op-ed Media Matters examined cited figures from a recent study carried out by NERA Economic Consulting to allege that the Clean Power Plan would increase electricity prices. For example, the op-ed published in the Arizona Republic stated: “According to a study from NERA Economic Consulting, Arizona families could see their electricity bills jump 13 percent every year from 2017 to 2031.” The study was commissioned by fossil fuel interests including American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and National Mining Association. [Arizona Republic, 3/22/15; NERA Economic Consulting, October 2014]
Washington Post “Fact Checker” Said It Is “Misleading” To Cite The NERA Study's Figures. When Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) cited the NERA study to claim that the Clean Power Plan “will result in double-digit electricity prices in 43 states,” Washington Post's “Fact Checker” blog responded that Inhofe's claim was “misleading” because the study's numbers “are on the high end of a range of cost impacts, which are mere projections at this point.” The “Fact Checker” noted that supporters of the Clean Power Plan say the NERA study “inflates the cost of energy efficiency programs” and “ignores long-term benefits of energy efficiency programs that ultimately could drive actual energy bills down.” It concluded: “A lot of the costs can be driven down by state, local and regional policymakers, and some of them already are working with the EPA to figure out cost-effective plans.” [Washington Post, 3/13/15]
Union Of Concerned Scientists: NERA “Falsely Inflates Costs.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) stated that the NERA study “falsely inflates the cost” of the Clean Power Plan by “denying energy efficiency's proven ability to save consumers money.” UCS went on to explain that the NERA study uses “a 2012 study that has been repeatedly discredited” to justify its inflated cost estimates. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 11/14/14]
EPA: Clean Power Plan Benefits Will Dwarf Costs. The EPA found that by 2030, the cost of complying with the Clean Power Plan will be $7.3-8.8 billion, whereas it will lead to climate and health benefits worth $55 to $93 billion. [EPA, accessed 3/25/15]