Tag Archives: Koch Industries

Refuting the attacks on Koch

From KochFactsTV:

What do big government politicians mean when they say, “Koch?”

Nancy Pfotenhauer of Koch Industries explains that when big government politicians say “Koch,” they’re not talking about the successful American company that employs more than 50,000 people nationwide. They’re really attacking the principles of economic freedom that Koch has advocated for more than 50 years regardless of what political party holds power.

Economic freedom means property rights protected by an impartial rule of law, the freedom to trade and exchange goods and services, sound money, and a government that promotes prosperity rather than undermine it. Economic freedom also empowers individuals not governments. That’s why entrenched politicians will rarely say the words “economic freedom.” They’d rather say, “Koch.”

But with all the pressing issues challenging our nation, shouldn’t the big government advocates in Washington be talking about something else besides us?

Koch articles draw critics, but few factual

Two large articles in the Wichita Eagle regarding Charles and David Koch of Wichita-based Koch Industries have attracted many comments, and many are not based on facts.

The two articles are The Kochs’ quest to save America and Charles Koch relentless in pursuing his goals.

A curious irony is the claim by many comment writers that Charles and David Koch want to buy America, while at the same time they are running it into the ground: “The koch bros. are funding the conversion of OUR COUNTRY into another third world country.”

Even if it was possible to buy America — whatever that means — why would someone destroy it first?

Another common thread in the comments is that Charles and David Koch didn’t complain about government spending, subsidy, regulation, etc. before President Barack Obama was elected. In fact, they have been working to promote free markets and economic freedom for many decades. Charles Koch and two others founded what became the Cato Institute in 1974, nearly four decades ago. Even earlier: A recent issue of Koch Industries Discovery newsletter contains a story titled “Don’t subsidize me.” Here’s an excerpt:

When Charles Koch was in his 20s, he attended a business function hosted by his father. At that event, Fred Koch introduced Charles to a local oilman.

When the independent oilman politely asked about the young man’s interests, Charles began talking about all he was doing to promote economic freedom.

“Wow!” said the oilman, who was so impressed he wanted to introduce the young bachelor to his eligible daughter.

But when Charles mentioned he was in favor of eliminating the government’s oil import quota, which subsidized domestic producers, the oilman exploded in rage.

“Your father ought to lock you in a cell!” he yelled, jabbing his finger into Charles’ chest. “You’re worse than a Communist!”

It seems the oilman was all for the concept of free markets — unless it meant he had to compete on equal terms.

Under oath

For more than 50 years, Charles Koch has consistently promoted economic freedom, even when it was not in the company’s immediate financial interest.

In the 1960s, Koch was willing to testify before a powerful Congressional committee that he was against the oil import quota — a very popular political measure at the time.

“I think it’s fair to say my audience was less than receptive,” recalls Koch.

Years later, Koch warned an independent energy association about the dangers of subsidies and mandates.

“We avoid the short-run temptation to impose regulatory burdens on competitors. We don’t lobby for subsidies that penalize taxpayers for our benefit.

“This is our philosophy because we believe this will produce the most favorable conditions in the long run,” Koch said.

Many comments take the company to task for accepting oil and ethanol subsidies. Koch Industries, as a refiner of oil, blends ethanol with the gasoline it produces in order to meet federal mandates that require ethanol usage. Even though Koch opposed subsidies for ethanol — as it opposes all subsidies — Koch accepted the subsidies. A company newsletter explained “Once a law is enacted, we are not going to place our company and our employees at a competitive disadvantage by not participating in programs that are available to our competitors.” (The tax credit subsidy program for ethanol has ended, but there is still the mandate for its use in gasoline.)

Regarding oil subsidies, the programs that are most commonly cited (percentage depletion and expensing of intangible drilling costs) apply to producers of oil — the companies that drill holes and pump up oil. Koch Industries doesn’t do that. The company doesn’t benefit from these programs.

Other comments charge that Koch Industries wants to end regulation so that it can pollute as much as it wants. This is another ridiculous charge not based on facts.

A statement on the KochFacts website states “recent critics have also claimed that Koch is one of the nation’s top 10 polluters. This study confuses pollution with permitted emissions, which are carefully regulated by the U.S. EPA and other agencies. The index labels as ‘polluters’ Ford Motor, General Motors, GE, Pfizer, Eastman Kodak, Sony, Honeywell, Berkshire Hathaway, Kimberly Clark, Anheuser Busch and Goodyear — corporations, like Koch companies, with significant manufacturing in the U.S. Emissions, a necessary by-product of manufacturing, are strictly monitored and legally permitted by federal, state and local governments.”

Say: Didn’t the U.S. government take over General Motors, and continues to hold a large stake in the company? And GE and Berkshire Hathaway: Aren’t those run by personal friends of Barack Obama?

The reality is that manufacturing has become much more efficient with regards to emissions, and Koch Industries companies have lead the way. One report from the company illustrates such progress: “Over the last three years, Koch Carbon has spent $10 million to enhance environmental performance, including $5 million for dust abatement at one of its petroleum coke handling facilities. These investments have paid off. In 2008, Koch Carbon’s reportable emissions were 6.5 percent less than in 2000, while throughput increased 10.4 percent.”

Even when Koch Industries does not agree with the need for specific regulations, the company, nonetheless, complies. Writing about an increase in regulation in the 2007 book The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company, Charles Koch explained the importance of regulatory compliance: “This reality required is to make a cultural change. We needed to be uncompromising, to expect 100 percent of our employees to comply 100 percent of the time with complex and ever-changing government mandates. Striving to comply with every law does not mean agreeing with every law. But, even when faced with laws we think are counter-productive, we must first comply. Only then, from a credible position, can we enter into a dialogue with regulatory agencies to determine alternatives that are more beneficial. If these efforts fail, we can then join with others in using education and/or political efforts to change the law.”

Koch companies have taken leadership roles in environmental compliance, explains another KochFacts page: “In 2000, EPA recognized Koch Petroleum Group for being ‘the first petroleum company to step forward’ to reach a comprehensive Clean Air Act agreement involving EPA and state regulatory agencies in Minnesota and Texas. Despite fundamental policy disagreements, then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner acknowledged Koch’s cooperation. She characterized the agreement as ‘innovative and comprehensive’ and praised the ‘unprecedented cooperation’ of Koch in stepping forward ahead of its industry peers.” Browner was no friend of industry, and had a “record as a strict enforcer of environmental laws during the Clinton years,” according to the New York Times.

What may really gall liberals and Koch critics is this: They believe that a powerful and expansive government is good for the country. But what we have is a complicated machine that a company like General Electric can exploit for huge profits, all without creating things that consumers value. Charles Koch calls for an end to this, as he wrote last year in the Wall Street Journal: “Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay. Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.”

The political Left just can’t believe that anyone would write that and really mean it.

What’s wrong with Charles and David Koch?

In a column on his website, Fran Tarkenton wonders why Charles and David Koch are the targets of so much criticism. He writes: “So why do we vilify people who represent the greatness of America? Is it just because they have different political beliefs? It’s time to stop demonizing people who do things the right way and generate tremendous wealth — and value to all Americans. Those are the people we should celebrate, whether you agree with their politics or not! If we want to preserve America as the great place it is, we need more entrepreneurs, more innovators — and a free market to foster them.”

Tarkenton writes of “how poisonous our political atmosphere is.” Here’s an example: A common complaint by leftists is that Wall Street is overly focused on short-term results — the quarterly profit numbers — rather than on long-term investment and growth. Koch Industries, however, is privately held, and in a recent Wichita Eagle article, a company official said “[private ownership] allows us to focus on the long term as opposed to quarter to quarter.” You’d think liberals would be happy with a company that can afford to ignore the short term and focus on the long term, but instead they criticize Koch for not being public, wondering what it is the company has to hide.

By the way, this focus on the long term may be why since 1960 the value of Koch Industries has increased faster than the value of the broad-based S&P index of the 500 largest U.S. Companies, by a factor of 16 times.

Tarkenton several times mentions Charles and David Koch’s fight against cronyism. Contrast this with General Electric, a company headed by a friend of President Obama. A report from ProPublica shows some of the lengths that GE goes to avoid paying taxes: “General Electric’s tax department is famous for inventing ways to pay Uncle Sam less. So it should come as no surprise that its CEO, Jeff Immelt, is in the crosshairs as the new chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. … GE’s tax department is well known for its size, skill and hiring of former government officials. About 20 years ago, GE’s tax employees totaled a few hundred and were decentralized. Today, there are almost 1,000. The department’s strong suit? Reducing the taxes GE reports for earnings purposes.”

A New York Times article explains the lengths that GE went to to protect a tax loophole that it benefited from. The tax system is a major vehicle for the implementation of cronyism.

The shelters are so crucial to G.E.’s bottom line that when Congress threatened to let the most lucrative one expire in 2008, the company came out in full force. G.E. officials worked with dozens of financial companies to send letters to Congress and hired a bevy of outside lobbyists.

The head of its tax team, Mr. Samuels, met with Representative Charles B. Rangel, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which would decide the fate of the tax break. As he sat with the committee’s staff members outside Mr. Rangel’s office, Mr. Samuels dropped to his knee and pretended to beg for the provision to be extended — a flourish made in jest, he said through a spokeswoman.

That day, Mr. Rangel reversed his opposition to the tax break, according to other Democrats on the committee.

The following month, Mr. Rangel and Mr. Immelt stood together at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem as G.E. announced that its foundation had awarded $30 million to New York City schools, including $11 million to benefit various schools in Mr. Rangel’s district.

Other companies that are revered by the political left play the game too. A report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center explained how Starbucks manipulated the tax system to its benefit: “By shifting paper profits among divisions, firms can reduce their overall tax liability. Such efforts will lead to unnecessary accounting and compliance costs for firms and unnecessary enforcement costs for the IRS. For example, The New York Times reported that Starbucks successfully added a provision to the bill that deems coffee roasting, but not coffee preparation, a manufacturing activity. This provision gives Starbucks a tax incentive to increase the bean prices charged to its retail outlets, making the roasting part of the business more profitable and the retail part of the business less profitable. Such efforts could decrease Starbucks’s tax bill, but serve no other discernable public policy purpose.”

What’s Wrong with the Koch Brothers?
By Fran Tarkenton

To succeed in football and in business, I worked with a lot of people. I learned how to figure out who the great people were, people who were doing the right thing, people with great ethics who I could trust and learn a lot from. I also learned how to identify people who weren’t trying to do the right thing.

It’s very important in business to be able to tell the difference, because a great mentor like Sam Walton, Bernie Marcus, or Robert Woodruff can have a monumental impact, but a bad influence can cause big problems.

This political season, there has been one business name that has been demonized and vilified above all others: the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. They have been demonized as right-wing zealots, and I’ve even seen the work of scholars dismissed just because their organization has some connection to the Koch brothers.

The kneejerk attacks and venom that comes out whenever their names are even mentioned really bothers me, and it’s a sign of just how poisonous our political atmosphere is. I don’t know the Koch brothers personally, but I know people who do, and who know them well. And I’ve also been able to observe the things they do, and the way they conduct themselves publicly. Everything I’m seeing and hearing tells me that these are exemplary business leaders who we should be celebrating, not attacking.

Start by looking at how Koch Industries grew to become the juggernaut it is today. The family patriarch, Fred Koch, built the company on an innovative process he developed in the oil business. Then his sons grew the company the right way. They didn’t cozy up to the government for subsidies, handouts, or preferential treatment. Instead, they came up with great ideas that solved problems in the lives of people, ideas that provided real value. Their business empire was built on innovation, reinvention, and hard work, not cronyism. I greatly admire that! And they’ve donated millions to medical research and the arts, among other causes.

Now, the Koch brothers are more known for the money they spend on political activities. They fund a variety of think tanks and organizations, all dedicated to promoting free market practices and small government. And that is where they are demonized and tarred and feathered by their political opponents. But from everything I have ever seen, what is remarkable is that none of their political activities are dedicated to cronyism, setting their company up for a big windfall if it wins the debate. Rather, they are advocating for more competition, reduced barriers to entry for new players, and less connection between the board room and the DC halls of power, not a special place at the table.

The only reason for doing that is because they really believe in it. Why should we demonize people who deeply believe in something and do whatever they can to promote it? If the Koch brothers spent millions of dollars on politicians who would subsidize their products and outlaw their competitors, that would be wrong. But instead, they advocate for an end to market distortions, government interventions in the private sector, and cronyism in general. They’re not trying to get more of the government pie; they just really believe they have a vision to help America, because they love this country and the values it stands for.

The truth is that everything we have in this country is because of entrepreneurs, large and small. From the corner store up to the most successful business people — whether conservatives like the Koch brothers, liberals like Steve Jobs at Apple, or libertarians like Jeff Bezos of Amazon — the great wealth of this country comes from people helping other people by creating value. Without value, when businesspeople are just in it for themselves and don’t care about value, only about accruing benefits to themselves, everything falls apart — including the business itself! Those who do create value are the reason we have the great society we have. Since their business began, the Koch brothers have been part of the value-creating class, not the crony class of business owners.

So why do we vilify people who represent the greatness of America? Is it just because they have different political beliefs? It’s time to stop demonizing people who do things the right way and generate tremendous wealth — and value to all Americans. Those are the people we should celebrate, whether you agree with their politics or not!

If we want to preserve America as the great place it is, we need more entrepreneurs, more innovators — and a free market to foster them.

And in case you’re wondering, the Koch brothers did not approve this message.

Government interventionism ensnares us all

Are those who call for an end to government subsidy programs hypocrites for accepting those same subsidies? This is a common criticism, said to undermine the argument for ending government subsidy programs.

Rather, the existence of this debate is evidence of the growing pervasiveness of government involvement not only in business, but in our personal lives as well.

Recently the Wichita Eagle printed an op-ed critical of Charles G. Koch, chairman of the board and CEO of Wichita-based Koch Industries. The target of the criticism was Koch’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Corporate Cronyism Harms America” with the subtitle “When businesses feed at the federal trough, they threaten public support for business and free markets.”

Koch stated one of the problems as this: “Instead of protecting our liberty and property, government officials are determining where to send resources based on the political influence of their cronies. In the process, government gains even more power and the ranks of bureaucrats continue to swell.”

Even those who are opposed to government interventions in markets find themselves forced to participate in government subsidy programs. Referring to a recent Wichita incentive program for commercial real estate, Wichita developer Steve Clark said: “Once you condition the market to accept these incentives, there’s nothing someone else can do to remain competitive but accept them yourself. Like the things we’re working on with the city, now we have to accept incentives or we’re out of business.”

Koch Industries, as a refiner of oil, blends ethanol with the gasoline it produces in order to meet federal mandates that require ethanol usage. Even though Koch opposes subsidies for ethanol — as it opposes all subsidies — Koch accepted the subsidies. A company newsletter explained “Once a law is enacted, we are not going to place our company and our employees at a competitive disadvantage by not participating in programs that are available to our competitors.” (The tax credit subsidy program for ethanol has ended, but there is still the mandate for its use.)

Walter Williams, as he often does, recognizes the core of the problem: “Once legalized theft begins, it pays for everybody to participate.” The swelling ranks of bureaucrats preside over this.

So should people who have built businesses — large or small — sit idle as government props up a competitor that could put them out of business?

While Williams says not only does it pay to participate, the reality is that it is often necessary to participate in order to stay in business. This is part of the insidious nature of government interventionism: A business can be humming along, earning a profit by meeting the needs of its customers, when a government-backed competitor enters the market. What is the existing business to do? Consent to be driven out of business, just to prove a point?

So existing firms are often compelled to participate in the government program, accepting not only subsidy but the strings that accompany. This creates an environment where government intervention spirals, feeding on itself. It’s what we have today.

Not only does this happen in business, it also happens in personal life. I am opposed to the existence of the Social Security Administration and being forced to participate in a government retirement plan. Will I, then, forgo my social security payments when I become eligible to receive them?

If the government hadn’t been taking a large share of my earnings for many years, I’d be in a better position to provide for my own retirement. So as a practical matter, many people need their benefits, and rightly are entitled to them as a way to get back at least some of what they paid. The harmful effect is that government, by taking away some of our capacity — and reducing the initiative — to save for ourselves, creates more dependents.

(It might be a little different if our FICA contributions were in individual “lock boxes,” invested on our behalf. But that isn’t the case.)

Often those who advocate for reduced government spending are criticized when they may be awarded government contracts. But if the contracts are awarded competitively and not based on cronyism, the winning company is saving taxpayer money by providing products or services inexpensively. This is true even when the government spending is ill-advised or wasteful: If government is going to waste money, it should waste it efficiently, I suppose.

Contrast this behavior with that of some Wichita businesses and politicians. They make generous campaign contributions to city council members, and then receive millions in subsidy and overpriced no-bid contracts that bleed taxpayers. In Wichita this is called “economic development.”

As Koch Industries’ Melissa Cohlmia notes in a letter to the Wichita Eagle, Charles Koch, along with David Koch, are examples of an unfortunately small group of businessmen and women who are willing to stand up and fight for capitalism and economic freedom. It’s an important fight. As Charles Koch wrote in his recent article: “This growing partnership between business and government is a destructive force, undermining not just our economy and our political system, but the very foundations of our culture.” The danger, he writes, is “Put simply, cronyism is remaking American business to be more like government. It is taking our most productive sectors and making them some of our least.”

Koch favors ending all subsidies

By Melissa Cohlmia, Corporate communication director, Koch Companies Public Sector

Kevin Horrigan’s commentary was misleading and a disservice to readers (“GOP acts as bellhop for corporations, Kochs,” Sept. 21 Opinion).

Yes, Koch Industries benefits from subsidies — a fact Charles Koch stated in his Wall Street Journal commentary. This is not hypocrisy, as Horrigan claimed. Rather, where subsidies exist, any company that opts out will be at a disadvantage and often driven out of business by competitors with the artificial advantage. This perverse incentive drives out companies that are in favor of sound fiscal policy and opposed to subsidies, and favors inefficient companies that are dependent on subsidies.

Koch’s long-standing position is to end to all subsidies, which distort the market and ultimately cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Horrigan faulted Koch for not mentioning the company’s lawful contributions to “conservative politicians and causes.” Charles Koch has publicly advocated for and supported free-market causes for decades. This is a First Amendment right that people and groups across the political spectrum also exercise.

The columnist falsely claimed that Koch has funded anti-labor organizations. About 15,000 of our 50,000 U.S employees are represented by labor unions. We have long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships with these unions.

In this time when far too few speak up for economic freedom, Charles Koch challenges out-of-control government spending and rampant cronyism that undermines our economy, political system and culture. For this, he should be lauded, not vilified.

Charles Koch: The importance of economic freedom

Charles Koch, chairman of the board and CEO of Wichita-based Koch Industries, contributes the following article on the importance of economic freedom and the harm of cronyism. Another article written by him on this topic is Charles Koch: Why Koch Industries is speaking out. Koch is also the author of the book The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company. More about the importance of economic freedom may be found at www.economicfreedom.org, a project of the Charles Koch Institute, and also at Perspectives.

In 1990, the year before the collapse of the Soviet Union, I attended an economic conference in Moscow.

Like my father during his visits to the U.S.S.R. in the early 1930s, I was astonished and appalled by what I saw.

Simple necessities, such as toilet paper, were in short supply. In fact, there was none at all in the airport bathroom stalls for fear it would be stolen. Visitors using the facilities had to request a portion of tissue from an attendant beforehand.

When I walked into one of Moscow’s giant department stores, there was next to nothing on the shelves. For those shoppers who were lucky enough to find something they actually wanted to buy, the purchase process was maddening and time-consuming.

Although the government provided universal healthcare, I never met anyone who wanted to stay in a Soviet hospital. Medical services might have been “free,” but the quality of care was notoriously poor.

Reality check
My experiences in the Soviet Union underscore why economic freedom is so important for all of us.

Nations with the greatest degree of economic freedom tend to have citizens who are much better off in every way.

No centralized government, no matter how big, how smart or how powerful, can effectively and efficiently control much of society in a beneficial way. On the contrary, big governments are inherently inefficient and harmful.

And yet, the tendency of our own government here in the U.S. has been to grow bigger and bigger, controlling more and more. This is why America keeps dropping in the annual ranking of economic freedom.

Devil’s bargain
Citizens who over-rely on their government to do everything not only become dependent on their government, they end up having to do whatever the government demands. In the meantime, their initiative and self-respect are destroyed.

It was President Franklin Roosevelt who said: “Continued dependence on [government support] induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”

Businesses can become dependents, too. If your struggling car company wants a government bailout, you’ll probably have to build the government’s car — even if it’s a car very few people want to buy.

Repeatedly asking for government help undermines the foundations of society by destroying initiative and responsibility. It is also a fatal blow to efficiency and corrupts the political process.

When everyone gets something for nothing, soon no one will have anything, because no one will be producing anything.

Cronyism
Under the Soviet system, special traffic lanes were set aside for the sole use of officials in their limousines. This worsened driving conditions for everyone else, but those receiving favored treatment didn’t care.

Today, many governments give special treatment to a favored few businesses that eagerly accept those favors. This is the essence of cronyism.

Many businesses with unpopular products or inefficient production find it much easier to curry the favor of a few influential politicians or a government agency than to compete in the open market.

After all, the government can literally guarantee customers and profitability by mandating the use of certain products, subsidizing production or providing protection from more efficient competitors.

Cronyism enables favored companies to reap huge financial rewards, leaving the rest of us — customers and competitors alike — worse off.

One obvious example of this involves wind farms. Most cannot turn a profit without the costly subsidies the government provides. Meanwhile, consumers and taxpayers are forced to pay an average of five times more for wind-generated electricity.

We see far too many legislative proposals that would subsidize one form of energy over another, penalize certain emissions from one industry but not another, or place protective tariffs that hurt consumers.

Legacies
Karl Marx famously said: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

The result of this approach is not equality, but rather a lowering of everyone’s standards to some minimal level.

Some people worry about the disparity of wealth in a system of economic freedom. What they don’t realize is that the same disparity exists in the least-free countries.

The difference is who is better off.

Under economic freedom, it is the people who do the best job of producing products and services that make people’s lives better.

On the other hand, in a system without economic freedom, the wealthiest are the tyrants who make people’s lives miserable.

As a result of this, the income of the poorest in the least-free countries is one-tenth of what it is in the freest.

Elected officials are often asked what they would like as their legacy. I’m never going to run for office, but I can tell you how I would answer that question.

I want my legacy to be greater freedom, greater prosperity and a better way of life for my family, our employees and all Americans. And I wish the same for every nation on earth.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday May 17, 2012

Watchdog reporter at Pachyderm. This Friday (May 18th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … The club has an exceptional lineup of future speakers as follows: On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.” … On June 1st: Gary Oborny, Chairman/CEO Occidental Management and Real Estate Development, CCIM Designated member of the Storm Water Advisory Board to the City of Wichita, speaking on “What is the economic impact of EPA mandates on storm water quality in Wichita?”

Kansas senators vote for cronyism. Veronique de Rugy explains the harm of the Export-Import Bank of the United States in Why Would Anyone be Against the Export-Import Bank? “First, the Ex-Im Bank is nothing more than corporate welfare. This is an agency that is in the business of subsidizing private companies with taxpayer dollars. … An excellent paper by Cato Institute’s trade analyst Sallie James exposes just how unseemly, inefficient, and irrelevant the Export-Import Bank is. As James explains, the Bank not only picks winners and losers by guaranteeing the loans of private companies, but it also introduces unfair competition for all the U.S. firms that do not benefit from such special treatment.” The bill is H.R. 2072: Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012. Both Kansas senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts voted for this bill. So did U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder of the Kansas third district. But Representatives Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins, and Mike Pompeo voted against it.

Koch = big oil? Politico: “The Koch brothers have an unlikely ally in the war of words with their liberal adversaries: the nation’s journalistic fact-checkers. Both The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog and the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org have dinged critics of David and Charles Koch in recent weeks for referring to the billionaire brothers as Big Oil. Why? Because Koch Industries’ business interests extend well beyond the company’s involvement in petroleum refining and other oil-based operations. And while no corporate midget, the company isn’t anywhere near as big as true oil giants like ExxonMobil. ‘So even if all of Koch Industries’ revenues came from its refining business — which they do not — they would still be a fraction of the revenues of the companies that actually represent ‘Big Oil,” the FactCheck.org critique read.” More at Fact-checkers and Kochs’ ‘Big Oil’. Another example of how facts don’t get in the way of Koch critics. Or try For New York Times, facts about Kochs don’t matter.

Economic freedom. Why does the political left criticize Charles and David Koch? In the following video from last year, Koch Industries CEO and board chairman Charles G. Koch explains the principles of economic freedom, something that he and David Koch have worked to advance for many years. These principles, according to Koch, include private property rights, impartial rule of law, free trade, sound money which reduces boom and bust cycles, and a small and limited government. These principles are good for everyone, I should add, including those currently at the bottom of the economic ladder.

We aren’t Greece … yet. “Once again, Greece finds the international community questioning its ability to pay its debts. Default and an exit from the Euro Zone (or countries which share the Euro as a common currency) threatens on the horizon. Here in the U.S., we face high debts and have a lowered credit rating due to Washington’s inability to agree on deficit reduction. Just how alike are our two nations?” An infographic from Bankrupting America explains.

Bankrupting America

For Koch critics, facts aren’t part of the equation

A Saturday op-ed in the Lawrence Journal-World begins with: “What is it, or why is it, that the name Koch, particularly here in Lawrence and Kansas, seems to trigger such angry, passionate and negative responses from a certain segment of the community, particularly among some at Kansas University?”

It’s a good question. When people insert themselves into politics, there will be debate and criticism. I don’t think Charles and David Koch expect a free pass. But some of the online comments written in reaction to this op-ed show, however, that facts and reason won’t stand in the way of those who use demonization of Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, principals of Wichita-based Koch Industries, to advance their political agendas.

Simons’ op-ed is generally accurate in its depiction of Charles and David Koch, although the company says Koch has not contributed to FreedomWorks, as is reported. But the reader comments — that’s where things really go off the mark.

Here’s a comment that is representative of many: “They would use their wealth to suppress innovation and competition. It’s another case of ‘I’ve got mine, and I want to make sure you don’t get yours.’ Why don’t they set up a loan company to encourage small businesses? Why don’t they hire more workers and give their present workers more benefits? Instead they want to buy the government, so they can control things instead of empowering others.”

As to suppressing innovation and competition: For decades the Kochs have supported free markets and competition through capitalism, which are the engines of innovation, not barriers. Last year Charles Koch, in the Wall Street Journal, strongly advocated for capitalism over cronyism. On the relationship between government and business, he wrote that too many business firms have practiced “crony capitalism”: lobbying for special favors, subsidies, and regulations to keep competitors — who may be more efficient — out of the way.

While it’s more difficult than practicing cronyism, competing in open markets assures that firms that efficiently provide goods and services that consumers demand are the companies that thrive, Koch added. It is these efficient firms that raise our standard of living. When politically-favored firms are propped up and bailed out, our economy is weakened: “Subsidizing inefficient jobs is costly, wastes resources, and weakens our economy.”

In the introduction to The Morality of Capitalism, Tom G. Palmer explains further how genuine capitalism is a system of innovation and creativity:

The term ‘capitalism’ refers not just to markets for the exchange of goods and services, which have existed since time immemorial, but to the system of innovation, wealth creation, and social change that has brought to billions of people prosperity that was unimaginable to earlier generations of human beings. Capitalism refers to a legal, social, economic, and cultural system that embraces equality of rights and ‘careers open to talent’ and that energizes decentralized innovation and processes of trial and error. … Capitalist culture celebrates the entrepreneur, the scientist, the risk-taker, the innovator, the creator. … Far from being an amoral arena for the clash of interests, as capitalism is often portrayed by those who seek to undermine or destroy it, capitalist interaction is highly structured by ethical norms and rules. Indeed, capitalism rests on a rejection of the ethics of loot and grab. … Capitalism puts human creativity to the service of humanity by respecting and encouraging entrepreneurial innovation, that elusive factor that explains the difference between the way we live now and how generation after generation after generation of our ancestors lived prior to the nineteenth century.

The charge of “I’ve got mine, and I want to make sure you don’t get yours” is often leveled against the wealthy, and for some, that may drive their policies. It’s important to know, though, that the policies of economic freedom that the Kochs have promoted are more important to poor people than the wealthy. A glance at the Economic Freedom of the World reports confirms what history has taught us: Countries with market-based and free, or relatively free, economies become wealthy. Poor countries generally do not have market-based economies and therefore little economic freedom, although the ruling class usually lives well.

There is concern that economic freedom is on the decline in America, and that our future is threatened by this.

When the writer asks “Why don’t they set up a loan company to encourage small businesses?” I wold refer them to Koch Ventures and Koch Genesis, two companies that do this.

Finally — for this writer — comes the allegation that Charles and David Koch want to buy government “so they can control things instead of empowering others.” This charge is not supported by facts and what the Kochs have actually done for decades. Institutions founded or supported by the Kochs such as Cato Institute, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and Americans for Prosperity Foundation are dedicated to limited government and personal liberty. This, along with their support of capitalism — which, as Palmer explained above, leads to freedom, creativity, and individual empowerment for everyone.

Another comment contained “In their ‘ideal’ libertarian world they could do what they want and pollute whenever they want.” This is yet another ridiculous charge.

A statement on the KochFacts website states “recent critics have also claimed that Koch is one of the nation’s top 10 polluters. This study confuses pollution with permitted emissions, which are carefully regulated by the U.S. EPA and other agencies. The index labels as ‘polluters’ Ford Motor, General Motors, GE, Pfizer, Eastman Kodak, Sony, Honeywell, Berkshire Hathaway, Kimberly Clark, Anheuser Busch and Goodyear — corporations, like Koch companies, with significant manufacturing in the U.S. Emissions, a necessary by-product of manufacturing, are strictly monitored and legally permitted by federal, state and local governments.”

Wait a minute: Didn’t the federal government take over General Motors? And GE and Berkshire Hathaway: Aren’t those run by personal friends of Barack Obama?

The reality is that if we want the things these companies make for us, we must accept some emissions — pollution, if you will. The good news, however, is that manufacturing has become much more efficient with regards to emissions, and Koch Industries companies have lead the way. One report from the company illustrates such progress: “Over the last three years, Koch Carbon has spent $10 million to enhance environmental performance, including $5 million for dust abatement at one of its petroleum coke handling facilities. These investments have paid off. In 2008, Koch Carbon’s reportable emissions were 6.5 percent less than in 2000, while throughput increased 10.4 percent.”

Even when Koch Industries does not agree with the need for specific regulations, the company, nonetheless, complies. Writing about an increase in regulation in the 2007 book The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company, Charles Koch explained the importance of regulatory compliance: “This reality required is to make a cultural change. We needed to be uncompromising, to expect 100 percent of our employees to comply 100 percent of the time with complex and ever-changing government mandates. Striving to comply with every law does not mean agreeing with every law. But, even when faced with laws we think are counter-productive, we must first comply. Only then, from a credible position, can we enter into a dialogue with regulatory agencies to determine alternatives that are more beneficial. If these efforts fail, we can then join with others in using education and/or political efforts to change the law.”

Koch companies have taken leadership roles in environmental compliance, explains another KochFacts page: “In 2000, EPA recognized Koch Petroleum Group for being ‘the first petroleum company to step forward’ to reach a comprehensive Clean Air Act agreement involving EPA and state regulatory agencies in Minnesota and Texas. Despite fundamental policy disagreements, then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner acknowledged Koch’s cooperation. She characterized the agreement as ‘innovative and comprehensive’ and praised the ‘unprecedented cooperation’ of Koch in stepping forward ahead of its industry peers.” Browner was no friend of industry, and had a “record as a strict enforcer of environmental laws during the Clinton years,” according to the New York Times.

These types of facts are not relevant to many of those who left comments to the Journal-World piece. To the political left, the facts must not be allowed get in the way of a useful political narrative.

Koch Industries and Koch brothers are assets to state

By Dolph C. Simons, Jr., Lawrence Journal-World.

What is it, or why is it, that the name Koch, particularly here in Lawrence and Kansas, seems to trigger such angry, passionate and negative responses from a certain segment of the community, particularly among some at Kansas University?

… The answer to the question at the beginning of this column is that the Kochs are conservatives, some would say “ultra conservatives.” They support organizations such as the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. Their critics have been quick to try to fault them for supposedly funneling money to the tea party movement. Some say the brothers have given more than $100 million to these conservative organizations.

Charles and David Koch have been the lightning rods for liberal, anti-conservative forces in this country, and it is that likely liberal-leaning faculty members and administrators at KU, as well as at many other universities, have been critical of the Kochs in order to keep peace with their staffs.

The sad, phony or hard-to-understand part of this situation is that the two Koch brothers attribute the success of their family-owned business to the guiding principles espoused by their market-based management philosophy.

… Charles and David Koch have championed limited government, economic freedom and personal liberty and they have challenged excessive government spending. Their financial giving efforts — political and charitable, both personal and through their company and foundations — all have been lawful.

This being the case, it would seem KU officials, as well as other state officials, should be trying to work with Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch and their foundations on ways to benefit the university and the state. They should be trying to embrace the Kochs rather than acting as if they were pariahs.

Continue reading at Koch Industries and Koch brothers are assets to state.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday March 30, 2012

Lee Fang: wrong again. “At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27, 2012, when most civic-minded Americans were focused on the historic Supreme Court oral arguments about Obamacare, Lee Fang, a left-wing blogger for the liberal Republic Report blog, was posting yet another diatribe attacking Charles and David Koch. As usual, Fang’s piece stretches, distorts, ignores and misstates the facts.” So starts Cleta Mitchell writing in the Daily Caller piece Who’s paying Lee Fang and other left-wing bloggers to attack the Kochs? Readers should not be surprised that Fang is wrong again — it’s become his calling card. The political left doesn’t care, as long as Fang keeps up his attack on Charles and David Koch. Concludes Mitchell: “Fang, of course, gets away with making completely false statements because he sprinkles the Koch name as a negative modifier for every other noun in his blog, and the apparent rule is that there is no concern for facts or truth when a liberal attacks the Kochs. After reading Fang’s drivel, glancing at the Republic Report and United Republic websites and reading about their mission of getting money out of politics and exposing truth and corruption and all of that, here’s my question: Where do these sites get their money? And why don’t they publicly disclose their donors? Fang’s post and these projects are simply part of the massively well-funded liberal attack machine that is designed to vilify the Kochs and intimidate prospective conservative donors into staying on the sidelines. Indeed, Fang is hoping to intimidate all donors to conservative causes and organizations. … Whenever conservatives demonstrate the will and the resources to fight liberal orthodoxy, liberals become hysterical. The left tolerates diversity except when it comes to diversity of opinion. These ongoing attacks on the Kochs are outrageous and won’t stop until liberals have cut off conservative groups’ funding and silenced conservative voices. That isn’t likely to happen.”

Action on sustainability. Next week the Sedgwick County Commission takes up the issue of whether to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. Coverage of the last discussion the commission had on this matter is at Sedgwick County considers a planning grant. So that citizens may be informed on this issue, Americans for Prosperity, Kansas is holding an informational event on Monday April 2, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Spangles Restaurant, corner of Kellogg and Broadway. (Uh-oh. If the Kansas Jayhawks make it to the NCAA basketball title game, the television broadcast starts at 8:00 pm.) The meeting is described as follows: “On April 4, 2012 at 9:00 am on the 3rd floor of the Sedgwick County Courthouse, the Sedgwick County Commission will be holding a public hearing to consider approval of Sedgwick County’s participation as the fiscal agent on behalf of the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Consortium with an ‘in-kind’ commitment of $120,707 to implement a Regional Plan for Sustainable Communities Grant for South Central Kansas. Public comment will be invited. Learn about the Sustainable Communities Plan for South Central Kansas. Find out how you can get involved in this issue as a citizen. Consider testifying before the County Commission. Consider attending the Commission meeting as an interested citizen.” … For more information on this event contact John Todd at [email protected] or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at [email protected] or 316-681-4415.

Economic fascism. From Independent Institute: “On Friday, March 16, President Obama signed an executive order on national defense that amends and updates the executive branch’s sweeping powers over energy, transportation, human resources, and raw materials. ‘It shows plainly that private control of economic life in the United States, to the extent that it survives, exists solely at the president’s pleasure and sufferance,’ writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs. ‘Whenever he chooses to put into effect a full-fledged operational fascist economy, controlled from his office, he has the statutory power to do so; all he has to do is to murmur the words ‘national defense’ and give the order.’ … Obama’s executive order sets no new precedent, Higgs notes. It’s just the latest in a string of edicts authorizing central economic planning that dates back at least to the Defense Production Act of 1950, a wartime statute that was never repealed after its passage during the Korean War. It’s also a classic example of how wars create new government powers that don’t go away after peace resumes.”

Immigration. From LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies: “Is it true that immigration raises the U.S. unemployment rate? Is it true that immigration affects U.S. income distribution? The conventional wisdom says that both of these things are true. However, economist Antony Davies says there is evidence to suggest that they are not. Looking at the data, there is no relationship between the rate of immigration and the unemployment rate, nor is there a relationship between the rate of immigration and income inequality. Further, there is evidence to suggest that immigrants actually create more American jobs.”

Left-wing sincerity exposed

It’s often alleged by the political left that conservative and libertarian activists are nothing more than Astroturf, meaning false or fake grassroots activism. The charge is that the activists are duped into — or paid for — engaging in political activism. Which makes the following video from the Koch Industries Koch Facts site all the more interesting. Here’s the description of the video on YouTube:

“Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation is paying people like Jesse Lava to make harassing phone calls to Koch Industries as part of their ‘Koch Brothers Exposed’ propaganda videos. But when he fails to properly hang up the phone, Jesse’s true character is revealed.”

It’s worth clicking below to view this video that’s one and one-quarter minutes in length:

Obama fundraising on anti-Koch obsession

Are Americans tired of hearing that this year’s election is all about an obsession with defeating President Barack Obama? For those who know that Obama took a bad economic situation and implemented policies that made it worse — yes, we want to defeat the current president. The president’s election campaign, however, turns that concern for the future of our country into “obsession” and uses it to raise money. As is often the case, the target of a recent fundraising letter is Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, who are principals of Wichita-based Koch Industries. While the letter attacks the Kochs for “jacking up prices at the pump” the real reason why liberals don’t care for them is for their unwavering support for the causes of economic freedom, free markets, and limited government that Charles and David Koch have advocated for very many years.

By the way, I’ve never heard an answer to this question: If oil companies have the power to “jack up” gasoline prices, why do they let the price go down, as it often does? And why is the price not higher than it is?

Fortunately for America, the Koch brothers and Koch Industries do not back down from these attacks. Following, the company responds.

Mr. Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Dear Mr. Messina:

Because every American has the right to take part in the public discourse on matters that affect the future of our country, I feel compelled to respond directly about a fundraising letter you sent out on February 24 denouncing Koch. It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters.

For example, it is false that our “business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump.” Our business vision begins and ends with value creation — real, long-term value for customers and for society. We own no gasoline stations and the part of our business you allude to, oil and gas refining, actually lowers the price of gasoline by increasing supply. Either you simply misunderstand the way commodities markets work or you are misleading your supporters and the rest of the American people.

Contrary to your assertion that we have “committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama,” we havestated publicly and repeatedly since last November that we have never made any such claim or pledge. It is hard to imagine that the campaign is unaware of our publicly stated position on that point. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity is not simply “funded by the Koch brothers,” as you state — rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life. Further, our opposition to this President’s policies is not based on partisan politics but on principles. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market for over 50 years and they have consistently opposed policies that frustrate or subvert free markets, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was President.

f the President’s campaign has some principled disagreement with the arguments we are making publicly about the staggering debt the President and previous administrations have imposed on the country, the regulations that are stifling business growth and innovation, the increasing intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of American life, we would be eager to hear them. But it is an abuse of the President’s position and does a disservice to our nation for the President and his campaign to criticize private citizens simply for the act of engaging in their constitutional right of free speech about important matters of public policy. The implication in that sort of attack is obvious: dare to criticize the President’s policies and you will be singled out and personally maligned by the President and his campaign in an effort to chill free speech and squelch dissent.

This is not the first time that the President and his Administration have engaged in this sort of disturbing behavior. As far back as August, 2010, Austan Goolsbee, then the President’s chief economic advisor, made public comments concerning Koch’s tax status and falsely stated that the company did not pay income tax, which triggered a federal investigation into Mr. Goolsbee’s conduct that potentially implicated federal law against improper disclosure of taxpayer information. Last June, your colleagues sent fundraising letters disparaging us as “plotting oil men” bent on “misleading people” with “disinformation” in order to “smear” the President’s record. Those accusations were baseless and were made at the very same time the president was publicly calling for a more “civil conversation” in the country.

It is understandable that the President and his campaign may be “tired of hearing” that many Americans would rather not see the president re-elected. However, the inference is that you would prefer that citizens who disagree with the President and his policies refrain from voicing their own viewpoint. Clearly, that’s not the way a free society should operate.

We agree with the President that civil discourse is an American strength. That is why it is troubling to see a national political campaign apparently target individual citizens and private companies for some perceived political advantage. I also hope the President will reflect on how the approach the campaign is using is at odds with our national values and the constitutional right to free speech.

Sincerely,
Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

This letter was originally published at KochFacts.com.

‘Occupy Koch town’ ignores the facts

By Melissa Cohlmia. A version of this appeared in the Wichita Eagle.

I’ve lived in Wichita nearly all my life and know what a welcoming community this is. But with protesters arriving here this week to “speak out” against my employer, Koch Industries, it’s unlikely the red carpet will be rolled out for them given their unfounded attacks and nasty resentment of this company.

The protesters are occupying “Koch Town” because, in their own words, they want to tell our shareholders, “No Keystone XL Pipeline.” If that is their goal, the protesters have the wrong address, like so many who perpetuate the false claim that Koch is behind the Keystone XL Pipeline project. For the record, one more time, we are not.

Protesting Koch means protesting the livelihoods of 2,700 Kansans and 50,000 Americans who are employed by Koch companies. In these tough economic times, these jobs have provided our employees financial security during the recession and ensuing painful, slow recovery. Koch companies employ tens of thousands in manufacturing products Americans want and need — things like fiber for carpeting, clothing and air bags; building and consumer products; and petroleum-based products and building-block chemicals that make our lives better and provide much-needed energy. These are the kinds of jobs that create a robust manufacturing sector, which America needs in order to stay competitive.

Protesting Koch also means protesting the many ways Koch companies and our employees contribute to the community. As the protesters visit our city, we invite them to take notice of the Koch Orangutan Exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo or the Koch Habitat Hall at Great Plains Nature Center. If they prefer something less wild, they can visit the Koch Aquatic Center at the YMCA. Or if they want to see something more creative, they could spend time at the Koch Family Sculpture Garden at the Wichita Center for the Arts. Maybe they could bowl a few frames for the Koch-sponsored “Bowl for Kids’ Sake” event to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.

I am proud to work for Koch. As director of corporate communication, I’ve read and heard much about this company and its shareholders that is dishonest, distorted and derogatory. And while we continue to try to bat down the falsehoods, as quickly as we quash one, another rears its ugly head. As Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

I ran my own small business and experienced the ups and downs that come with breaking out on my own. I met demands from customers, made profit, and put it toward my family and the causes I believed in. When I decided to join Koch, it was in part because of the values of this company – honesty, integrity, respect, a focus on real value creation. I saw that I could participate in an enterprise that was hard at work improving people’s lives on a larger scale. Since coming to Koch, I have never been asked to veer from these values.

So, protesters, as you visit Wichita, you’ll notice we’re friendly, patriotic, and proud of our work ethic and community spirit. We won’t shout back unless it’s at a basketball game at Wichita State’s Charles Koch Arena. And we’re proud of Koch Industries and our fellow employees because this company makes a positive difference in our lives and our community.

Melissa Cohlmia is director of corporate communication for Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC and a Wichitan.

Occupy Koch Town protestors ignore facts

Below, Paul Soutar of Kansas Watchdog provides more evidence that the campaign against Wichita-based Koch Industries regarding their alleged involvement in the Keystone XL pipeline is not based on facts. Besides this article, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita has also written on this issue in The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators.

Another inconvenient fact is that if the Canadian oil is not sold to the U.S., it will be sold to and consumed in China. If we are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change, it should be noted that it doesn’t matter where the greenhouse gases are produced. The effect is worldwide. But as we know, the radical environmental movement cares nothing for facts in their war on capitalism and human progress.

Facts Refute Environmentalist Claims About Keystone XL Pipeline

By Paul Soutar. Originally published at Kansas Watchdog.

Protesters are gathering on the Wichita State University campus this weekend for a Sierra Club-sponsored Occupy Koch Town protest against the Keystone XL oil pipeline and Koch Industries, Inc. Koch and its subsidiaries are involved in a wide array of manufacturing, trading and investments including petroleum refining and distribution.

Many Keystone XL opponents have focused on Koch, claiming its Flint Hills Resources Canada subsidiary’s status as an intervener in the regulatory approval process in Canada proves Koch is a party to the pipeline project. Keystone XL would carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to the U.S. Gulf coast.

In a Jan. 25 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, California U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-District 30, demanded that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, or a representative of Koch Industries appear before the committee to explain their involvement in the pipeline.

Philip Ellender, president of Koch Cos. Public Sector, which encompasses legal, communication, community relations and government relations, responded to Waxman on a Koch Industries website:

Koch has consistently and repeatedly stated (including here, here, here, and here) that we have no financial interest whatsoever in the Keystone pipeline. In addition, this fact has been verified by TransCanada’s CEO here.

Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, owner and builder of the Keystone pipelines, addressed criticism of the pipeline and supposed collusion with the Koch brothers in a Nov. 1 conference call to discuss TransCanada’s earnings. “I can tell you that Koch (Industries Inc.) isn’t a shipper and I’ve never met the Koch brothers before.”A March 2010 document from Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approving the pipeline does not mention Koch or its subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources Canada, on any of its 168 pages.

The report does note that on June 16, 2009, TransCanada Corporation became the sole owner of the Keystone Pipeline System, acquiring ConocoPhillips’ interest in the pipeline.

A map of the existing Keystone and planned Keystone XL pipelines shows that Koch’s two refineries in the 48 contiguous states at Pine Bend, Minn., and Corpus Christi, Texas, are not on or near the pipeline routes. Koch also has a refinery in North Pole, Alaska.

Koch does have substantial interests in Canadian oil though, including the thick oil sands mined in Alberta. Those interests are precisely why Flint Hills Resources Canada requested intervener status in the pipeline approval process in 2009.

Flint Hills’ application to Canada’s National Energy Board for intervener status said, “Flint Hills Resources Canada LP is among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters, coordinating supply for its refinery in Pine Bend, Minnesota. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application.”

Critics have claimed that statement is a smoking gun proving Koch is a party to the pipeline or will benefit from its construction.

Greg Stringham, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) vice president of markets and oil sands, told KansasWatchdog, “Their intervention itself is not a trigger that says aha, they have a commercial interest or are a shipper on this pipeline.”

The US Legal, Inc. definitions website says an intervener is, “A party who does not have a substantial and direct interest but has clearly ascertainable interests and perspectives essential to a judicial determination and whose standing has been granted by the court for all or a portion of the proceedings.”

US Legal, Inc. provides free legal information, legal forms and help with finding an attorney for the stated purpose of breaking down barriers to legal information.

Stringham said anyone — business, organization or individual — can be an intervener in NEB regulatory proceedings as long as they can show some potential impact, good or bad, from the proposed action. “Then they make a decision whether they’re going to actively engage through evidence and cross examination or whether they’re just there for interest, to get materials and monitor the situation.”

Market interest

Like Koch, Stringham said CAPP is an intervener in the pipeline approval process, because the pipeline will have a direct impact on the Canadian oil market. Stringham said:

The fact that it’s an intervention for interest does not mean that there is a financial ownership or shipping interest. It’s really to make sure that they understand what’s going on in the process and that they have some connection to the project that can be either positive and beneficiary or potentially negative to them. That’s why I believe Koch has intervened in this process.

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, Inc.; Marathon Oil Corp. and Britain’s oil giant BP are also among the 29 interveners in the pipeline application. So is the environmental activist organization Sierra Club.

Keystone XL would compete with the Enbridge pipeline that carries the thick bitumen oil from Hardisty, Alberta, for delivery to Koch’s Pine Bend, Minn., refinery. If supplies prove insufficient for both pipelines, Stringham said, Koch could be at a competitive disadvantage since it is not a shipper on the Keystone pipelines.

The National Energy Board’s approval document noted:

Keystone XL shippers have indicated that they are seeking competitive alternatives, and by providing access to a new market, Keystone XL would be expanding shipper choice. The Board places considerable weight on the fact that Keystone XL shippers have made a market decision to enter into long-term shipping arrangements negotiated through a transparent competitive process. New pipelines connecting producing regions with consuming regions change market dynamics in ways that cannot easily be predicted.

Political motivation

On Feb.10, 2011 Reuters published an Inside Climate News article that started the Koch-Keystone explosion. The third paragraph put a political spin on the Koch claims.

What’s been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline, however, is the prospect that if President Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, highlighted the political dimension of attacks on the Kochs and recent attempts to compel their testimony before Congress.

When Joseph McCarthy engaged in comparable bullying, oppression and slander from his powerful position in the Senate, he was censured by his colleagues and died in disgrace. “McCarthyism,” defined by Webster’s as the “use of unfair investigative and accusatory methods to suppress opposition,” will forever be synonymous with un-Americanism.

In this country, we regard the use of official power to oppress or intimidate private citizens as a despicable abuse of authority and entirely alien to our system of a government of laws. The architects of our Constitution meticulously erected a system of separated powers, and checks and balances, precisely in order to inhibit the exercise of tyrannical power by governmental officials.

Market and environmental realities

Canada produces about 2.7 million barrels of oil per day with about 1.6 million going to the United States. “About a million of that comes from the oil sands,” Stringham said. “All of that moves through the existing pipeline systems.”

Two Kansas refineries, the Holly Frontier refinery in El Dorado and National Cooperative Refinery Association’s facility in McPherson, refine Canadian oil, including from oil sands, delivered over existing pipelines.

With or without the Keystone XL, oil from Canada’s oil sands will continue to go to markets, according to Stringham. “We have been investigating a number of alternatives. Keystone XL clearly is the most direct route to get to the gulf coast and that’s why the market really spoke up and said this is what we want,” he said.

In a 2010 op-ed in the National Journal, Charles T. Drevna, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, presciently said, “Canada’s leaders have made clear that if the U.S. won’t buy their oil, they won’t abandon development of their oil sands. Instead, they have said they will ship Canadian oil across the Pacific to China and other Asian nations. That will result in America having to import more oil from other countries. Sending Canadian oil to Asia would actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2010 study by Barr Engineering.”

The Barr study, Low Carbon Fuel Standard “Crude Shuffle” Greenhouse Gas Impacts Analysis (pdf), concluded that transporting oil to Asia for refining would mean not just a lost opportunity for the U.S., but increased greenhouse gas emissions because of transportation by ship instead of by pipeline and less stringent refinery emission standards.

TransCanada has said it will continue to seek approval of the Keystone XL and work is proceeding on alternatives to Keystone XL, Stringham said. “There are other pipeline routes being investigated by Enbridge and BP and a number of others as well to move this oil,” he said.

He said Canada’s oil market is looking at diverse opportunities beyond the United States. “We are looking to the West Coast, which could move it on to tankers. We looked at Asia, it is one of the options, but once it gets to the West Coast, it can also move to the California market,” he said.

Stringham said a proposal for Enbridge to build a pipeline carrying oil to the West Coast has more than 4,000 interveners.

Occupy Koch Town promotional materials say they’ll also protest against the Kansas Policy Institute. KPI helped launch KansasWatchdog.org in 2009 but is no longer affiliated with this site.

The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators

The following article by U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, including the Wichita metropolitan area, explains — yet again — how ridiculous it is for President Barack Obama and others to attack Wichita-based Koch Industries on the Keystone XL pipeline issue. Pompeo explains that Koch has no financial interest in the pipeline, what “intervenor” status means, and who really stands to benefit if the pipeline is not built. Pompeo hints at who it is, but I’ll be more direct: Warren Buffet. A news article that explains how Warren will personally benefit from blocking the Keystone XL pipeline is Buffett’s Burlington Northern Among Pipeline Winners.

The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo

The President and his allies, including those in Congress, have shown what a nasty, personal, and abusive re-election campaign we are about to experience. A recent sideshow in my committee in Congress provides yet another clear and shocking example.

A recent letter from Representatives Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush, both Democrats, demanded a live witness and testimony from “a representative of Koch Industries” at a hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline, scheduled to be held just two days later. The frivolous nature of the request is proven by that plainly unreasonable deadline. But the partisan tactics go far beyond that.

Even if Koch Industries had a financial interest in the Keystone XL pipeline, what possibly could be wrong with that? Perhaps more importantly, under what circumstances would such an interest be worthy of a congressional inquisition? Charles Koch and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries, are citizens, taxpayers, entrepreneurs, and employers. Their companies employ nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. alone. The company maintains its headquarters in the district I represent, employing 2,600 great Kansans. The company and its employees are among the most hard-working and generous in our community. The company has never been bailed out by the American taxpayers. And given that Americans are desperate for jobs, we should be begging entrepreneurs to look for new opportunities, not attacking them simply because their companies might make a profit.

The facts are clear: Koch Industries does not have a financial stake in the pipeline — why, therefore, should its officials become part of the all-too-familiar congressional committee circus? The facts are straightforward and a matter of public record. Koch Industries has repeatedly stated that it does not have a financial stake in the pipeline: It does not own the pipeline, it has no role in the pipeline’s design, it is not one of the shippers who have signed contracts to use the pipeline, and it will not build the pipeline.

Democrats dug deep for some excuse to attempt to haul Koch officials in for a public flogging. What did they find? A 2009 attempt by a Koch subsidiary to obtain “intervenor” status in a Canadian legal proceeding, in order to track the approval process for the pipeline. Wishing to know the fate of the pipeline, and having an interest in whether or not the pipeline is built — as thousands of frustrated American workers and consumers do — obviously does not amount to a financial interest in the pipeline’s construction. Indeed, the Sierra Club of Canada applied to “intervene” in the same proceeding. Notably, no one has alleged that Congress should investigate the Sierra Club’s interest in the pipeline project. So the “intervenor” ploy is a patent sham, and provides no basis for harassing Koch Industries.

It is also difficult to believe that Members of Congress really think that a particular company’s asserted financial interest in a project is, or should be, relevant to the merits of that project. It becomes still harder to believe, given the decision to target only Koch Industries and the Kochs — and no other company or individual. Doubtless many companies and individuals stand to benefit, or to be harmed, depending on whether President Obama’s decision to delay the pipeline is allowed to stand. News accounts have mentioned a number of those who might reap financial windfalls from the pipeline’s demise, including at least one of President Obama’s most prominent supporters and donors. (Hint: His secretary was the President’s highly visible prop at the State of the Union address.) But two congressmen directed their attention exclusively toward the Kochs, who — as successful businessmen and outspoken critics of the President’s job-killing, statist programs — have been targets for the Administration and its allies for many months.

Indeed, the very first line of President Obama’s very first campaign advertisement for the 2012 election attacks the Koch brothers. And liberal blogs and publications have published countless slanted pieces on Koch Industries, heavy on innuendo and light on facts. The Obama Administration has long been criticized for maintaining a de facto “enemies list” of its perceived political opponents, whether they are respected Supreme Court Justices, disfavored reporters, or private citizens who just want to keep their own doctors. The Democrats’ obsession with the Kochs as a political target is, indeed, additional evidence of a truly Nixonian approach to politics. That the Obama Administration and its allies use private citizens as symbols to be attacked and vilified is both unfair and deeply threatening to our civic life and the rule of law.

America deserves better from its elected officials. To be sure, the serious challenges facing the country often generate heated discussion and disagreement. But there is no justification for Democrats who want to haul American citizens before Congress for the exclusive purpose of political abuse. Congressional hearings should not be hijacked by naked political opportunism; legitimate business creators should not be vilified; and Congress should focus on the many policy questions before it, rather than wasting time in an illegitimate pursuit of the Administration’s perceived “enemies.”

Mr. Pompeo represents the Fourth Congressional District of Kansas. He serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the Subcommittee on Energy and Power. A version of this article appeared at Politico.

On Charles and David Koch, Obama channels Nixon

“Richard Nixon maintained an ‘enemies list’ that singled out private citizens for investigation and abuse by agencies of government, including the Internal Revenue Service. When that was revealed, the press and public were outraged. That conduct will forever remain one of the indelible stains on Nixon’s presidency and legacy.”

Now President Barack Obama is running the same type of campaign against Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, who are principals of Wichita-based Koch Industries.

This is the conclusion of Theodore B. Olson, former solicitor general of the United States. He presently represents Koch Industries. His op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal (Obama’s Enemies List) lays out the harmful effects of the president’s campaign against Charles and David Koch.

Olson calls for all Americans to respond and oppose the president’s actions, writing “Whoever may be the victim of such abuse of governmental authority, the press and public almost invariably unify with indignation against it. If a journalist, labor-union leader or community organizer on the left can be targeted today, an academic or business person on the right can be the target tomorrow. If we fail to stand up against oppression from one direction, we abdicate the moral authority to challenge it when it comes from another.”

Why is Obama so opposed to Charles and David Koch? For one thing, they run a successful business that provides over 50,000 private-sector jobs. For some reason, that goes against the president’s grain. He’d rather have 50,000 government jobs, or at least jobs in corporations that cower in response to his bullying tactics. The Kochs, thankfully, don’t.

Another reason must be the unwavering support for the causes of economic freedom, free markets, and limited government that Charles and David Koch have advocated for over four decades. See Charles G. Koch: Why Koch Industries is speaking out.

Obama’s Enemies List

David and Charles Koch have been the targets of a campaign of vituperation and assault, choreographed from the very top.
By Theodore B. Olson

How would you feel if aides to the president of the United States singled you out by name for attack, and if you were featured prominently in the president’s re-election campaign as an enemy of the people?

What would you do if the White House engaged in derogatory speculative innuendo about the integrity of your tax returns? Suppose also that the president’s surrogates and allies in the media regularly attacked you, sullied your reputation and questioned your integrity. On top of all of that, what if a leading member of the president’s party in Congress demanded your appearance before a congressional committee this week so that you could be interrogated about the Keystone XL oil pipeline project in which you have repeatedly — and accurately — stated that you have no involvement?

Consider that all this is happening because you have been selected as an attractive political punching bag by the president’s re-election team. This is precisely what has happened to Charles and David Koch, even though they are private citizens, and neither is a candidate for the president’s or anyone else’s office.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal (subscription not required).

For Koch Industries, New York Times’ vendetta is never-ending

For those who pay attention, it is astonishing to witness the non-stop, over-the-top efforts of liberal mainstream media like the New York Times to discredit Wichita-based Koch Industries and its principals Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch. They have been non-stop advocates for limited government, free markets, and economic freedom for many years, and this is something the political left just can’t stand. Following is a letter from Melissa Cohlmia of Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC to Arthur S. Brisbane, the Times’ public editor, or readers’ representative. The letter was originally published at KochFacts.com.

Mr. Arthur Brisbane
Public Editor
New York Times

Dear Mr. Brisbane:

We have been observing coverage about us in the Times over the last year that appears in many cases driven by a political agenda and in others so gratuitous that it stretches the bounds of newsworthiness to absurd lengths. You will recall that we brought a number of these specifics to your attention last April and May. Since that time, there have been more than 50 articles in the paper critical of Koch (zero that are positive) written by some 41 different Times authors. You were gracious to offer a continued dialogue on the matter and two such pieces that appeared over the weekend prompt us to reach out again.

The first, by art critic Anthony Tommasini, complained about our support for the arts, compared us to the deposed King Ludwig of 19th-Century Bavaria and the Renaissance Medicis and therefore urged that the situation “would seem to make the performing arts a natural focus for the Occupy activists.”

The second piece, appearing in the “Ethicist” column by Ariel Kaminer, applauded a reader for keeping her granddaughter away from a performance of “The Nutcracker” because we donated to the production. “Tolerance has its limits” Ms. Kaminer explained, and “Tchaikovsky makes strange bedfellows.”

In other words, Times writers apparently must perform contortions so bent-over-backward that it involves medieval references and politicizing children’s Christmas ballets, all to squeeze a disparagement about Koch into their copy. My question to you is: if the paper is going to be indulging a hostile approach that is this far-fetched, then don’t we deserve some explanation from editors for the sheer frequency and the underlying purpose?

Readers themselves might wonder if they’ll soon read moral circumspection about the many performing arts or left-leaning institutions supported by the Sulzberger family, which owns the paper. Doubtful, it would seem. (And never mind at all the Sulzberger family’s role in building the New York Stock Exchange, stifling the Times’ unions, giving golden parachutes to underperforming executives, and other such activity the paper lately characterizes as “the one percent”).

When we last interacted, you explained that we could “expect the Times to continue to cover Kochs’ activities rather closely, as your organizations’ activities have acquired quite a high profile.” I’m troubled that this is a kind of circular logic — the Times is covering Koch because Koch is being covered — and tells readers little about the thinking and motives of the Times’ apparent fixation with us.

Let me reiterate that these are far from the only such examples. In October, a Times dining critic commenting about what protestors prefer to eat wrote, “Unlike the Tea Party, funded as it is by wealthy reactionaries like the Koch Brothers, ‘Occupy’ is sustained by energy, frustration … pizza and apples paid for by supporters or donated by farmers.” In November, one of your columnists denounced where we choose to live, saying, “even when oligarchs clearly get their income from heartland, red-state sources, where do they live? OK, one of the Koch brothers still lives in Wichita; but the other lives in New York.” And though the group Americans for Prosperity has tens of thousands of members, supporters, and co-founders, it is routinely described specifically as a project of ours.

As one of your predecessors once pointed out, the Times is a liberal newspaper. We understand that and have been documenting the often irrational and cynical ways in which left-wing groups have targeted us. But if the Times is going to take part in that bandwagon and go to lengths so far afield from legitimate news coverage, then it ought to have the integrity to acknowledge it.

We would be grateful if you could look into the examples we’ve cited and the larger point. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday December 9, 2011

Ethanol subsidy. According to Wichita Eagle reporting, the head of an ethanol trade group says the subsidy for ethanol will likely disappear after January 1, but the change might be good for the industry. It has to do with image, said the speaker. The subsidy the speaker mentioned is in the form of a tax credit, and is one of the programs that would be eliminated by proposed legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo of Wichita. His bill would end tax credits for all forms of energy. … The production tax credit is just one of three government interventions that benefit ethanol. Besides the tax credit, we should also ask for the end of mandates for ethanol use, and an end to the tariff on imported ethanol. We also need to ask for the end of interventions aimed at benefiting the cellulosic ethanol industry, like the $132.4 million loan guarantee for such a plant in Kansas.

Cronyist Warren Buffet. “Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings company has agreed to buy a giant, 550-megawatt photovoltaic farm currently under construction in San Luis Obispo County for $2 billion, giving a huge boost to the solar industry that could spur investment by other major players.” Concludes John Hinderaker of Powerline Blog: “Meanwhile, I am warming up to the idea that Warren Buffett should pay more in taxes. I would settle for just getting his federal subsidies back.” More at Crony Capitalism, Episode #…What Are We Up To Now?

Natural gas subsidies for Pickens. While on the topic of energy and harmful subsidies, Timothy P. Carney of the Washington Examiner provides an update on H.R. 1380: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011, or NATGAS act. The bill provides a variety of subsidies, implemented through tax credits, to producers and users of natural gas. The goal is to promote the use of natural gas as the fuel the nation uses for transportation. … Carney explains the personal financial of the bill’s backer, energy investor T. Boone Pickens. He holds options on 15 million shares of a company known as Clean Energy Fuels. These options expire on December 28th, and their value would skyrocket if the NATGAS bill can pass by then. … Carney notes the opposition to this bill from Wichita-based Koch Industries. As a large producer of fertilizer, the price of a key input — natural gas — would likely increase if NATGAS passes. But we all ought to worry about increases in the price of fertilizer, which would like lead to higher grocery prices. These price increases harm low income families hardest.

Planning grant to be topic of meeting. On Monday December 12th Americans for Prosperity Foundation will feature Sedgwick County Commission Member Richard Ranzau speaking on the topic “The $1.5 million dollar Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) HUD Sustainable Development Planning Grant: Economic Development or Economic Destruction?” Some background on this item may be found at Sedgwick County considers a planning grant. This free event is from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. For more information on this event contact John Todd at [email protected] or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at [email protected] or 316-681-4415.

Tilting at wind turbines. “Switching from conventional sources of electricity like coal and natural gas to renewables like wind and solar, our elected leaders tell us, will reduce pollution, advance renewable technology and spark a green jobs revolution. Is renewable energy really a green pathway to a brighter economic future? Or is it nothing more than a heavily subsidized impossible dream?” Reason TV takes a look at wind energy in the video Tilting at Wind Turbines: Should the Government Subsidize Renewable Energy? Locally, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer promotes manufacturing of wind power machinery as good for Wichita’s economic development, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback supports renewable energy standards for Kansas.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday November 23, 2011

Standing up for fundamental liberties. A particularly troubling objection that those who advocate for liberty face is that we want to deny freedom and liberty to others — as if the quantity of liberty is fixed, and I can have more only if you have less. This is the type of false accusation that leftists make against Wichita-based Koch Industries. In this excerpt from the company’s Koch Facts page, the work that Koch does to advance liberty for everyone is explained: “Throughout Koch’s long-standing record of public advocacy, we have been strong and steadfast supporters of individual liberties and freedoms. These values permeate all that we do as a company and every part of our public outreach. We help fund public and school-based educational programs across the country in an effort to increase citizens’ understanding of the relationship between economic liberty and democracy. We support voter registration efforts in the communities where we live and work, and for our tens of thousands of employees. We support civil rights programs through numerous organizations. We also help build entrepreneurial initiatives that foster the fundamental reality that economic freedom creates prosperity for everyone, especially the poor, in our society. … For many years, we have directly contributed to Urban League, Andrew Young Foundation, Martin Luther King Center, Latin American Association, 100 Black Men, Morehouse College, United Negro College Fund, and dozens of other worthy organizations pursuing similar civic missions. We founded and continue to support Youth Entrepreneurs in schools throughout Kansas, Missouri and Atlanta. This year-long course teaches high school students from all walks of life the business and entrepreneurial skills needed to help them prosper and become contributing members of society. … Many of the attacks against Koch in recent months are cynical posturing at best and deliberate falsehoods divorced from reality at worst. For proof, look no further than the false claim from groups like SEIU that we are somehow trying to suppress the right to vote. … Our freedom as individual Americans relies on the ability to hold the government accountable through the direct exercise of voting rights and the exercise of other individual liberties. We are unwavering in our commitment to these rights and we stand firmly behind our track record in defending them.”

Private property saved the Pilgrims. At Thanksgiving time, the Economic Freedom Project reminds us how an early American experiment with socialism failed miserably, and how private property rights and free enterprise saved the day. See So, Is That My Corn or Yours?

Did Grover Norquist derail the Supercommittee? To hear some analysts, you’d think that Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is responsible for no deal emerging from the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Supercommittee”). It’s ATR’s pledge to not increase taxes that is blamed, so they say. All members of the Kansas Congressional Delegation except Kevin Yoder signed the pledge. Paul Jacob is thankful for Norquist and that a tax increase was averted.

Drive-through petition signing. From Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: The Wichita area chapter of the free-market grassroots group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and other local groups have been working to collect signatures for a petition to put the hotel guest tax ordinance to a public vote. Volunteers will be collecting signatures this weekend during a “drive-thru” petition signing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at two Wichita hotels. Wichita activists are continuing their efforts to collect signatures for a petition to put the hotel guest tax ordinance to a public vote. Registered voters simply drive up to the listed locations and volunteers will bring a petition out to them. The times are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Friday and Saturday (Nov. 25 and 26), and 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm Sunday (Nov. 27). The locations are Wichita Inn East (8220 E. Kellogg Dr.) and Best Western Airport Inn (6815 W. Kellogg/US-54).

Job creation. Governments often fall prey to the job creation trap — that the goal of economic development is to create jobs. We say this today in Wichita where several labor union leaders appeared before the Sedgwick County Commission to encourage the county to grant a subsidy to Bombardier Learjet. The labor leaders, naturally, pleaded for jobs. To them, and to most of our political and bureaucratic leaders, the more jobs created, the better. Our business leaders don’t do any better understanding the difference between capitalism and business. In his introduction to the recently-published book The Morality of Capitalism, Tom G. Palmer writes: “Capitalism is not just about building stuff , in the way that socialist dictators used to exhort their slaves to ‘Build the Future!’ Capitalism is about creating value, not merely working hard or making sacrifices or being busy. Those who fail to understand capitalism are quick to support ‘job creation’ programs to create work. They have misunderstood the point of work, much less the point of capitalism. In a much-quoted story, the economist Milton Friedman was shown the construction on a massive new canal in Asia. When he noted that it was odd that the workers were moving huge amounts of earth and rock with small shovels, rather than earth moving equipment, he was told ‘You don’t understand; this is a jobs program.’ His response: ‘Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If you’re seeking to create jobs, why didn’t you issue them spoons, rather than shovels?” … After describing crony capitalism — the type practiced in Wichita, Sedgwick County, and Kansas, with deals like the complete funding by taxpayers of the Bombardier LearJet facility, Palmer explains: “Such corrupt cronyism shouldn’t be confused with ‘free-market capitalism,’ which refers to a system of production and exchange that is based on the rule of law, on equality of rights for all, on the freedom to choose, on the freedom to trade, on the freedom to innovate, on the guiding discipline of profits and losses, and on the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, of one’s savings, of one’s investments, without fearing confiscation or restriction from those who have invested, not in production of wealth, but in political power.”

Experts. David Freedman and John Stossel discuss experts, our reliance on them, the political advocacy that’s often involved, and how often experts are wrong.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 31, 2011

Wichita City Council. The Wichita City Council this week considers two items of interest. Spirit AeroSystems will ask for $15 million in IRBs. Spirit will purchase the bonds itself. It will receive a property tax exemption for ten years and exemption from sales tax. No dollar amount is given for the value of the exemptions. … Then, Southfork Investment LLC, a group headed by Jay Maxwell, is asking for the formation of a new tax increment financing (TIF) district. This item, if the council approves, will set December 6 as the date for a public hearing. The vote to form the district would be taken then. … According to city documents, the project is near 47th Street South and I-135. It is planned for 50 acres and one million square feet of retail, hotel, restaurants and office space. For comparison, Towne East Square has slightly less than 1.2 million square feet of space. There will be a medical park on an additional 22 acres. … It appears that all the TIF financing will be pay-as-you go, which is a recent revision to the Kansas TIF law. No bonds would be sold. Instead, the increment in property tax would be refunded to the developer as it is paid. There’s also a joining of TIF and special assessments, where TIF revenue will be used to pay special assessment taxes. … Only a simply majority vote is needed to form the TIF district after the December 6 public hearing. There will have to be redevelopment plans approved after that, and those require a two-thirds majority. Sedgwick County and USD 259, the Wichita public school district each may pass ordinances objecting to the formation of the district. Sedgwick County did that regarding the Save-A-Lot TIF last year, and that project went ahead, despite the claims of the developer that TIF was necessary. USD 259 Superintendent John Allison has recently stated that the school district would not be participating in the formation of TIF districts in the future, as they lose revenue. This will be the first test of that. In 2008 John Todd and I testified that the district should not agree to the formation of a TIF district because of the lost revenue. Officials assured us that the Kansas school finance formula held them harmless, and it didn’t matter if a TIF district was formed. … There will also be a community improvement district (CID) with an additional sales tax of one cent per dollar. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

Crony capitalism. The Occupy Wall Street protests, as well as the group that protested against Koch Industries on Saturday, seem to be opposed to capitalism. Their efforts would be better directed against business specifically, or crony capitalism in particular. There’s a huge difference. Capitalism is a system of absolute respect for property rights and free exchange in free markets. As Tom G. Palmer wrote in his introduction to the recently-published book The Morality of Capitalism, “Indeed, capitalism rests on a rejection of the ethics of loot and grab.” … As for free markets and enterprise Milton Friedman explained that business is not always in favor: “The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.” Even one liberal New York Times columnist realizes this, as did Nicholas D. Kristof when he recently wrote “But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.” Kristof goes on to explain that capitalism means the freedom to fail as well as succeed: “Capitalism is so successful an economic system partly because of an internal discipline that allows for loss and even bankruptcy. It’s the possibility of failure that creates the opportunity for triumph. Yet many of America’s major banks are too big to fail, so they can privatize profits while socializing risk.” … While most want more regulation on Wall Street and banks, I think that it’s impossible for government to write effective regulations. Instead, markets — if allowed to work — provide the most effective regulation: if you fail, you fail. It’s as simple as that. But George W. Bush gave a bailout, and Barack Obama has followed along. The Dodd-Frank banking regulations, for example, make “too big to fail” an explicit policy.

Kansas pensions. Do we know the true magnitude of Kansas’ unfunded pension problem? Do we want to know? Perhaps not, writes Paul Soutar at Kansas Watchdog: “Even though taxpayers in the rest of America eventually may find out what public pensions really cost them, Kansas school accounting practices and the way school retirement is funded may let school districts avoid reporting the true cost of district employee pensions. Some estimates show the unfunded actuarial liability of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System will more than double from its current official $8.3 billion based on optimistic assumptions to more than $20 billion using the more realistic calculations.” The full story is School Districts May Get to Dodge Accounting Rules on Pensions . … State Budget Solutions, in a recent report (Report reveals aggregate state debt exceeds $4 trillion) made similar findings, writing that our unfunded pension liability is $21.8 billion, well over twice as high as the numbers used by most official sources. The difference: “The AEI figures estimate how large public pension liabilities would be if states used private sector market-valuation methods.” In other words, the real world.

Global economics to be discussed in Wichita. This week’s meeting (November 4th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Chris Spencer, Vice President, Regional Sales Manager Oppenheimer Funds, speaking on “Goliath vs Goliath — The global battle of economic superpowers.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club Upcoming speakers: On November 11th: Sedgwick County Commission Members Richard Ranzau and Jim Skelton, speaking on “What its like to be a new member of the Sedgwick County Board of County commissioners?” … On November 18th: Delores Craig-Moreland, Ph.D., Wichita State University, speaking on “Systemic reasons why our country has one of the highest jail and prison incarceration rates in the world? Are all criminals created equal?” … On November 25th there will be no meeting.

Progress, or not. Today’s Wichita Eagle carries a letter that laments the jobs lost due to self-serve checkout lanes, online bill payment, online banking, and online reservation services. Concluding, the letter asks readers to “consider how many jobs could be saved if all of us stopped demanding immediate service or answers.” This reminded me of a recent column by Donald J. Boudreaux, commenting on similar remarks by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). He wrote: “Fred Barnes reports in the Weekly Standard that you refuse to use computerized checkout lanes at supermarkets (“Boneheaded Economics,” Oct. 24). As you — who are described on your website as ‘progressive’ — explain, ‘I refuse to do that. I know that’s a job or two or three that’s gone.’ Overlooking the fact that you overlook the lower prices on groceries made possible by this labor-saving technology, I’ve some questions for you: Do you also avoid using computerized (‘automatic’) elevators, riding only in those few that still use manual elevator operators? Do you steer clear of newer automobiles equipped with technologies that enable them to go for 100,000 miles before needing a tune-up? I’m sure I can find for you, say, a 1972 Chevy Vega that will oblige you to employ countless mechanics. Do you shun tubeless steel-belted radial tires on your car — you know, the kind that go flat far less often than do old-fashioned tires? No telling how many tire-repairing jobs have been destroyed by modern technology-infused tires. Do you and your family refuse flu shots in order to increase your chances of requiring the services of nurses and M.D.s — and, if the economy gets lucky and you and yours get seriously ill, also of hospital orderlies and administrators? Someone as aware as you are of the full ramifications of your consumption choices surely takes account of the ill effects that flu shots have on the jobs of health-care providers. You must, indeed, be distressed as you observe the appalling amount of labor-saving technologies in use throughout our economy. It is, alas, a disturbing trend that has been around for quite some time — since, really, the invention of the spear which destroyed the jobs of some hunters.”

Business and politics. We often hear that government should be run like a business. But the two institutions are entirely different, explains Burton Folsom: “The differences between business and politics, however, is where our focus needs to be. In business, you hire people with your profits to make and sell your product. With those jobs, your employees earn money, spend money, and thereby create other jobs by their demand for houses, cars, iPhones, and household products. Wealth expands, new entrepreneurs get new ideas for products to make, and, if society is free, it becomes prosperous. In politics, you do hire people to run your campaigns and your administration once you’re in office; you do sometimes dole out jobs to build highways, snoop on business, or run the IRS. But almost all of those jobs require other people’s money (i.e. tax dollars) to continue. They take money out of the economy. For example, the jobs created by the Justice Department to check on the trading practices of corporations, the jobs created by the agriculture department to interact with farmers, or the thousands of jobs created to bring trillions of tax dollars each year to Washington are all jobs that take wealth out of the private sector. Looked at this way, the jobs created in business are the productive jobs, the ones that create wealth and give us the thousands of choices we enjoy in breakfast cereal, cars, clothes, and houses. By contrast, each job created in the political class subtracts a job that could be continued or created in the private sector.” … More at The Difference between Business and Politics.

The politically-motivated attack on Koch Industries

Investor’s Business Daily and The Atlantic have provided more context to the politically-motivated article in Bloomberg Markets criticizing Wichita-based Koch Industries. We find that the more scrutiny the Bloomberg article receives, the worse it looks.

The Investor’s op-ed makes the observation that anyone who reads the article must come to: “Indeed, throughout the entire story you find the Kochs taking steps to bring corporate behavior back in line, not only with the law but with their own stringent ethical standards.”

Later, the authors point out the politics behind the attack on Koch: “The long hit piece, as Daniel Indiviglio writes in the Atlantic, managed to find ‘eight instances of alleged misconduct by a giant multinational over the span of 63 years.’ In nearly every case, Koch itself took steps to correct the problems. Putting it in context, Indiviglio then Google-searched a comparable company, finding eight serious instances of misconduct — we’re talking fines and settlements for fraud and bribery — over 11 years. That company would be GE, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt heads President Obama’s jobs council and seems to see regulation as opportunities for businesses to profit. We await that Bloomberg investigation.”

In his piece for The Atlantic, Indiviglio writes: “According to Bloomberg, 14 reporters around the globe worked for six months on the story. What did they turn up? Really, shockingly little. And what’s worse: from the very outset, the reporters’ bias against the Koch brothers is utterly clear.”

On the bias and lack of context, he writes: “To further attempt to sway the reader before explaining the facts, the reporters reveal the following fact that someone not familiar with politics and lobbying might find shocking: ‘Koch Industries has spent more than $50 million to lobby in Washington since 2006.’ My reaction to reading this was, ‘$50 million? That’s it?’ That might sound like a lot, but let’s compare that to, say, General Electric. Over the same period, GE has spent more than $136 million lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

After running through the eight issues in the Bloomberg piece, Indiviglio concludes: “Obviously, Koch Industries did make mistakes. It likely regrets those mistakes: the penalties, fines, and lawsuits that resulted cost the firm many millions of dollars. This is more a problem with big multinational corporations than a problem specific to Koch, however. When you’ve got subsidiaries around the world, strong, flawless oversight is difficult and very expensive.”

Underlying this article (and others like it) and its criticism is the advocacy of Charles Koch and David Koch for free markets and economic freedom — something the political left is opposed to.

But it’s not only the political left — liberals and progressives — that oppose the positions that Charles and David Koch advocate. Much of the business community, like General Electric, thrive on the crony capitalism the Kochs oppose, and have opposed for many years. As Charles Koch wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal: “Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay. Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.”