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Koch Empire, Fossil Industry Winning Bigly Under Trump

While America’s ship of state appears adrift in so very many ways, one part of Donald Trump’s agenda—a part with two very keen, deep-pocketed backers—has been “plowing ahead” at full speed, National Observer Editor-in-Chief Linda Solomon Wood notes in a recent post.

“Capitol Hill is a mess, the international scene is a disaster, but one sector is winning bigly,” Wood notes: “Fossil fuels.” And billionaire oil brothers Charles and David Koch “have been popping champagne.”

While Trump may have failed in another of the rock-ribbed libertarian siblings’ goals of repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), his underlings have been “scything down the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental regulations,” she writes.

The rules the administration has been dropping, relaxing, and declining to enforce “may have been ones that most people had never heard of, but they were critically important even if they couldn’t garner page clicks.”

And Trump has provided plenty of distraction, with antics such as his gratuitous provocation of North Korea’s nuclear-armed autocrat Kim Jong-un. “With two unstable rulers hovering their fingers so close over the button, who could focus more than a nanosecond on the death of rules that had prevented America from becoming a toxic sewer, or reduced corruption in U.S. energy deals?”

As Wood recalls, the Koch brothers initially opposed the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump. But they came around after he won first the nomination, and then the presidency. Since then, they have leveraged his lack of preparation to install favoured figures throughout the administration. “The vacuum in Trump not having his own network,” Wood observes, “is filled by people who’ve been cultivated for years by the Koch network.”  

Citing USA Today, she writes that the brothers’ network—”among the most influential in conservative politics”—has operations in 36 states, its own grassroots arm, and “for-profit data and marketing branches.” Its estimated 550 ultra-wealthy donors in addition to the Kochs are expected to spend US$300 to $400 million on lobbying and political support in advance of the 2018 mid-term elections.

“And in case you think this is an American problem that doesn’t affect Canada,” Wood warns, “the Kochtopus tentacles have been up north for years, ranking among the largest foreign oilsands leaseholders in Alberta. They have been funders of the Fraser Institute think tank, and the author of Ethical Oil and founder of Rebel Media, Ezra Levant, worked at the Charles G. Koch Foundation.”

She adds that “Canada’s porous border with the U.S. seems a small impediment should they turn their sights on our regulatory system.”