If you really want to influence politics, it's not enough to fund think-tankers and build a network of media buddies. You also need some friends in high places. The brothers Koch know that better than anyone, and they've spent big on the members of Congress who will craft energy policy for the next two years.
The Los Angeles Times has a piece today looking at the election expenditures that the Kochs' Kansas-based oil and gas conglomerate and its Political Action Committee have made in recent years. As it turns out, much of the money has gone to Republican candidates (and a few Democrats) who now hold prime seats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This election cycle, Koch passed Exxon and Valero as the largest oil and gas sector donor to current members of the committee. The Kochs and their employees gave $279,500 to 22 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats on the committee during the 2010 election cycle. Of the five Democrats that Koch PAC supported in 2010, three voted against the cap and trade bill in 2009—John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike Ross of Arkansas. From the article:
Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity—to oppose the Obama administration's proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group's separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.
Many of the committee-members the Kochs have supported are leading the efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the new chairman of the panel, was one of the biggest recipients of donations from Koch employees, at $20,000. Upton used to be a moderate on climate and energy, and once even supported the principle of cutting emissions, but took a giant leap back on the issue amidst a contentious race for the top spot on the panel. In late December, Upton coauthored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with AFP head Tim Phillips stating that they are "not convinced" that greenhouse gas emissions are a problem that needs to be dealt with. Last week, Upton released a bill that he wrote with the Senate's biggest climate skeptic, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), that would permanently bar the EPA from regulating planet-warming emissions.
It's also worth noting that the network of Koch associates is also influential when it comes to funding candidates. The forthcoming Greenpeace report I noted last week also found that the members of the guest list for last year's Koch strategy confab have contributed more than $61 million to federal campaigns since 1990.
The LAT piece has more on the ties between the Kochs and the candidates they have supported. It is worth checking out.