Under the Influence: Money and Power in Politics

Green vs. Greenbacks: Sierra Club Takes on Koch Industries

(Image courtesy of the Sierra Club)The Sierra Club, the oldest and largest grassroots environmental group in the United States, has launched a social media campaign targeting Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the nation according to a 2010 Forbes ranking.

In an effort to increase public awareness of what it alleges are environmental transgressions by the industrial giant, the organization has called on its 1.4 million members to take to social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook to express their sentiments and "dislike" Koch Industries.

"The Kochs have a lot of money, which they are using to try and buy our government and undermine common sense protection of clean air and water," said Rachele Huennekens, a Grassroots Media Coordinator for the Sierra Club. "We can't match them in terms of resources, so we have to turn to the passion of our supporters."

Attacks on owners David and Charles Koch have accelerated recently as the brothers have emerged as one of the chief funding sources for the conservative right.

According to Opensecrets.org, Koch Industries' political action committee, KOCHPAC, gave well over $2.5 million in political contributions in 2010. The Sierra Club spent a little more than $275,000 during the same period.

Flint Hills Resources, a Koch Industries subsidiary, donated $1 million to the campaign for Proposition 23, a ballot initiative that, had it passed, would have suspended the state's Global Warming Act of 2006.

Koch Industries' questionable environmental record has been the subject of extensive media coverage lately. The New Yorker ran a profile piece on the Koch brothers ahead of the elections last November. The story details how

...from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.

In late January, more than 1,000 people protested the "Billionaire's Caucus," a political strategy meeting organized by the Kochs in Rancho Mirage. The protest, put on as part of the "Uncloak the Kochs" campaign organized by environmentalists, labor union members, and other activists, resulted in the arrests of 25 protesters.

The website for the Sierra Club's campaign, which launched in late January, includes several "Dislike" buttons, each describing an ugly "fact" about the energy conglomerate that users can post directly to their Facebook accounts.

Representatives of Koch industries could not be reached for comment. However, the company's website states that "Koch companies work to not only meet but exceed environmental requirements."

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