Tucson-based civil rights attorney Stacy Scheff believes that Westin Kierland may have violated federal constitutional law when they threw a journalist (and paid guest) out into the dead of night--due to the simple fact that the journalist evicted had written critically of (and was not liked by) the organization hosting a conference at the hotel. (A new story about these events is available here).
"Energy Citizens," a front group backed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), has launched a new national ad campaign in advance of the 2012 elections to try and make it sound like substantial public support exists for increased oil and gas drilling known as fracking. The print and TV ads, coordinated by the Edelman PR firm, are titled "I'm an Energy Voter." They feature supposedly average people looking into the camera and saying "I vote ...for American domestic energy" and promoting the industry's goals of opening up more land to drilling. The ads link increasing drilling to job creation, economic prosperity and national energy security. (PRWatch has previously reported how, in fact, the increased fracking for "natural" methane gas has actually led to dramatically increased exporting of America's natural gas.) The industry's ad also drives viewers to the website "Vote4Energy.org." The homepage of the website give no indication that Energy Citizens is a creation of the oil industry, as CMD has previously reported. API CEO Jack Gerard insists the effort is "not an ad campaign...It's a conversation with the American people." But when API put out a casting call to recruit volunteers to star in the commercial, a Greenpeace activist showed up. When he started to read his lines, he veered off-script and decried the "lies and influence peddling" of the oil industry and he was quickly shown the door.
Thousands of Indiana workers rallied outside, and inside, their state capitol on Wednesday to speak out against Governor Mitch Daniels' renewed effort to force through so-called "right to work" legislation designed to undermine labor unions and workers' rights protected by collective bargaining.
The Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, the National Wildlife Federation and ForestEthics have joined together to run an ad (pdf) to raise awareness changes proposed to green building standards by the U.S. Green Building Council that would hinder the trend toward sustainable building construction. Since 2000, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building certification system has helped drive commercial and residential builders towards using more sustainable building and development practices. Under the LEED system, builders are rewarded with points for using green building techniques and materials, including sustainably-forested wood products, which often cost more. But changes the organization is proposing to the LEED system would erode those guidelines by rewarding builders who use wood logged from rainforests or other areas that have been devastated by clearcutting. Under the new changes, all wood would be considered good for use in construction as long as it was logged legally, without regard to forestry technique or location. This subtle but important change would hand big logging companies a victory by weakening demand for sustainably-raised forest products and encouraging builders to ignore the impacts of industrial-scale, clear-cut logging -- the very practices the LEED system was design to reduce.
A prominent global warming skeptic funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation has publicly reversed himself and now agrees with the vast majority of mainstream climate scientists who conclude Earth's temperature really is quickly rising. Richard Muller, a physicist and well known climate skeptic, did his own research and calculated that the land is now 1.6 degrees warmer than it was in the 1950s -- figures that match those produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). Billionaire Charles G. Koch, founder of the Charles G. Koch Foundation, is a well-known funder of global warming skeptics. Together with his billionaire brother, David, the Kochs own the country's largest, privately-held energy company, Koch Industries, which produces significant greenhouse gases and fights efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. Koch Industries has long worked to undermine environmental protections and protect corporate polluters. Koch Industries is also a long-time member and funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit group that helps corporate representatives draft and advance "model" bills that benefit their bottom line, and get the bills into the hands of legislators who introduce them in state houses as though they were their own ideas. ALEC also provides corporate-drafted "model" resolutions legislators can introduce that are aimed at thwarting efforts to address climate change.
A lobbyist for Koch Industries and energy interests serves with a lobbyist for Pfizer pharmaceuticals as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate co-chairs in Wisconsin, according to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy at this year's ALEC Annual Meeting. For some, their fundraising for "scholarships" to benefit ALEC legislative members raises issues of legislative ethics.
The dangers posed by the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" to the nation's water supply and human health are slowly becoming a part of the mainstream dialogue. The 2010 documentary Gasland has played a key role in raising public awareness. Now the director of the film, Josh Fox, has won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Washington, D.C.-based pro-drilling front group, the Institute for 21st Century Energy, has spawned yet another front group of its own to push for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would expand an existing oil pipeline to carry crude oil from the Athabasca Tar Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the American midwest and on to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Chamber set up its new sub-front group, the Partnership to Fuel America, in Nebraska to address growing opposition to the pipeline in that state. Nebraska's conservative Republican Governor, Dave Heineman, came out against the project, since 254 miles of the proposed pipeline would run through Nebraska and overlie the Ogallala Aquifer -- a crucial source of water for the state. A Minnesota-based lobbying firm called Public Affairs Company set up the Partnership for Fuel America, and a Minneapolis-based Republican consultant named Stacy Thompson runs the astroturf group. Among the businesses the group lists as "partners" are some that give the group a down-to-earth, grassroots feel, like "Phil's Farm Repair," "Rowdy's Steakhouse" and "Pizza Etc." One of the proposed pipeline's major beneficiaries would be Koch Industries, which is responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil from tar sands imported into the U.S. Koch Industries also owns Koch Exploration Canada, L.P., an oil sands-focused exploration company based in Calgary that acquires, develops and trades petroleum properties.
By Will Vickery
By John Aloysius Farrell, Ben Wieder and Evan Bush
The Center for Media and Democracy is re-posting this article from John Aloysius Farrell, Ben Wieder, and Evan Bush at iWatch News, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, as part of our effort to track Koch Industries and ALEC via our ALECexposed.org project and to expose corporate spin. The original can be found here. For more, see Farrell's April 2011 article "Koch's web of influence" and Cole Goins' August 2011 article "What's it like living near a chemical plant?," both also on iWatch. To find out about chemical plants near you, download the spreadsheet of data gathered from the risk management plans that Koch files with the EPA.