In "Koch Brothers Exposed," director Robert Greenwald shines a penetrating light on the way in which billionaire businessmen brothers Dave and Charles Koch have used their money to impose their conservative agenda. The Koch Brothers own the second largest corporate empire in the United States, worth $100 billion with enterprises in oil, gas, forestry, plastic, and consumer goods.
The Koch brothers have financed a web of right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute, which promote the brothers' views in the media. Among other things, these organizations advocate raising the retirement age to 70, privatizing Social Security and reducing taxes for the wealthy.
As critics point out, they advocate positions that are based on misinformation such as that social security is nearly bankrupt. In fact, social security is running a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders. These right wing think tanks create "an echo chamber that repeats a lot of this false information," Sanders says. Koch-backed politicians in Congress and the Senate reiterate the lies. (Review continues after trailer.)
Dave and Charles Koch have bankrolled state and federal politicians who work to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulations and help them reduce or evade fines. They have given over $500,000 to members sitting on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in charge of environmental and pollution regulations.
"From the Koch brothers point of view, you try and buy yourself a Congress who has single handily tried to eviscerate government environmental regulations across the board", states Rep. Gerald Connelly of Virginia.
Koch Industries are the tenth largest polluters in the U.S. Over the years, they have paid tens of millions of dollars in fines for emitting pollution and allowing oil spills. They want to build the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline to bring dirty tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada to Texas where it can be refined and exported.
Environmentalist Bill Mckibben dubs the Koch brothers "carbon barons."
The documentary takes you to the small community of Crossett, Ark., where a large Koch paper plant that spews toxic chemicals into local creeks has led to many cancer deaths. One mother, tears streaming down her face, recounts how her 36-year-old daughter, who had never smoked, died of lung cancer.
"The Koch brothers have not only manipulated the political process, but have manipulated the public into believing that the EPA is killing jobs," claims Texas Environmental Criminologist Melissa Jarrell. She cites one high profile case in Corpus Christi, in 2000 where a Koch-owned refinery was convicted of releasing excess Benzine into the air and then trying to cover it up. Benzine increases the risks of getting cancer.
Former President George W. Bush worked with the Koch brothers to reduce the severity of the charge and the fines, from $350 million to $20 million.
"They know they can get away with it. They will only wait and be fined if they ever get caught. In most cases they won't get caught because the EPA is understaffed and underfunded," Jarrell laments.
The brothers have also financially backed voter suppression efforts in 34 states, which have introduced tough new voter identification laws that make it more difficult for students, the disabled and elderly, Latinos and Blacks to vote.
To pressure public officials, the Koch brothers formed "Americans for Prosperity" in 34 states, which organizes public demonstrations that push for less government regulation and fewer government programs, including the repeal of "Obamacare". They also support think tanks that promote the privatization of the education system.
According to Nation editor Katrina Vanden Huevel, the brothers provide grants to universities that require them to hire professors the Koch brothers recommend. The brothers have agreements with 150 universities and colleges. In North Carolina's Wake County, they even funded groups that tried to reintroduce segregation in the public school system.
The Koch brothers have been behind the Republican war against public sector unions in Wisconsin and other states. The brothers first sent emissaries to Republican Governor Scott Walker to urge him to attack public sector unions in Wisconsin. The Koch brothers then donated money to the Governor and had Americans for Prosperity run TV attack ads against public sector unions.
Greenwald suggests that father Fred, who made his money working with the Soviet oil industry in the 1930s, molded his two sons. Fred Koch was an ardent supporter and big financial backer of the John Birch Society that fought against civil rights for blacks during the 1950s and 60s.
Greenwald's well-crafted documentary exposing the shenanigans of Dave and Charles Koch is a muckraking tour de force that takes no prisoners. Every union, left wing party, church group and community group concerned with social justice in the U.S. should screen Koch Brothers Exposed.
"Koch Brothers Exposed"
Directed by Robert Greenwald
Producer: Brave New Foundation
2012, 55 mins.