Lesser-known Koch brother pours money into super PACs

Source: E&E • Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013

Billionaire William Koch, brother to Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries Inc., was once known as the politically moderate member of his family. But as the Obama administration attempts to tackle climate change, Koch has changed his tune.

Koch, the owner of Oxbow Carbon LLC, has denounced global warming and alternative energy investments. His brothers are known for their backing of politically active nonprofits, but he’s chosen a different route: giving millions of dollars from his firms’ corporate treasuries to super PACs, a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

Last year, Oxbow — a holding company with natural gas, coal, petroleum coke and sulfur interests — contributed more than any other company to Republican super PACs, amounting to $4.35 million. Much of that went to Restore Our Future, the main super PAC behind Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“Energy companies see a threat to their bottom line, and they are taking action,” political analyst Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said. “Whatever way they can influence the process, that’s what they’re going to do.”

The company’s lobbying expenses are both at all-time highs. Oxbow’s Washington, D.C., office is run by Karen Knutson, former deputy director of Dick Cheney’s energy task force during the George W. Bush administration and former chief of staff to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Last year, the company spent $1.6 million on lobbying, up from $510,000 in 2011 and $30,000 in 2009. Just this year, Oxbow has spent $620,000 on lobbying Congress and the Interior Department on issues such as a land swap in the Rocky Mountains and greenhouse gas regulations.

Donations from Koch’s traditional PAC are also at a record level for the company. While Oxbow Carbon LLC does not sponsor a PAC, Oxbow Carbon and Minerals LLC has had one since 2007. In the 2012 election cycle, the PAC gave $112,000 to candidates and committees, more than twice the amount it gave in 2010 and about seven times as much as in 2008 (Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity, Aug. 13).