April 12, 2018

As Pompeo Rounds Out Koch Administration, Perils for Climate Change

As Mike Pompeo faces the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today in his hearing to be Secretary of State, there are numerous reasons to oppose his confirmation: his seeming enthusiasm for military conflict with Iran and North Korea, his blatant promotion of Islamophobia, his support for waterboarding of prisoners, his hostility to LGBT rights, his opposition to reproductive rights, his false assertion last fall that the intelligence community had found that “Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election,” his sycophantic flattery of the erratic and incompetent Donald Trump.

But perhaps less appreciated is the fact that Pompeo, currently the CIA director, is largely a creature of the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers, and shares, among other dangerous policy views, their determination to block measures to curb climate change and toxic pollution. Although Trump’s first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was previously the CEO of ExxonMobil, he had enough sense to support the Paris climate agreement, a modest measure aimed at stemming global warming. If Pompeo is confirmed, he will round out a wholesale takeover of the Trump administration by the Kochs, putting the earth’s environment in even greater peril.

Key Koch operatives already wield enormous power as top aides to Trump. The influential White House legislative director, Marc Short, is a former top Koch aide; until early 2016, he ran Freedom Partners, a Koch-created political donor network. Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn provided legal services to Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, and other Koch groups while he worked at the law firm Jones Day. White House advisor Kellyanne Conway also consulted for Koch groups before joining Trump’s team. Top White House energy aide Mike Catanzaro was previously a lobbyist for a range of oil and gas companies, including Koch Industries. 

Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote speaker at the Koch brothers’ policy and political strategy meeting last fall in Manhattan.

And Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who, before becoming famous for his atrocious spending of taxpayer dollars on his own comfort and luxury, was known for his affiliation with Koch-backed groups and, at EPA, for implementing the Trump Administration’s wholesale turnover of environment and energy policy to the Kochs and others in the fossil fuel and chemical industries. By rolling back environmental regulations, the politically ambitious Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are giving Koch Industries and their fossil fuel allies everything they want(Samantha Dravis, who recently resigned as a top aide to Pruitt, also previously worked for Freedom Partners.)

But Mike Pompeo, before any of those others, could say about himself, We are Koch.

While representing Kansas’s 4th congressional district — the home of Koch Industries — in the House, Pompeo’s extensive financial and political ties to brothers David and Charles Koch gained him the nickname “the congressman from Koch.”

Koch Industries was an investor in Thayer Holdings, the business that Pompeo co-founded in 1997 and built before running for Congress in 2010.

In 2014, Koch Industries supported Congressman Pompeo in a hotly-contested GOP primary contest. For the 2014 election cycle, Koch Industries was Pompeo’s top donor by far, with $104,400 in individual donations, plus the maximum $10,000 contribution from the Koch political action committee. Pompeo ended up the all-time top recipient of Koch Industries campaign cash.

Koch Industries has been the most fervent, big-spending lobbyist against improved chemical plant safety, and Pompeo, while in Congress, repeatedly worked to block chemical safety measures — even though the danger of chemical plant explosions, from accident, natural disaster, or terrorism, is a critical national security issue.

Pompeo also has a long record of denying the risks of climate change, opposing measures to curb the threat, and resisting alternative energy sources. Asked about climate change during a C-SPAN appearance in 2013, Pompeo said, “There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.” In 2015, he described President Obama’s participation in the Paris climate talks as a move “to bow down to radical environmentalists” and “handcuff the global economy.”

During his 2017 confirmation hearing to be CIA director, rebuffed questions about climate change, stating he that he “prefer[ed] not to get into the details of the climate debate and science.”

Climate change is a global challenge, and that is why Obama Secretary of State John Kerry took the lead in negotiating the Paris accord for the U.S. The State Department also plays a critical role on environmental issues like the approval of transnational oil pipelines and the export of harmful gas fracking around the world. Putting Mike Pompeo, who owes his career to the Koch brothers and shares their views, in charge of U.S. diplomacy places at risk all efforts to contain the threats of global warming and environmental peril.