The Koch brothers have an unlikely ally in the war of words with their liberal adversaries: the nation’s journalistic fact-checkers.
Both The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog and the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org have dinged critics of David and Charles Koch in recent weeks for referring to the billionaire brothers as Big Oil. Why?
Because Koch Industries’ business interests extend well beyond the company’s involvement in petroleum refining and other oil-based operations. And while no corporate midget, the company isn’t anywhere near as big as true oil giants like ExxonMobil.
“So even if all of Koch Industries’ revenues came from its refining business — which they do not — they would still be a fraction of the revenues of the companies that actually represent ‘Big Oil,’” the FactCheck.org critique read.
FactCheck.org cited Forbes’s estimates that privately held Koch generated about $100 billion in revenues in 2011, compared with ExxonMobil’s $434 billion in sales.
Critics say that misses the point big time.
So far this year, federally disclosed campaign contributions by the company’s KochPAC — totaling $514,204 as of April — have been more than double ExxonMobil’s. And that doesn’t even encompass the various think tanks
and other entities the Kochs have endowed to get their free enterprise, anti-regulatory message out.
If that doesn’t count as big, what does, asked Robert Greenwald, producer and director of the documentary “Koch Brothers Exposed.”
Greenwald said, “$100 billion is small? Where do we draw the line? Do we say that if you’re less than $150 billion, you don’t qualify as Big Oil?”
He said his film doesn’t refer to the Kochs as Big Oil — “We think it’s accurate, but we have not used it” — and that he respects the work of the fact-checkers. But in this case, he said, their complaint “does seem to be a version of nit-picking.”
A Koch Industries representative who didn’t wish to be identified by name countered that the term Big Oil is inherently pejorative, as well as factually wrong in this case.
“I think when people think about quote-unquote Big Oil, they think about big, integrated oil companies,” the representative said — those that extract, transport and refine the oil and then distribute and sell the resulting products. “We are very proud of our involvement in the oil industry, but to characterize us as Big Oil is just not accurate.”
As for all the campaign spending, the representative said that’s partly explained by the many fields the company engages in — including ranching, wood and paper products, commodity trading, minerals and fertilizers.
“We touch and are touched by many different parts of the government at the federal, state and local levels,” the representative said. “We also support candidates and incumbents who are free market-oriented.”
Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the Kochs should make more information about their operations public so that “people could judge for themselves whether they are part of Big Oil.”http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76248.html