Polluting conspirator? Koch is not it

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted October 9, 2000

"Alleged Texas Polluter is Indicted" screamed the headline from the Associated Press story about the charges against Koch Industries and its subsidiary the Koch Petroleum group.

It so happens that Koch disclosed its problems to Texas officials and corrected its problems but the Clinton Administration accuses Koch industries of engaging in...get this...a "conspiracy" and of making false statements to Texas officials. Here is an Administration which disputes that there is ever any conspiracy with a) Whitewater b) Waco c) Ruby Ridge d) Vince Foster e) missile technology in the hands of China f) donors to Clinton who had regulations altered g) e-mails which disappeared h) files which disappeared and then suddenly reappeared i) billions in cash given to Russia which disappeared j) The president's attempts to get Monica Lewinsky a job. But a company which discloses its problems and corrects them is guilty of conspiracy. Right.

A Koch refinery
A Koch refinery

How convenient. And how convenient that this company just happens to operate in Texas, home of Governor George W. Bush. And how convenient that this company and its founders have been generous over the years to conservative causes. What better way to be able to smear your opposition for years to come? Any time Bush makes a pronouncement on the environment, his opposition can tell him to clean up Texas first. Every time one of the think tanks which oppose big government solutions to problems comes out with a well researched and documented paper, it can be dismissed because the think tank has been supported by big time polluters.

There are four employees here who have been charged as well. Koch says it will fight to the end to clear the good name of these people. Three cheers for Koch. Usually people like this are left twisting in the wind. Just recently a federal judge threw out a huge part of the government case against the tobacco companies. But how many people's reputations had been ruined by then in the legal process? Philip Morris, for one, has been more than vindicated by this federal court decision but who will make up for the jobs lost, the depreciated stock, the lost reputations, not to say the vicious climate created by a case brought by the federal government which lacked merit. Now comes the Microsoft case. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case on an expedited basis, which means that, for all practical purposes, the government's case is lost. Again, the government nearly destroyed an industry here, one which has been driving the new economy. The government could yet do so. Who will recapture the wealth the government has ruined?

Let me hasten to say I know next to nothing about the case against Koch industries. I do know the company to be an honorable one, which over the years has been responsible for many innovations in the industry. Without that specific knowledge, I am willing to wager that at the end of the day Koch will win its case. That is because this case, like the others, is political. Bill Clinton has operated by a single creed taught to him early on by one of his mentors in politics: Reward your friends. Punish your enemies. If you cross Clinton, and by crossing him it means supporting his opponents or organizations which oppose his policies, he will find a way to get you. His Justice Department, which is the most political in the history of the nation, looks to carry out that maxim. All the while the schoolmarmish Attorney General Janet Reno always protests that she never brings politics into any consideration in her department. Such utter nonsense. It is to the point where we would be hard-pressed to find a case where politics is not involved in her department. So it will probably take a few years and millions of dollars, and of course when Koch is vindicated it will be on page D 39 of the business section of the paper, but just remember ... you heard it first here.

Paul M. Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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