Emails and financial documents released by the University of Kansas on Thursday reveal earmarked funding from Koch Industries to develop research used to lobby against the state renewable energy standard.
On November 12, 2013, Art Hall, the director of the university’s Center for Applied Economics, emailed Koch Industries’ Laura Hands to discuss a grant from a Koch-controlled foundation to fund research on the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Hall is the former chief economist for Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying subsidiary of Koch Industries, the largest privately owned company in America with a significant stake in oil refining, pipelines, gas production and coal. Hands is the current community affairs director at Koch Companies Public Sector.
The Koch money was part of an ongoing project Hall described as an effort to develop “intellectual products” to be used “as a tool in economic policy debates.” Hall’s center also provides special classes to teach about the virtues of capitalism. Koch-controlled foundations approved $40,000 for work that included the renewable energy standard, as well as at least $250,000 to the center in 2008 and $100,000 to the center in 2009.
Following his grant request, Hall testified before the Kansas legislature in 2014 in favor of repealing the state renewable energy portfolio, which calls for major utility companies to use an increasing ratio of renewable energy such as wind and solar.
The emails and financial documents were released in response to a Kansas Open Records Act request filed by KU student Schuyler Kraus, the president of Students for a Sustainable Future.
Hall also helped craft unprecedented tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and backed by Koch’s local political network. The tax cuts have been viewed roundly as a historic flop, resulting in a downgrade of the state bond rating and drastic education cuts that forced public schools to close early this year. Critics argue that the tax cut and ensuing budget chaos may have hurt employment as bordering states such as Missouri are quickly outpacing Kansas on job growth.
President Barack Obama recently criticized Koch Industries owners Charles and David Koch, scolding the billionaires for “pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards.” In response, Charles Koch said he is opposed to “crony capitalism” in all forms.
Though the Koch Industries chief executive has said that he opposes corporate subsidies or mandates of any kind, the Koch political network has carefully singled out renewable energy while working to preserve government support for fossil fuels. Groups founded and funded by the Koch political network regard repealing oil and gas subsidies as a “tax hike” while deriding renewable energy subsidies as “a textbook case of corporate welfare.” Moreover, Koch’s lobbying campaign to distort climate science and prevent government action on greenhouse gas emissions transfers costs from the company, a major polluter, to the public.