If video won’t play go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ybl9roaHe0
Investigative reporter Greg Palast is on a speaking tour for his latest book Billionaires and Bandits: How to Steal and Election in 9 Easy Steps. Palast is best known for exposing the so-called "ex-felon" scrub list that deliberately disenfranchised tens of thousands of law abiding African Americans from voting in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. From his interview on RealNews, I suspect Billionaires and Bandits is probably his most important expose. In it he reveals, for the first time, the true motivation behind the Citizens United case, in which a small group of right wing activists obtained a Supreme Court ruling removing any limitation on corporate donations to political campaigns.
According to Palast, the real agenda behind the Supreme Court case was to keep the notorious Koch brothers (major founders and funders of conservative thinktanks like the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, the CATO Institute, and right wing Astroturf groups, such as the Campaign for America’s Future, the Campaign for a Fair Economy and the Tea Party) out of jail for illegal corporate donations they had made to Republican campaigns. In other words, the ruling decriminalized extensive lawbreaking by the Republican Party’s favorite billionaires. Palast stresses it was no accident that Ted Olsen, the Citizens United attorney, also happens to be legal counsel for Koch Industries.
The Koch Brothers’ Long History of Flouting the Law
As Palast reveals at the beginning of the interview, he was an FBI investigator prior to becoming an investigative journalist. During the late eighties, he was directly involved in investigating Charles Koch for illegally siphoning oil (beyond what Koch Industries had for) from Indian reservations. According to Palast, the FBI had videos of the whole operation, as well as numerous witness statements, including one from David and Charles’ younger brother Bill. The US attorney in Oklahoma had already filed an indictment against subject 67C (their code name for Charles Koch) when Koch leaned heavily on Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles (R 1988-2005) who exerted pressure to have the federal prosecutor replaced and had the indictment quashed.
With the possibility of criminal prosecution off the table, brother Bill Koch filed a civil lawsuit over the oil theft under the False Claims Act, which allows private plaintiffs to sue, on behalf of the government, companies and individuals which have defrauded it.
In December 1999, the jury found that Koch Industries had taken oil it didn’t pay for from federal land, and the company paid a $25 million settlement to the federal government.
The FBI next turned its attention to 350 criminal violations of environmental law, mainly due to faulty pipelines dumping oil sludge into rivers. After George W. Bush became president in 2000, the US Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, Attorney General John Ashcroft settled for a plea bargain, in which the company pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled the lawsuit for a fraction of that amount.
The FBI – and Congress – Investigate Illegal Corporate Donations
Next on the FBI list of crimes was the smear campaign Koch Industries secretly funded, through Campaign for Our Children’s Futures, in 1994, when corporate campaign donations were still illegal. The campaign, which caused 25 incumbent Democrats to lose their seats, also caused Clinton to lose control of Congress in the 1994 midterms and again in 1996. The illegal campaign donations were funded through an entity called Triad Management Services. Senator Fred Thompson, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee attempted to undertake an investigation into Triad. According to Palast, it was shut down the same day Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (who was also seriously ethically challenged) made a deal with President Bill Clinton not to investigate his illegal campaign donations from the Indonesian billionaire James Riady.