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AlterNet: 6 Reasons the Koch Brothers Had a Very Bad Week

By Adele M. Stan at AlterNet

An FBI investigation, a new documentary, and a court overturned one of their pet politicians’ pet laws: here’s a look inside the Kochs’ worst week in a while.

April 2, 2012  |  Were there a way for a few billion clams to wipe a week off the calendar, one imagines that Charles and David Koch, the multibillionaire principals of Koch Industries, would like to see the final week of March 2012 vaporized, at least in the public mind. For the Kochs, it was a week of bad news: a new documentary about their political activity and corporate negligence was making a splash — on the same day a story broke announcing an FBI investigation of two Wisconsin groups tied to Americans for Prosperity, the political ground organization they founded and fund. (Full disclosure: AlterNet is a supporter of the documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed, and I appear in the film.)

Things got even worse the next day, Friday, March 30, when the billionaire brothers learned that a federal court handed down a decision that may ultimately require certain non-profit groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, to reveal their full donor list, and the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer, who wrote a devastating profile of the brothers last year, reported on the Kochs’ involvement in a barrage of anti-Obama ads sponsored by a tax-exempt non-profit called the American Energy Alliance, which may also now be required to reveal its donor list.

On the very same day, another federal court struck down portions of Wisconsin’s controversial law that stripped collective bargaining rights from most of the state’s public employees – a law championed by Americans for Prosperity, and rammed through the state legislature a year ago by the AFP-supported Gov. Scott Walker. Here, we take a closer look at the Kochs’ very bad week.

Read the six reasons here.

The Koch Brothers and Me: It’s Personal

By Jesse Lava, Campaign Director

When I was 17, my mother died of colon cancer. Lots of other members of my family have died of cancer too—and it’s partly as a result of this history that I have gone into a career of social justice advocacy, believing that we all need to care for one another instead of leaving people to fend for themselves.

Today, the organization where I work, Brave New Foundation, is hosting the world premiere of its new film Koch Brothers Exposed. This film shows how these two billionaire brothers have managed to maintain their wealth by exploiting others and corrupting the political process. One part of the film that especially resonates with me deals with cancer.

The Koch brothers have a chemical plant in Crossett, Arkansas, that releases large amounts of formaldehyde, which is known to contribute to cancer. The plant also emits hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly. In the film, residents of that town talk powerfully about how many people in their community are dying of cancer, and they link it to the nearby Koch plant. Respected scientists agree: Anthony Samsel, a former consultant to groups including the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, says that in his opinion, “these chemicals cause great harm to Crossett’s residents” and represent a “disregard for public safety.”

To date, the Kochs have done no investigation that we know of to determine what’s causing cancer in Crossett. They say what they’re doing is legal, though that’s sort of a footnote: when you’ve got lawmakers in your pocket, is it any great victory to say that the laws permit you to emit high levels of cancer-causing pollutants? In fact, the Kochs are one of the top 10 polluters in the United States and worked (unsuccessfully) to keep formaldehyde from being labeled a carcinogen. And so I am proud to be working on exposing what the Kochs are up to and seeking justice for those they’ve stepped on to stay at the top.

Today, the Kochs posted audio of me leaving a message for them months ago asking them to respond to our cancer investigation and laying out why the issue is personal for me. The Kochs accompany the audio with text saying I’m “harassing” them and “exploit[ing] [my] own family to push [my] agenda.” From the Koch brothers’ vantage point as billionaires with mansions all over the country, politics may be an abstraction or a game. But to the 99%, it’s no game. It’s personal. And while smearing me and diminishing the importance of my family may be preferable to them to actually looking into the problems in Crossett, that is not what will help make our country a stronger, healthier place. Shame on them.

So as we prepare for tonight’s premiere in New York, I’m eager. I’m excited. I’m hoping that bringing a little more sunlight on these guys will make it a little less likely that they’ll be able to keep doing what they’re doing to those who lack their wealth and power. Yeah, social justice is personal, and cancer is more than a negligible cost of doing business. For some of us, anyway.

Wish David Koch Happy Birthday with Our New Film!

Two years ago billionaire David Koch threw himself a ‘Wizard of Oz’ themed birthday bash. This year for his upcoming birthday we are releasing our new documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed, which shows what a Tin Man he really is. This full-length investigation is the perfect birthday gift for a man who can buy everything….and everyone.

Donate now for a copy of Koch Brothers Exposed. Let this billionaire know there are tens of thousands of you out there learning about his antics. Although no one can click their heels to undo the damage he has done, we will provide you with an Action Guide so that you can make a difference in this battle.

The Ed Schultz Show: Robert Greenwald discusses Romney’s position on Afghanistan and previews Koch Brothers documentary

Robert Greenwald and radio host Ed Schultz talk about presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement that the withdrawal of Afghanistan is a failure and then gives a preview of the Koch Brothers Exposed documentary.

Congratulations! Revolucionario Axel Caballero, Director of Cuéntame, Nominated for The Mobilizer Award

Axel Caballero is well known in the world of Latino and international political organizing. He’s an advocate for multiple causes, including nuclear disarmament, environmental protection, immigration, and human rights. He’s the founder and director of Cuéntame, a news and organizing site for Latinos and a general audience. He has also worked with and been featured by Brave New Films. Axel and his work to provide the public with information and a platform for dialogue represents a true modern day Revolucionario, and for this work he’s nominated for The Mobilizer award. Cheers, Axel!

The Mobilizer Award is sponsored by Univision News, MTV tr3s, MarketWire, Latino Metro, Hispanicize, iNDIGO Project Media. The awards show will take place at SXSWi on March 12, 2012.

Axel Caballero on Twitter

Cuéntame on Facebook

Read more at The Social Revolucion.

Greedy Banks Took His Home, He Is Fighting Back!

Arturo was encouraged by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to deliberately fall behind on his payments in order to modify his loan. A loan owned by Freddie Mac. Thinking the bank had his best intentions in mind, Arturo followed their instructions. Instead, JPMorgan greedily foreclosed on him, evicting Arturo and his family. Since then, Arturo has decided to fight back and re-occupy his home, even as he faces the possibility of arrest!

AFSCME: Rick Berman: Like a Bad Penny…

By Kate Childs Graham at AFSCME

For years now, millionaire lobbyist Rick Berman has been polluting the airwaves with his own particular brand of toxic waste, using front groups with benevolent-sounding names like the Center for Consumer Freedom and the Center for Union Facts to attack unions, the minimum wage – even Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Berman was richly rewarded by corporations such as Philip Morris to protect their interests, which apparently requires misleading the public.

But if anything, Berman’s latest effort – aired during the Super Bowl – seems to be the desperate act of a demagogue past his prime. While it wasn’t exactly a shock to see Berman’s Center for Union Facts spew its venomous fiction on the air, it did come as a surprise to see the once-slick, Washington insider cast himself as a union member, in a performance so fraudulent he didn’t even bother to lose the gold watch or rumple his shirt.

Read more at AFSCME.

Teamster Nation: The big lie from ‘Center for Union Facts’

By Teamster Nation

If you happened to watch the Super Bowl in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia or Maryland, you may have seen an anti-union ad. It was paid for by a nasty little front group called “The Center for Union Facts,” which, as you can guess, lies about unions.

This video exposes the ‘union’ worker as Richard Berman, head of the Center for Union Facts. Here’s what you need to know about him: His own son calls him a despicable person.

Read more at Teamster Nation.

Lobbyist Poses as Mechanic in Anti-Union Super Bowl Ad [VIDEO]

America just got rickrolled.

There we were last week, innocently partaking in the annual testosterone-fest that is the Super Bowl, when we were treated to an ad featuring a group of supposed auto mechanics lamenting that they never voted for the union they’re in. But look closely. One of these “mechanics” is sporting a gold watch, manicured hands, and a brand new shirt. That’s because he’s not a mechanic, or even an actor.

He’s Washington lobbyist Rick Berman.

Berman is a gun-for-hire — nicknamed Dr. Evil — who specializes in creating nonprofit front groups to push corporate interests. His clients have included the likes of Phillip Morris, Coca Cola, and Tyson’s Foods. But you wouldn’t know it hearing the names of the organizations he starts. The Employment Policies Institute? They fight minimum wage increases. The American Beverage Institute? They go after Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And the gem of an organization linked to the Super Bowl ad is the Center for Union Facts.

Like other Berman fronts, the Center for Union Facts lists no staff on its website. But it does offer up a lot of false information about labor unions, using distorted statistics to paint their staffers as a bunch of corrupt thugs out to steal workers’ hard-earned money. No mention is made of the better wages and benefits union members receive relative to their non-union counterparts, nor of the far more pervasive acts of corporate corruption and coercion that go on in American workplaces. Without a union, workers are left to fend for themselves against employers with unchecked power.

So Rick Berman is not quite the salt-of-the-earth mechanic that Super Bowl fans were supposed to find relatable while being fed anti-union propaganda. Indeed, he appears to be a master of the bait and switch: He creates fake nonprofits to lure Americans to corporate propaganda, and occasionally he shows up posing as an ordinary American in those groups’ ads.

Americans who want the real facts on unions — fakery-free — will have to go somewhere other than the Center for Union Facts to find them.

What the Kochs say online but won’t say before Congress

Billionaire oil tycoons Charles and David Koch continue trying to skirt accountability in Congress and the Kochs’ allies in Congress are doing their best to stonewall oversight. Take action and insist the Koch brothers testify before Congress.

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