Koch Brothers Interfere At Keystone XL Public Meeting

Protesters line sidewalk after being turned away from State Department meeting parking lot by Americans for Prosperity

Yesterday, the State Department kicked off the final round of public meetings on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Kansas, the home state of the billionaire industrialist brothers, Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers are notorious for funding anti-environment, anti-progressive, and anti-Democratic astroturf campaigns. According to a report by Greenpeace, they even outdid ExxonMobile in funding climate denial groups since 2005. The Koch brothers are also President Obama’s bitterest political rivals.

Unsurprisingly, the Koch brothers’ front group Americans for Prosperity was gaming the system at the Keystone XL public meeting in Topeka, Kansas, attempting to prevent community members opposed to the pipeline from expressing their views to the State Department.

According to National Wildlife Federation representative Kendall Mackey, here’s what happened:

“Last week, I called the Expo Center in Topeka where the State Department’s meeting would be held. They told me that I wasn’t allowed to demonstrate or distribute information in the parking lot because the people who rented the space wouldn’t want people opposed to the pipeline there.

“So I called the State Department to confirm that the meeting was, in fact, being held by the State Department to take public comments on Keystone XL. I was told that the parking lot and the area around the facility was to remain neutral.

When I arrived at the meeting, there were two bus loads of people and a giant truck with signs in support of the pipeline in the parking lot, and giant signs around the buildings. So I called the State Department to inform them that the space was not remaining neutral.

“One of the community members who came to speak out against the pipeline told me he had pulled into the parking lot and was told he had to park on the street after being asked if he was for or against the pipeline. I called the State Department back to tell them what had happened.”

James Holly, community member told he couldn’t park in the parking lot where the State Department meeting was being held.

“State Department officials then met with Expo Center security to clarify that anyone could park in the parking lot. At that time, I asked the head of security why the signs were still up in the parking lot. He explained that the buildings adjacent to where the meeting was being held had been rented by a group that was for the pipeline and they were allowed to have signage.

Charlie Walker, Head of Security, explaining why Americans for Prosperity was allowed to demonstrate in the parking lot.

“In an email I received from a State Department official shortly thereafter, I was informed that Americans for Prosperity had rented the adjacent building and was allowed to put up external displays. Even though I had inquired about this issue prior to the hearing and was told by the State Department that the parking lot and facilities surrounding the meeting were to remain neutral, Americans for Prosperity found a way to game the system.

——– Original message ——–
Subject: Re: Topeka Expo
From: “Nassmacher, Wendy L”
To: Kendall Mackey

More — I’ve spoken with the venue representatives, and they said the “Americans for prosperity” group rented the building near that gazebo, and therefore are able to have the signage outside.

I had been told the venue would not rent out areas to other groups, but they were defining that more narrowly than I had understood.  In fact, the Expo Center has a wider variety of buildings and separate venues than I had realized and they do have other things going on simultaneous with our event.

The venue representative explained that any organization that rents one of their exhibit halls can then put up external displays, but otherwise, the Expo Center does not allow interest groups to set up or demonstrate in the parking lots.

I thought you said last week that you had contacted the Expo Center directly?  What did they tell you?

– Wendy

Despite causing the State Department’s public meeting debacle in Kansas, the Koch brothers previously denied having any interest in Keystone XL. Earlier this year, InsideClimate News reported that the Koch brothers are positioned to be big winners if the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline receives a Presidential Permit from the Obama Administration.

Then, as Congressman Lee Terry’s (R-NE) ill-conceived legislation to expedite the pipeline’s permitting process was moving through the House of Representatives, Congressman Waxman (D-CA) inquired about what the Koch brothers stand to gain if Keystone XL is approved. In response, the secretive Koch brothers claimed they had “no financial stake” and had not taken a position on the issue. Yesterday’s hearing seems to set the record straight.

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