Koch-funded groups attack Obama for 'war on coal'

Pro-coal nonprofits are pounding Obama with attack ads, including this new one from American Energy Alliance.

Secretive nonprofits affiliated with oil and coal companies, including Koch Industries, are hitting President Barack Obama  hard for what they call his “war on coal.”

Yesterday, for example, the nonprofit American Energy Alliance reported that its new ad “Stand with Coal,” cost more than a half-million dollars and is running for two weeks in the coal-producing states of Ohio and Virginia.

The ad accuses President Obama of wanting to bankrupt the coal industry, alleging that his plan is to “kill affordable energy.”

The American Energy Alliance is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means its donors remain unknown to the public. Its president, Thomas Pyle, is the former director of federal affairs for Koch Industries and former lobbyist for the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. He also served as a policy analyst for Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The American Energy Alliance is affiliated with the Institute for Energy Research, a free-market energy nonprofit that's received backing from the Koch-run Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Pyle is also the institute’s president.

CEO Robert Bradley called those who are concerned about global warming “climate alarmists” in an op-ed in The Washington Times.

Dustin DeBerry, the institute’s director of donor relations, once worked for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Board member Wayne Gable the a managing director of federal affairs at Koch Industries and has held leadership positions at Koch-funded nonprofits including Americans for Prosperity, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

The Institute for Energy Research has also received funding in the past from ExxonMobil, National Public Radio reported in 2008, as well as other foundations affiliated with energy executives. American Energy Alliance is not the only group to attack Obama’s energy policies, which include investing in renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, as well as expanding offshore drilling.

American Commitment, a non-disclosing nonprofit led by former Americans for Prosperity staffer Phil Kerpen, is one of the pro-coal leaders this election. It runs WarOnCoal.com and has aired campaign ads urging voters to support coal by voting against Obama and the Democrats running for U.S. Senate in Ohio and Virginia, Sen. Sherrod Brown and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. One American Commitment radio ad accuses Obama and Brown of “betraying coal,” saying their “war on coal is also a war on jobs.”

Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by David Koch, continued its own pro-coal campaign with an Ohio radio ad last week. The group has conducted several pro-coal rallies and targeted anti-coal policies in other ads, as well.

All three groups, along with a handful of others, oppose  what Americans for Prosperity calls Obama’s “draconian” fuel efficiency standards — requirements that car manufacturers improve gas mileage — and the administration’s commitment to renewing tax credits for wind energy production. (See letter signed by the trio and other conservative groups).

William Koch, the brother of Koch Industries’ Charles and David, owns the energy company Oxbow Carbon and is one of the top donors to super PACs this election. He has contributed $3 million to the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future. Charles and David, for their part, intend to spend $400 million this election, which may come through nonprofit organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, which do not disclose their donors.

In other outside spending news:

  • Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Senate Democrats, released “Confrontation” opposing Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state, and “Character,” opposing Rep. Rick Berg, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in North Dakota.  
  • House Majority PAC, a super PAC backing House Democrats, released “Even Harder,” opposing Republican Rep. Dan Benishek, who is running in Michigan’s 1st District. The super PAC reported spending more than $950,000 on numerous U.S. House races.  
  • Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC, released “Lobster” opposing Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Indiana, and “Wow” opposing former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona.  
  • Americans for Job Security, a conservative nonprofit, released “Washington Money Tree,” an ad criticizing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.  
  • The League of Conservation Voters Inc. and Sierra Club Independent Action co-produced “Imagine,” which supports former Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent, in his bid for U.S. Senate.  
  • Patriot Majority USA, a liberal nonprofit, reported spending more than $1 million on ads opposing Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Georgia state Rep. Lee Anderson, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Georgia’s 12th District.  
  • Conservative super PAC American Crossroads reported spending $11.7 millionon ads opposing Obama. Its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS reported spending$2.5 million opposing Obama and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Virginia, Wisconsin and North Dakota.  
  • The super PAC Planned Parenthood Votes reported spending $944,000 supporting Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in Wisconsin and Montana.  
  • The NRA Political Victory Fund reported spending $1.7 million supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats in U.S. Senate races in North Dakota, Nevada, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, and supporting Romney and opposing Obama.  
  • SEIU COPE, the political action committee of the Service Employees International Union, reported spending $2.3 million opposing Romney, Heller and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif.

Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

About the author

Rachael Marcus is a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan independent investigative news outlet, which contributes campaign finance coverage to Marketplace. For more of their reporting on money and politics go to publicintegrity.org.

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