Ralph Nader's favorite oil company

Published July 21, 2004 1:47PM (EDT)

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a report on Ralph Nader's oil company friends, who also happen to be prominent financial supporters of conservative causes:

"Koch Industries could be the biggest oil company you have never heard of -- unless, that is, you hang around the halls of government in Washington."

"Koch Industries (pronounced "coke") is a huge oil conglomerate controlled by brothers Charles and David Koch, two of the country's richest men and among the biggest backers of conservative and libertarian causes. With estimated revenue of about $40 billion last year, Koch is bigger than Microsoft, Merrill Lynch and AT&T."

"Koch is the leading campaign contributor among oil and gas companies for the 2004 election cycle, giving $587,000 so far. ... Despite its size and political largesse, Koch is able to dodge the limelight because it is privately-held, meaning that nearly all of its business dealings are known primarily only by the company and the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, it is the second largest private company in the country, trailing only food processing giant Cargill."

"Koch also prefers to operate in private when it comes to politics and government. Although it is both a top campaign contributor and spends millions on direct lobbying, Koch's chief political influence tool is a web of interconnected, right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups funded by foundations controlled and supported by the two Koch brothers."

"Among those groups are some of the country's most prominent conservative and libertarian voices including the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Federalist Society. All regularly beat the drum in official Washington for the causes the Koch's hold dear -- minimal government, deregulation, and free market economics."

" ... CSE has found itself in hot water in recent weeks over charges it has been working illegally to get consumer activist Ralph Nader on the presidential ballot in Oregon. On June 30, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that groups, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Bush/Cheney campaign and the Nader campaign, had violated federal campaign laws through the use of prohibited in-kind contributions."

"In its complaint, CREW said CSE directed employees to call members, using prepared scripts, to encourage them to sign a petition that allowed Ralph Nader to put his name on the November ballot in the presidential election. According to CREW, CSE's script stated 'Liberals are trying to unite in Oregon and keep Nader off the ballot to help their chances of electing John Kerry. We could divide this base of support.'"

"Since CSE is a corporation, it is prohibited from making contributions to federal campaigns, CREW said in its complaint. The costs of creating the scripts as well as the costs of the telephone calls constitute prohibited in-kind contributions."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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