If you’re a semi-conscious Alaskan, you probably know by now the billionaire Koch brothers have their hands around the throat of democracy in the Last Frontier.
You may recall how the Koch Brother’s front groups – the Alaska Policy Forum, Power the Future, and Americans for Prosperity- Alaska Chapter – waged an out-and-out war to kill better safeguards for Alaska salmon around Ballot Measure 1 last year.
But these Outside billionaires have really taken their “profits at any cost” agenda to a new level with their recent statewide dog-and-pony show – featuring Alaska’s puppet Governor Mike Dunleavy – about draconian state budget cuts. In fact, Governor Dunleavy hired a former Koch Brothers employee (Jeremy Price) as his Chief of Staff, and two Koch Brothers employees actually sat side-by-side with Dunleavy on a public panel to answer questions from Alaskans about Alaska’s state budget.
In other words, the Koch Brothers are playing smash-mouth politics in Alaska, with no regard to the horrendous optics around their flagrant efforts to capture and control Alaska’s budget.
And while it’s alarming to see these billionaires pulling the strings of state government in Alaska, it’s hardly surprising. The Kochs have built a sprawling, deep-pocketed, 50 state influence machine some rightly call the “Kochtopus.”
While there are many tendrils to the Kochtopus, an important part of the Koch’s influence machine is the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), an inside-the-beltway, right wing think tank which is renown for vilifying health care for all and other mainstream ideas. CEI enjoys a lot of dark money from a variety of corporate sources, but the Koch Brothers have been especially generous to CEI over the years.
Now, we find CEI playing the heavy in the Pebble Mine’s fight to do away with a document called the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which went through rigorous peer review, and multiple public comment periods, to find that a mine like Pebble poses significant risks to the fish, water and people in Bristol Bay.
Recently, CEI wrote to the EPA, seeking to quash the peer-reviewed science found in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, and the Pebble people wrote to EPA soon after to endorse CEI’s position. Instead, the Kochs, CEI and Pebble prefer to point to the Army Corps of Engineer’s Environmental Impact Statement, which, based on any objective view, is an incomplete, shallow and biased assessment of the Pebble mine.
In other words, the Koch Brothers and the Pebble people prefer to see politics – rather than facts and science – drive the debate around the Pebble mine.
This hand-in-glove coordination between the Koch Brothers, their think tanks and large corporate projects is nothing new. But when it comes front stage in Alaska – with the Koch Brothers actively pushing a Pebble mine a strong majority of Alaskans repeatedly say they do not want – it’s more than alarming. In fact, it’s downright un-Alaskan.
In the end, the Koch Brothers – and their extremist corporate front groups in Alaska – have one unifying goal: to take our rich public resources that benefit the many, and convert them into private bank accounts that benefit a few.
That’s why now is the time for Alaskans to take back their government, kick the Koch Brothers and their front groups out of Alaska, and stop the Pebble mine before it destroys Bristol Bay fisheries and the countless families they support.