If you tuned in to the New Mexico Legislature’s House Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee last Saturday you would have heard overwhelming support for a landmark new piece of climate legislation that would ensure a just transition for our economy and strong action to reduce pollution. In fact, an instant Zoom poll held by the Chairman of the committee Matthew McQueen indicated supporters who tuned in out number the opposition 103 to 13!
And there is a good reason for that overwhelming support. HB9 “The Climate Solutions Act” is a bill designed to help kickstart New Mexico’s economic transition and protect us from the worst impacts of climate change. Besides the disastrous impact on local and global health and climate, economists and policy wonks around the globe have all started calling for the global economic shift to begin before it’s too late; oil and gas has less time as an economic powerhouse than previously thought, a fact highlighted by the intense downturn in demand during Covid.
And the small opposition chorus was filled with the usual suspects hitting all the old tired talking points in favor of climate inaction — NMOGA, IPANM, the Mining Association, out of state oil and gas giant ExxonMobil. But if you listened carefully to the debate on HB9, there was another old “friend” that we haven’t heard from in a while in New Mexico — Burly Cain, registered lobbyist for and State Director of Americans For Prosperity (AFP).
It’s been a minute since we’ve mentioned Americans For Prosperity, the erstwhile front “grassroots” (COUGH astroturf COUGH) of the Koch Brothers empire. But they’re still around and it’s super important we remind you why they’re bad news and why you should be skeptical of a lot of their support for certain policy change and not others.
For a refresher, the Koch Brothers are Charles and David (oops, were, David died in 2019), American billionaires who inherited their wealth from their VERY RACIST, ACTUAL NAZI father Fred. Fred helped found the John Birch Society, the ultra-nationalist tie-wearing civil society responsible for the Ronald Reagan-to-Timothy McVeigh-to-Donald Trump evolution of the Republican Party.
Their philanthropic wing, the Koch Foundation, has fueled the conservative movement for nearly two generations; actively setting up “think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute as well as spinning off more dynamic “activist” organizations like the wildly successful anti-worker group Americans For Prosperity and the anti-immigrant group LIBRE initiative.
“But ProgressNow, AFP says they’re a pro-worker group and LIBRE is pro-immigration – what gives?”
We’re glad you asked. The Koch’s are some of the original thinkers behind the uniquely American twist on classical Libertarianism that promotes “business” in a nearly human sense. You know how because of Citizens United businesses now have “rights” as if they were people? Yeah that was the Koch Brothers. So AFP is “pro-worker” in the sense that workers are the labor by which the profit-making class makes profits and are “pro-immigration” in that they recognize that immigrants are an economic necessity in our modern world.
Where classical Libertarianism is a left-of-center political ideology, Fred Koch and his literal fascist sympathizers in post-World War II America saw undoing FDR’s New Deal and cashing in on a war-torn world as priority number 1. When Eisenhower warned the nation of the looming Military Industrial Complex, he was talking about Fred Koch.
His kids, under the guise of the Koch Foundation have led the charge to turn state legislatures conservative to protect industries in two-thirds of the states. They’re model is to come in and lend money and power to some good (like objectively good) causes which is why Mr. Cain and AFP have also publicly supported bills like HB 4 to end qualified immunity in New Mexico. That’s a bill we support as well. But then bam! There they are on Saturday, popping their heads up again on behalf of more pollution and the economic status quo that we all know isn’t working for New Mexico.
So what gives? The Koch fortune was built on oil. Besides being a NAZI in his spare time, daddy Koch was an engineer who actually revolutionized part of the petroleum refining industry. That technology helped spur the growth and use of petroleum-based gasoline in the mid-twentieth century and is still used today. The Koch Foundation and all its influence and power and might, is predicated on oil drilling and gasoline refining. Of course they’ve since joined the ranks of other Wall Street billionaires by making money with their money, but with that foundational level reliance on oil and gas you don’t let bills like HB9, aimed at letting New Mexico escape the yoke of the extraction industry, just go by.
The Kochs, AFP, and their entire sinister network are designed to spread misinformation, especially and specifically about climate change.
The final piece to really hammer home about the Kochs and AFP, and the astroturfing they’re a part of in New Mexico is this. Larry Behrens is someone we here at PNNM track often because he’s somehow weaseled his way into being considered an “expert” about energy issues in New Mexico and is quoted nearly every day alongside NMOGA and other real oil people. Larry is the state director of a group called Power the Future-New Mexico. But Larry is just a comms guy who worked for the Martinez administration and the House Republicans. His boss, Daniel Turner, supposedly founded the National Power the Future organization in late 2018. But before that, guess where he worked? Yup. The Koch Foundation.
ProgressNow has presented multiple pieces of evidence to tie Power the Future to the Koch’s and we know they’re using the same web hosts and social media managers as their organizational cousins AFP and LIBRE. So why does that matter? Because the appearance that multiple organizations support or oppose something lends that issue and those organizations credibility.
Fortunately for New Mexico, A TON of real life New Mexicans have been working hard for years for REAL change with small, locally led organizations around the state to support important issues like HB9. That is why the bill enjoys the support of a broad, diverse coalition spanning community-based, environmental, agricultural and labor organizations. While meanwhile only TEN voices spoke against it climate action on Saturday morning,
And the bill passed with a strong 7-4 vote.
We may not be able to compete with their money, but we can always win by keeping what’s authentic and real in mind.