My Turn: Koch Brothers close Alaska refinery while buying false TV ads

Have you seen the latest Koch brothers’ television ad attacking U.S. Sen. Mark Begich? It’s the one that goes into the senator’s position on a possible carbon tax. The ad states that Begich is on record opposing a carbon tax, but suggests that he might not actually oppose it.

The problem with this flip-flop accusation is that it’s fiction. Here’s the relevant quote from the 2010 letter to Sen. Harry Reid signed by a number of Democratic senators including Begich:

“While fossil fuels are and will continue to be an important part of our economy, we believe the transition to a clean energy economy — one that includes an all-of-the-above approach — is an economic, national security and environmental priority. We believe the scale of this challenge dictates the need for a comprehensive solution that includes making polluters pay through a price on greenhouse gas emissions.”

A carbon tax is not mentioned. Neither is cap-and-trade. In short, the Koch brothers made that stuff up. The independent fact-checker PolitiFact gave this attack ad a “Mostly False” rating. FactCheck.org also researched the ad and found that “Begich hasn’t backed any carbon tax proposal.” It’s pretty obvious that the attack ads are completely dishonest, so where are they coming from?

They’re paid for by Americans for Prosperity, a “dark money” 501(c)(4) group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, despite spending 400 million dollars to influence elections in the last campaign. Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, supports climate change deniers, less regulation of large corporations, tax breaks for the rich, privatization of our public schools and the Tea Party. They are against labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, international climate talks and cap-and-trade legislation. The group was founded in 2004 by David Koch and a Koch Industries board member named Richard Fink, and they receive the bulk of their financial support from the Koch brothers, whose personal wealth is only exceeded by that of Bill Gates.

The fact that should attract Alaskans’ attention in this matter is that the people pouring all this money into false attack ads against Begich are the same ones who recently decided to shut down the Flint Hills refinery in North Pole, which is owned by Koch Industries. Could it be that the Koch brothers are trying to replace Begich with someone who will vote for their interests instead of those of Alaska?

Republicans Mead Treadwell, Dan Sullivan and Joe Miller — Begich’s opponents — are benefitting from the Koch brothers’ attack ads and, in a remarkable display of spinelessness, none of them have said a word about the Flint Hills refinery closure. The reason? Treadwell, Sullivan and Miller refuse to criticize their billionaire benefactors who would prefer to have any one of them be their puppet in Washington.

And it gets worse! Koch Industries is the second largest private corporation in America, and not only are they closing their North Pole refinery and pink-slipping 80 employees with good paying jobs, but they are trying to escape their legal obligation to clean up the sulfolane pollution extending underground for three miles that has poisoned the drinking water of 550 homes and businesses. If the Koch brothers don’t pay for it, the State of Alaska may end up with the bill.

There will be many more misleading, anonymously-funded TV ads during this year’s election. Most of them will probably be funded by the Koch brothers. As Alaskans, I think we should stand together against the corrosive impact of negative Outside ads. After all, we’ve fought for generations for control of our own resources and to have our own representation in Washington, D.C. We can’t afford to have some Outside group who obviously cares nothing about Alaskans buy Alaska’s Senate seat.

In a way, getting attacked by the Koch brothers is a badge of honor. The more money they spend attacking Begich the more it tells me Begich is fighting for Alaska. Treadwell, Sullivan and Miller’s unwillingness to criticize the Koch brothers’ closure of the Flint Hills refinery tells where their loyalties lie.

• Dan Heynen lives in Palmer and is a volunteer with the Alaska Democratic Party.

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