Stop harassing the Koch brothers
February 4, 2012
Politico - Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kanas)
President Barack Obama and his allies, including those in Congress, have shown what a nasty, personal and abusive reelection campaign we are about to experience. A recent sideshow in my committee in Congress provides yet another clear and shocking example.
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) recently wrote a letter demanding a live witness and testimony from “a representative of Koch Industries” at a hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline, scheduled just two days later. The request’s frivolous nature is proven by that unreasonable deadline. But the partisan tactics go far beyond that.
Even if Koch Industries had a financial interest in the Keystone XL pipeline, what possibly could be wrong with that? Perhaps more important, under what circumstances would such an interest be worthy of a congressional inquisition?
Charles Koch and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries, are U.S. citizens, taxpayers, entrepreneurs and employers. Their businesses employ nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. alone. The company headquarters is in the district I represent, employing 2,600 Kansans. The corporation and its employees are among the most hardworking and generous in our community. The company has never been bailed out by the U.S. taxpayers. Given that many Americans are now desperate for jobs, we should be begging entrepreneurs to look for new opportunities — not attacking them because their companies might make a profit.
The facts are clear: Koch Industries does not have a financial stake in the pipeline. Why, therefore, should its officials become part of the all-too-familiar congressional committee circus? The facts are a matter of public record. Koch Industries has repeatedly stated that it does not have a financial stake in the pipeline: It does not own the pipeline, has no role in the pipeline’s design, is not one of the shippers who have signed contracts to use the pipeline and will not build the pipeline.
Democrats dug deep for some excuse to attempt to haul Koch officials in for a public flogging. What did they find? A 2009 attempt by a Koch subsidiary to obtain “intervenor” status in a Canadian legal proceeding, to track the approval process for the pipeline. Wishing to know the fate of the pipeline and having an interest in whether or not the pipeline is built — as thousands of frustrated U.S. workers and consumers do — obviously do not amount to a financial interest in the pipeline’s construction.
Indeed, the Sierra Club of Canada applied to “intervene” in the same proceeding. No one has alleged that Congress should investigate the Sierra Club’s interest in the pipeline project. So the “intervenor” ploy is a patent sham — and provides no basis for harassing Koch Industries.
It is also difficult to believe that members of Congress really think that a particular company’s asserted financial interest in a project is, or should be, relevant to the merits of that project. It becomes harder still to believe, given the decision to target only Koch Industries and the Koch brothers — and no other company or individual.
Doubtless, many companies and individuals stand to benefit, or be harmed, depending on whether Obama’s decision to delay the pipeline is allowed to stand. There are a number of other people who reportedly might reap financial windfalls from the pipeline’s demise — including at least one of the president’s most prominent supporters and donors. Hint: His secretary was the president’s highly visible prop at the State of the Union address.
But these two congressmen directed their attention exclusively toward the Kochs, who — as successful businessmen and outspoken critics of the president’s job-killing, statist programs — have been targets of the administration and its allies for many months.
Indeed, the very first sentence of Obama’s very first campaign 2012 reelection ad attacks the Koch brothers. Liberal blogs and publications have published countless slanted pieces on Koch Industries, heavy on innuendo and light on facts.
The Obama administration has long been criticized for maintaining a de facto “enemies list” of its perceived political opponents, whether they are respected Supreme Court justices, disfavored reporters or private citizens who just want to keep their own doctors. The Democrats’ obsession with the Kochs as a political target is, indeed, additional evidence of a truly Nixonian approach to politics.
That the Obama administration and its allies use private citizens as symbols to be attacked and vilified is unfair and deeply threatening to our civic life and the rule of law. Americans deserve better from their elected officials. To be sure, the serious challenges facing the country often generate heated discussion and disagreement. But there is no justification for Democrats who want to haul U.S. citizens before Congress for the exclusive purpose of political abuse.
Congressional hearings should not be hijacked by naked political opportunism. Legitimate business creators should not be vilified. Congress should focus on the many policy questions before it — rather than wasting time in an illegitimate pursuit of the administration’s perceived “enemies.”
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power.