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Bernie Sanders: 'This Is Exactly What We Mean When We Talk About Oligarchy'

Despite the numerous controversies and vocal opposition swirling around President Donald Trump's pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Senators voted 52 to 46, largely along party lines, in February to confirm Oklahoma Republican Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator.

It now appears that Koch Industries—the oil and gas conglomerate owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—directly lobbied Congress to confirm Pruitt and spent millions to influence anti-environmental initiatives, a disclosure report shows.

As The Intercept reported:

"The firm's latest disclosure form reports that its in-house corporate lobbying team spent $3.1 million to influence lawmakers over the first three months of the year on a variety of issues affecting its bottom line, including the EPA's Clean Power Rule on carbon emissions, carbon pricing, the Clean Air Act and 'nominations for various positions at the Department of Energy.'"

"This is exactly what we mean when we talk about oligarchy. Multi-billionaires and corporations should not have the power to pick and choose who is in charge of our federal agencies," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in response to The Intercept's report. "But that is exactly what happened—Koch Industries spent millions on lobbying Congress to confirm Scott Pruitt, our head of the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn't believe in environmental protection."

Koch Industries has contributed $38.5 million to federal candidates over the last 25 years and spent another $117 million since 1998 on lobbying. DeSmog reported in February that the company's deep pockets are contributing campaign funds to four GOP representatives who have introduced legislation to completely abolish the EPA.

Sanders, who grilled Pruitt during the confirmation hearings, has been outspoken in his criticism of Pruitt as well as the Trump administration's generally dismissive attitude towards climate change.

"It's clear that Trump doesn't represent working families. His agenda benefits the Koch brothers and their billionaire [friends]. Our job is to stand together to defeat the drift toward oligarchy and create a vibrant democracy—not one controlled by corporate interests," Sanders said.

Pruitt has reported ties to the fossil fuel industry and he repeatedly sued the EPA when he was Oklahoma Attorney General. In 2014, he was caught sending letters on state government letterheads to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. As it turns out, the letter was written by lawyers for one of the state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.

Following Trump's executive order, Pruitt plans to kill the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Pruitt also challenged the plan when he was Oklahoma AG.

Pruitt said in March that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change.

The Intercept also detailed how Pruitt's nomination as EPA head was strongly backed by industry groups:

"The American Energy Alliance, an advocacy group founded by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle, issued a letter in support of Pruitt along with other Koch-backed conservative nonprofits. America Rising Squared, a political research outfit that has harassed environmental activists, formed a special website—now deleted—to respond to criticism of Pruitt's record."

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Politics

Trump Team Sharply Divided Over Paris Climate Agreement

President Donald Trump's top advisors and cabinet officials will debate whether the U.S. should pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

The landmark accord, which aims to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, was agreed upon by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

The Hill reported that the meeting is aimed at hammering out a growing divide in the administration between those in favor of the deal and those opposed to it. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday but had to be postponed as some participants are traveling with the president to Milwaukee.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to " cancel" the Paris climate agreement. The president, who once said climate change is a "hoax" and is working to dismantle environmental regulations, has surrounded himself with like-minded advisors and cabinet appointees such as senior adviser Steve Bannon and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who said last week "we need to exit" the deal.

POLITICO's sources said that the EPA chief is concerned that the Paris agreement could harm his legal position as he works to repeal President Obama's Clean Power Plan that regulates emissions from power plants.

On the other hand, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House special adviser, have are urged the president to stay in the deal, as Bloomberg reported.

Trump's current position on the Paris deal is unclear, but the New York Times reported that the pro-Paris view is gaining favor.

"We do not currently believe the Trump administration plans to withdraw from either Paris agreement," wrote Kevin Book, an analyst at DC-based ClearView Energy Partners in a memo to clients on Monday.

Incidentally, some major oil and coal producers have voiced support of the climate agreement, including Cheniere Energy Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., which was previously led by Tillerson, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc.

Coal baron Robert E. Murray, however, has opposed the deal as "just a way for other countries to get American money."

And Joseph Bast, the president of the climate change-denying Heartland Institute, commented that "President Trump should run, not walk, away from the Paris climate treaty."

"Most scientists do not believe global warming is a crisis that merits current efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much less the draconian cuts envisioned by the Paris climate treaty," Bast said.

As Trump mulls the decision, other world leaders are prepared to ramp action in case the U.S. pulls out.

"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.

Similarly, Piyush Goyal, the Indian Minister for power and coal said that India is "pursuing religiously" its goal of developing 225 gigawatts of clean energy by 2022, adding "it's not subject to some other country's decision."

Environmental groups have also weighed in on the deliberations. As the world's largest economy, the United States' withdrawal from the accord could significantly weaken the global pact.

"The United States is the world's largest historic climate polluter," said Friends of the Earth senior political director Ben Schreiber. "Our country has a moral imperative to take action proportionate to our responsibility for this crisis."

"Our commitments under the Paris Agreement were already woefully inadequate given our responsibility and the severity of the problem," Schreiber added. "By holding this meeting, Trump has communicated to the rest of the world that the U.S. is a climate pariah. We call on world leaders to use every political and economic means available to compel Trump to act in accordance with what climate science and justice demand."

The White House meeting comes as activists gear up for the April 29 Peoples Climate March in the nation's capitol and in sister marches around the country.

"An overwhelming majority of people in the United States support staying in the Paris agreement," 350.org executive director May Boeve. "It's one of the animating reasons why so many people are joining the Peoples Climate March this April 29th in Washington, DC and across the country."

"As the Trump administration deliberates isolating the U.S. from the rest of the world, movements for climate, jobs and justice are mobilizing to continue to build bold solutions that protect our communities and tackle climate change," Boeve said. "We know this deal is critical to defending our climate and communities—this is about our very survival."

White House Press Sec. Sean Spicer said last month that Trump will make a decision about the Paris agreement ahead of the Group of 7 leaders' meeting in late May.

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Wind farm in Weatherford, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Ends Wind Subsidy Despite Generous Tax Breaks for Fossil Fuel Industry

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Monday that will end a state tax credit several years early for electricity generated by wind power.

Under the new legislation, wind farms that start producing energy after July 1 will not be able to claim the state's "zero emission tax credit" program. The credit was originally set to expire in January 2021.

Fallin acknowledged that the program, which pushed claims from $3.7 million in 2010 to $113 million in 2014, helped Oklahoma become the third-largest producer of wind power in the country. However, the Republican governor noted that the state's estimated $868 million budget shortfall necessitated the phaseout of wind incentives.

"The zero emissions tax credit was key to the growth of wind energy in Oklahoma, and I'm grateful to the industry for their ambitious successes, as well as their willingness to work with the state to address our challenging budgetary circumstances," Fallin said. "It is time to ensure that Oklahoma has a bright future, and continues its position as a prominent energy state."

The measure appeared to have support from the wind industry itself. Jeffrey Clark, president of The Wind Coalition, told The Oklahoman that the incentives have been "incredibly beneficial, but we remain the first and only industry to offer to phase out its incentives."

But Fallin and state lawmakers have been criticized for keeping generous tax breaks in place for the oil and gas industry while squeezing other public services such as school funding during the budget crisis.

As the Associated Press reported:

Even then, the revenue generated by wind facilities won't "move the needle very much on the state budget," said Dr. Stephen Stadler, a board member of the Oklahoma Renewable Energy Council. He said lawmakers should roll back other tax credits and incentives, including generous subsidies provided to the oil and natural gas industry.

"Can we afford those subsidies?" he asked. "Things are not even. It's not a level playing field."

Oklahoma's wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry, David Blatt from the Oklahoma Policy Institute pointed out.

"The estimates of the cost of subsidies for wind producers vary, but we do know they are substantially less than the $400 million to $600 million cost of subsidies for oil and gas," Blatt wrote.

Fallin's executive budget proposed in February sought to phase out wind incentives that she said are no longer necessary.

"This industry was incentivized sufficiently to now be a major player in the Oklahoma energy industry, and a major winner of now-unnecessary incentives," the budget read.

The Oklahoman reported last year that state fossil fuel executives, including oilman and Trump advisor Harold Hamm, had formed a coalition to lobby for the end of wind tax credits in the state.

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The Leopold Center

Iowa Legislature Plays Politics With Critical Scientific Research Center

By Andrea Basche

There has been unsettling news out of my former home over the last week, as the Iowa legislature plays politics with critical scientific research in the state.

In the closing days of the legislative session, two budget bills moved swiftly that could force the closing of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, a nationally recognized center for sustainable agriculture research. There were also threats to a research center dedicated to mitigating flood impacts (which I wrote about last year for its excellent forecasting that literally helped saved lives), but that appears now to be safe.

A little bit of background: the Leopold Center was established in 1987 by Iowa's Groundwater Protection Act. This law passed as the farm crisis of the 1980's was raging (it is estimated that nearly one-third of the state's farms went out of business) and there was growing recognition of the problems associated with soil degradation and water pollution. Forward-thinking Iowa legislators came up with a funding stream—a small fertilizer and pesticide tax that generates several million dollars a year—to be dedicated to research on alternatives that offset the economic and environmental impacts of agriculture.

The resulting funding stream launched several important research enterprises—for example, a center studying health effects of environmental contaminants at the University of Iowa, long-term agricultural research sites across the state, as well as the Leopold Center, which is based at Iowa State University.

Since that time, the Leopold Center's competitive grants program has funded research that benefits both rural and urban constituents, with projects that range from local food infrastructure to crop diversification to beginner farmer programs. Many of the innovative topics the center has investigated are now widely accepted largely thanks to its efforts, so it's important to recognize how critical this type of rare funding support is for encouraging and spreading transformative ideas.

Research Far and Wide Has Benefited from the Leopold Center

The Leopold Center's research not only supports progress at the state level, but also has direct application to progress on a national level.

Our own research here at the Union of Concerned Scientists has benefited from the Leopold Center's novel work. In our 2016 report, Growing Economies, we evaluated the economic impact of more local food purchasing in the state of Iowa. We were able to do that using survey data generated by the Leopold Center, in which institutional and intermediate food purchasers were asked about their ability to support local food.

And in Subsidizing Waste, we calculated the economic impact of scaling up the integration of perennial vegetation into corn and soybean fields, to save money on water clean-up costs. The STRIPs project has long been supported by funding from the Leopold Center. Finally, a report we're preparing to release next month will detail how a crop rotation system developed at Iowa State and supported by the center could be expanded, spreading economic and environmental benefits across the state and the Corn Belt.

Also, earlier in my career while I was a Ph.D. student at Iowa State University, I received two Leopold Center research grants to study the long-term impacts and farmer adoption of cover crops. That was an invaluable professional development opportunity for me as an early career scientist: from developing the proposal to helping administer the project and to making decisions on dollars spent.

If a research center like this disappears, it would be yet another significant blow in the broader conversation over how much funding goes toward sustainable agriculture. In a recent analysis, we looked at competitive grants programs within the USDA, concluding that agroecological research (similar to projects supported by the Leopold Center) is woefully underfunded, with less than 15 percent of funding going to projects that included any element of this type of work. We need more of this type of research, not less, and nearly 500 Ph.D. level scientists agree.

Lawmaker Claims "Mission Accomplished" in Sustainable Agriculture (LOL!)

An Iowa state representative this week in an interview claimed: "A lot of people felt that the mission for sustainable agriculture that [the Leopold Center] undertook, that they have completed that mission." The same lawmaker also claimed that sustainable agriculture research at Iowa State can continue, but through other channels. These comments either suggest an utter lack of understanding around the reality of sustainable agriculture, or otherwise reveal the politics fueling these budget bills.

The agriculture and natural resources committee budget bill directs the Leopold Center to shut its doors this summer, and directs their funds to another center at Iowa State University. The other center does not currently have a track record of transparently administering research dollars, and has a far narrower scope than the current vision of the Leopold Center.

Comments to the tune of "someone else will do the research" always give me pause. The common thread I've noticed is that research deemed duplicative or unnecessary often simply doesn't jibe with financial interests. It is easy to see that research describing less use of pesticides, for example, might be viewed as controversial to powerful business interests. (Many examples of this already exist!)

Further, to claim "mission accomplished" on sustainable agriculture is laughable, and hints at willful ignorance about the current economic and environment realities in Iowa. They bear similarities to the 1980s: soil erosion and water pollution remain persistent and costly challenges, and farm incomes have been steeply declining for several years.

Research Should Be Free of Interference Even When the Politics Are Thorny

Even though it might not be popular for those with a financial stake in the status quo, the research made possible by the Leopold Center plays a critical role in the future of the state, if not the nation, and has broad public support. So it's hard not to see this incident as part of the larger political attacks on science, with parallels to the Trump Administration's numerous attacks on climate action.

In addition to research funds, the Leopold Center supports a diverse dialogue by bringing in valuable speakers and lectures to Iowa State's campus; I shudder to think how that important dialogue will change if the state legislature votes to close its doors. The center has a successful and important track record benefitting local and national public interests, and I hope it stays that way.

Andrea Basche is a Kendall Science Fellow in the Union of Concerned Scientists Food & Environment program.

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Senate Republicans Rig System, Trigger 'Nuclear Option' to Push Through Gorsuch

Senate Republicans rushed through a confirmation vote Thursday on President Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch has been met with widespread criticism both across the country and from the Senate before, during and after his confirmation process.

For more than 200 years, the Senate has honored a 60 vote margin for Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed. Gorsuch only received 55. According to existing Senate procedure, Gorsuch's nomination would be defeated and the Senate would move forward without confirming him to the court. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the rules and triggered the so-called "nuclear option" for what had been deemed the "greatest deliberative body" to force Gorsuch's nomination through.

The Senate rightfully rejected Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is their duty to advise and consent on judicial nominees and with this vote, they refused their consent and advised President Donald Trump that Gorsuch is not fit to be granted a lifetime appointment to America's highest court.

We live in a representative democracy, where the people are to be the ones in charge. Yet, Senate Republicans have rigged the system to appease their leader, President Donald Trump, in order to put a man on the Supreme Court that has been backed by $10 million in shadowy money from big corporations. This is not how democracy works and Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

Senate Republicans have made their choice to serve President Donald Trump instead of serving the American people.

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8 Critical Changes to NAFTA to Prioritize People and Planet

By Amanda Maxwell and Anthony Swift

President Trump has made renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) one of the main goals for his administration and has recently revealed the general plan to do so.

As this process moves forward, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and our partners across a broad range of sectors are calling on the administration to include eight critical issues among their priorities in changing NAFTA, outlined below. We want to ensure that any new provisions in NAFTA result in a transparent agreement that supports—and does not undermine—a more stable climate, clean air and water, healthy communities, indigenous peoples and good jobs.

In the 23 years since NAFTA's signing, the economies of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. have become intertwined and interdependent, with $1.1 trillion in trade moving among the three countries in 2016. During those decades, too, new issues such as climate change, clean energy and sustainability, have moved to the forefront of international relations. So, while it remains unclear exactly how and to what extent the Trump administration will change this accord, there are several critical provisions that should be included to improve the lives of people living and working in all three countries and the environments they depend on.

NRDC is pleased to ally with 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Green America, Greenpeace USA, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, League of Conservation Voters, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club and U.S. Human Rights Network in calling on the Trump administration to include the following eight issues among their priorities in changing NAFTA:

1. Eliminate rules that empower corporations to attack environmental and public health protections in unaccountable tribunals. NAFTA's investor-state dispute settlement system allows multinational corporations—e.g. ExxonMobil and TransCanada—to bypass our courts, go to private tribunals and demand money from taxpayers for policies that affect corporate bottom lines. Corporations have used NAFTA to challenge bans on toxic chemicals, decisions of environmental review panels and protections for our climate. They have extracted more than $370 million from governments in these cases and pending NAFTA claims total more than $50 billion. What's more, the cases are heard not by judges, but by corporate lawyers outside the normal court system.

2. Incorporate strong, enforceable environmental and labor standards into the core text of the agreement. To address environmental and labor issues, NAFTA created side agreements which are non-binding and have limitations. As a result, they have been relatively ineffective. To ensure that the new terms of a revised trilateral trade agreement create and uphold a fair playing field for environmental and labor conditions, these two areas must be included inside the core text of the agreement. That means that a country that fails to live up to its environmental obligations will be subject to trade sanctions similar to the existing provisions for violation of commercial parts of the agreement. This will also require that countries live up to existing international agreements and address environmental challenges such as critical conservation challenges related to illegal timber trade, illegal wildlife trade and fisheries management.

3. Protect energy sector reform from backward-looking rules. NAFTA's energy chapter limits Canada's ability to restrict production of climate-polluting fossil fuels such as tar sands oil. The chapter, written before awareness of climate change was widespread, must be eliminated. Other NAFTA rules allow renewable portfolio standards, low-carbon fuel standards and other climate-friendly energy regulations to be challenged for impeding business for foreign fossil fuel firms. Such rules must be narrowed to protect climate policies in each country.

4. Restrict pollution from cross-border freight vehicles. NAFTA encouraged a rise in cross-border motor carrier traffic without doing anything to mitigate the resulting increase in harmful vehicle emissions. Any deal that replaces NAFTA must require cross-border freight vehicles to reduce emissions in order for their goods to benefit from reduced tariffs. In addition, all cross-border commercial vehicles must be required to comply with all state and federal standards to limit pollution.

5. Require green government purchasing instead of restricting it. NAFTA's procurement rules limit governments' ability to use "green purchasing" requirements that ensure government contracts support renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable goods. Any changes to NAFTA must require signatory governments to include a preference for goods and services with low environmental impacts in procurement decisions.

6. Bolster climate protections by penalizing imported goods made with high climate emissions. NAFTA allows firms to shift production to a country with lower climate standards, which can spur "carbon leakage" and job offshoring. To prevent this and encourage greater climate action from high-emissions trading partners, each country should be required to impose a border fee on imported goods whose production causes significant climate pollution.

7. Require governments to prioritize policies that minimize climate pollution. While NAFTA restricts climate policies that limit trade or investment, any replacement deal must instead put climate first. This includes requiring governments to use a "climate impact test" for policymaking, in which potential climate impacts of policy proposals are reported and weighed.

8. Add a broad protection for environmental and other public interest policies. NAFTA's many overreaching rules restrict the policy tools that governments can use to protect the environment and other broadly-shared priorities. NAFTA includes no provision that effectively shields public interest policies from such rules—only a weak "exception" in Article 2101 that has consistently failed to protect challenged policies. Instead, any deal that replaces NAFTA must include a broad "carve-out" that exempts public interest policies from all of the deal's rules.

If President Trump moves forward with altering NAFTA, any renegotiations must be conducted transparently through open processes, providing the public in all three countries with the opportunity to participate. We and our partners in the environmental, labor, health, consumer, agricultural and other communities will be eager to see whether President Trumps supports a renegotiated NAFTA that supports—and does not undermine—a more stable climate, clean air and water, healthy communities, indigenous peoples and good jobs.

Amanda Maxwell is the director of the Latin America Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Anthony Swift is the director of the Canada Project and the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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How the Koch Brothers Won the White House

By Lee Fang

If the billionaire Koch brothers turn to the White House for favors, they will see many familiar faces.

Newly disclosed ethics forms reveal that a significant number of senior Trump staffers were previously employed by the sprawling network of hard-right and libertarian advocacy groups financed and controlled by Charles and David Koch, the conservative duo hyper-focused on entrenching Republican power, eliminating taxes and slashing environmental and labor regulations.

Some of the relationships were well-known. Marc Short, for instance, now Trump's chief liaison to Congress, previously led Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the dark money nonprofit used by the Koch brothers and their donor cohort to dispense money to allied groups. Freedom Partners, which maintains an affiliate Super PAC, was at the center of the Kochs' $750 million election effort during the campaign last year.

But the ethics forms, made available to the public on Friday evening, reveal a number of previously undisclosed financial ties between the Koch network and Trump's inner circle of political aides.

Donald McGahn, Trump's campaign attorney turned White House counsel, provided legal services to a range of outside Koch groups working to influence the election. McGahn, through the law firm Jones Day, advised Freedom Partners, as well as i360, the Koch's big data firm set up to identify and target voters and Americans for Prosperity, the election advocacy and grassroots lobbying organization run by the Koch brothers. Ann Donaldson, McGahn's chief of staff, came to the White House from McGahn's law firm. Her financial disclosure shows that she also provided legal services to Freedom Partners and i360.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump's former campaign manager turned close White House advisor, consulted over the last year for Americans for Prosperity's national foundation, as well as for the Michigan and Ohio chapters of the group. Conway served as a board member for the Independent Women's Forum, a Koch-backed group whose goal is "increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty."

The fact that Trump's political team worked for the Koch network during the campaign adds a new wrinkle to the relationship between the president and the most well-known pair of Republican billionaires.

The Koch network has long pioneered a strategy of backing GOP campaigns by using seemingly independent nonprofits and outside election groups. Election law prohibits organizations that raise and spend unlimited funds, such as the Freedom Partners' Super PAC and Americans for Prosperity, from directly coordinating with candidates.

But those rules are rarely enforced. Moreover, campaigns and Super PACs have danced around the coordination prohibition by employing individuals who split their time between candidates and outside groups, making them a crucial conduit for potential coordination.

Despite the common myth that the Koch network, in the words of Politico, "sat out" the presidential campaign, Koch groups were active in battleground states that proved critical to Trump's victory. Americans for Prosperity employed 650 staff members during the campaign, with many stationed in Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire and Missouri. The field staff, using the new data tools from i360, focused on making sure Republican voters made it to the polls.

In the aforementioned states, Americans for Prosperity also aired negative ads attacking Hillary Clinton in the last weeks of the campaign, linking her to Democratic candidates and problems allegedly caused by the Affordable Care Act. The ads, which blanketed swing state television stations, held Clinton responsible for healthcare with "higher cost, lost coverage, lost doctors."

The election effort swept the GOP to a level of national power not seen since the 1920s. And the Koch network has been quick to seize upon unified Republican control of Washington to quickly score a range of policy and political victories.

Freedom Partners Vice President Andy Koenig told the Los Angeles Times after the election that his group hoped Trump would "walk in with an eraser" and wipe out as many Obama reforms as possible. The group formulated a "Roadmap to Repeal," a memo calling for the administration to prioritize revoking the Paris climate change treaty, repealing clean water rules and eliminating limits on pollution from coal-fire power plants.

In recent weeks, Trump and congressional leaders have used a little-known procedure called the Congressional Review Act to swiftly roll back the very regulations identified by the Koch memo. And they have been aided by a team that came to the White House policy staff directly from the Koch network.

Koenig, the former Freedom Partners vice president, is now working in the White House as a policy assistant. Koenig's financial disclosure shows that he made $320,000 at the group before moving through the revolving door.

In addition, Andrew Bremberg, now the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Bethany Scully, an official working in Trump's Office of Legislative Affairs, both worked for Freedom Partners. Bremberg's disclosure shows that he consulted for the group through a consulting firm he owns called Right Policy LLC.

The Trump policy team includes Brian Blase, a special assistant to the president working on healthcare issues, who came to the White House from the Mercatus Center, the Koch network think tank at George Mason University.

A number of Vice President Mike Pence's staff also came directly from Koch organizations. Andeliz Castillo, named earlier this year as a Pence senior aide, came from the Libre Initiative, the Latino outreach arm of the Koch network. Stephen Ford, Pence's director of speechwriting, previously worked as a speechwriter for Koch's Freedom Parters.

To be sure, there is not perfect harmony between the Koch brothers and Trump. The Koch network harshly criticized the American Health Care Act, attacking it for not doing enough to repeal Obamacare. And the groups have lobbied against the so-called border adjustment tax, a proposal favored by some in the Trump White House.

But if the latest member-wide email from Americans for Prosperity is any indication, the Koch brothers have much to celebrate with Trump in the White House.

The email, titled, "Thank you, President Trump," hails the president for issuing an executive order to repeal of Obama's "Clean Power Plan," the biggest pillar in the previous administration's climate change strategy. The message goes on to boast that Americans for Prosperity is providing the lobbying muscle, along with paid advertisements and mobilizing calls to Congress, to help confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Intercept.

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Editor's Pick

Fox News Grills Pruitt Over Climate Denial in Must-See Interview

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace confronted new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt on Sunday about his controversial statement last month that carbon dioxide is not "a primary contributor" to climate change.

"Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you," the Fox News Sunday host remarked. "The UN's panel on climate change says it is 95 percent likely more than half of the temperature increase since the mid-20th century is due to human activities."

Wallace also cited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's findings that there is more carbon dioxide now than in the last 400,000 years and that 2015 and 2016 are the two hottest years on record.

"Mr. Pruitt, are we supposed to believe that's all a coincidence?" Wallace asked.

Remarkably, Pruitt's response acknowledged that there is a "warming trend" and that human activity increases global temperatures "in some measure." However, he contended that the EPA should not have the power to regulate greenhouse gasses.

Wallace then shot back, "But sir, you're kind of sugar-coating what you have said."

"You said that you would not agree that carbon CO2 is a primary contributor to global warming," Wallace continued. "And the question I have is, what if you're wrong? What if, in fact, the earth is warming, what if it is causing dramatic climate change and that we as humans through carbon emissions are contributing to it?"

"Don't you think the fact that we have these coal power plants belching carbon emissions into the air, you don't think that plays a role?" Wallace pressed.

Pruitt replied, "I think that we've done it better than anybody in the world at burning coal clean, in clean fashion."

The tense 14-minute interview covered a number of topics including the Trump administration's devastating environmental rollbacks and the proposed 31 percent spending reduction for the EPA, the biggest cut of any federal agency.

Watch the interview here:

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