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Koch Brothers Exposed for Campaign Contributions to 19 Members of Congress Who Voted to Deny Fair Compensation to Asbestos Victims

Politics

House Judiciary Committee members who voted for a bill that could delay or deny fair compensation to asbestos victims received almost $3.3 million in campaign contributions over the last five years from companies that would benefit from the legislation, according to an investigation of federal records by Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund.

The so-called FACT Act, H.R. 526, authored by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), is being supported by dozens of companies and industry associations with billions of dollars worth of liability for deaths and diseases caused by exposing workers, their families or consumers to asbestos. On May 14, the Judiciary panel approved it 19 to 9. The full House is expected to debate it soon.

“Rep. Farenthold’s bill claims to be about increasing transparency for asbestos claims, but it’s really just a scheme to delay paying for victims’ deaths and illnesses as long as possible,” said Bill Walker of EWG Action Fund and author of the report.

“The FACT Act would not only erect needless bureaucratic hurdles to victims’ compensation, but by forcing them to make public their personal financial data, could put them at risk of identity theft,” Walker said. “You might think such a bad bill would be a non-starter for members of Congress, but our report shows how asbestos interests are using their cash and clout in an attempt to deny justice and evade the consequences of their liability.”

The Koch brothers empire, which includes the forest products giant Georgia-Pacific, and its affiliated political action committee, has given the 19 committee members who voted for the FACT Act $241,500 since 2010. Koch network contributions were exceeded only by defense contractor Honeywell International, which gave the members more than $245,000.

In addition to their campaign contributions, since 2010, Koch, Honeywell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others aligned with asbestos interests have spent unknown millions of dollars on K Street, lobbying for the bill.

Most of the largest contributors to congressional supporters of the FACT Act were defense contractors, who have exposed millions of Americans to asbestos over the years. But big donors also included AT&T, ExxonMobil, railroads and insurance companies.

Koch’s Georgia-Pacific subsidiary is facing tens of thousands of lawsuits from people exposed to asbestos in its pipe joint compound. The company’s estimated liability is nearly $1 billion—culpability it tried to skirt by funding bogus scientific studies falsely concluding that the type of asbestos used in the product does not cause cancer.

Honeywell International, whose political action committee donated more money to members of Congress than any other U.S. corporate PAC, has paid out more than $1 billion in asbestos damages since 2010.

The 19 FACT Act supporters on the House Judiciary Committee received an average of $173,267 apiece from asbestos interests since 2010.

EWG Action Fund examined federal records of campaign contributions to members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted for the FACT Act, starting with the 2010 election cycle.

The EWG Action Fund report compiles contributions from companies that met at least one of these criteria:

  • Companies or industry associations that have disclosed on federal forms that they lobbied for the FACT Act or for asbestos litigation reform.
  • Companies named in court decisions in the last 10 years as defendants in asbestos lawsuits.
  • Companies that have disclosed significant asbestos liability in Securities and Exchange Commission filings or whose liability was confirmed by news reports.

House Judiciary Committee members who received the most campaign contributions from asbestos interests between 2010 and 2015 were:

  • Lamar Smith (R-TX), $382,150
  • Darryl Issa (R-CA), $372,329
  • Virgil Goodlatte (R-VA), the committee chair, $300,879
  • Randy Forbes (R-VA), $286,285
  • Blake Farenthold (R-TX), $239,250

EWG Action Fund’s full analysis is here:

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