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White House Fires Back at Charles Koch

The White House fired back at the Koch brothers yesterday after Charles Koch told Politico he was "flabbergasted" by a recent attack on him and his brother by President Obama during a clean energy speech in Las Vegas, Nevada earlier this week.

It all started on Monday when President Obama accused critics of his energy policies as “wanting to protect an outdated status quo” and “standing in the way of the future.” He specifically called out the Koch brothers for funding these attacks on renewable energy, saying “you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding—that’s a problem.”

On Tuesday, Charles Koch responded to the comments, saying the attack was "beneath the President, the dignity of the President, to be doing that." Koch told Politico that he is not against renewable energy, he is merely “opposed to renewable energy subsidies of all kinds—as we are all subsidies, whether they benefit or help us.”

Yesterday, White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest said Koch’s statements were untrue“I’m not sure whether to describe those comments as remarkably rich or utterly predictable,” Earnest said. “It’s that when the President is advocating, for example, the end of tax subsidies that benefit oil and gas companies, that somebody who has made billions of dollars leading an oil and gas company, might not think very highly of that policy proposal.”

Earnest also derided Koch for claiming that his company has not lobbied for policies favorable to oil and gas companies over renewable energy projects. "The fact is that Koch Industries has spent at least tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, lobbying Congress—these are public disclosures—in support of those kinds of policies, to say nothing of the millions of dollars that they have spent punishing those candidates that didn’t side with them,” Earnest said.

When asked if he was surprised by Koch's response to the criticism, Earnest responded with: “I guess. Yeah,” he said, remarking that Obama is not particularly surprised to see criticism of his policies from people like the “millionaires and billionaires” who “start to squeal. And I guess one billionaire special-interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter,” Earnest said.

Philip Ellender, Koch Industries private sector’s president and chief operating officer of government and public affairs, responded to Earnest’s comments, reiterating their stance that they "have not lobbied for government subsidies or mandates, and we have lobbied against subsidies that directly benefit Koch." They say they have fought against "government boondoggles" and "corporate welfare" for decades. They admitted that they have accepted subsidies, but only to protect their employees and maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. "But to reiterate, we would eliminate all subsidies and mandates today if we could, including those we receive," said Ellender.

Charles and his brother David, along with their vast network of wealthy, conservative donors—the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce—plan to spend a jaw-dropping $889 million for the presidential election. Earlier this month, the billionaire brothers hosted the annual Freedom Partners summit, which included five GOP presidential candidates seeking donations from the wealthy funders.

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