Controversy erupted last week when Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post's Wonkblog posted a story headlined, “The biggest lease holder in Canada's oil sands isn't Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It's the Koch Brothers.” According to Mufson and Eilperin, the Koch Brother's Canadian oil sand holdings put them in a position to make beaucoup bucks on the Keystone XL pipeline. If you connect all the dots in the Wonkblog post, it provides what many on the far Left are desperately seeking: another reason to oppose Keystone XL. They are desperate because a solid majority of Americans want Keystone XL to be built, and environmental impact arguments against it have been rejected by, among many others, the State Department, multiple former Obama administration cabinet members and a host of other prominent Democratic power players.
It would be useful for the present purpose to put aside pros and cons of Keystone XL to focus on the controversy sparked by the Wonkblog post. The controversy arose from the fact the post's essential claim was false. As Powerline's John Hinderaker quickly found after spending a few minutes looking at the data, neither the Kochs, nor Chevron, nor ExxonMobil are big leaseholders. Koch's 1.1 million acres represent about three percent of the estimated 35 million acres of Canadian oil sands. Holdings by outfits unfamiliar to most Americans, like Canadian National Resources Ltd, dwarf those of the Kochs.
Hinderaker also pointed out that “Koch will not be a user of the pipeline if it is built,” and the completed pipeline “would actually be harmful to Koch's economic interests, which is why Koch has never taken a position on the pipeline's construction. The Keystone Pipeline, in short, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Koch brothers.”
Here's how Mufson and Eilperin responded to Hinderaker: “The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers' political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year. That's why we wrote the piece.” In the fight game, that would be more than ducking a punch, it would be running out of the ring.
There's another aspect of the controversy that deserves attention. Mufson and Eilperin were straightforward about their key source, the International Forum on Globalization. According to FoundationSearch, the IFG has received 149 grants worth more than $6.2 million in recent years, including more than $535,000 from the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, the granddaddy of dark money in American politics. Tides passes funds it gets from anonymous donors to liberal and far-Left groups across the country. Did Mufson or Eilperin check IFG's sources of income to determine if any of it came from the 58 political funders that the Center for Public Integrity calculated were more generous than the Kochs between 1989 and 2013?