Despite repeated snubs from the fossil-fuel billionaires, the President-elect’s administration is set to be full of their allies
Last summer, Donald Trump called other Republican presidential hopefuls “puppets” for meeting with the billionaire Koch brothers—the notorious free-market activists who amassed the lion’s share of their fortunes through oil and gas processing and distribution. But as the inauguration approaches, the Trump transition team and his prospective administration are filling up with prominent players in the Koch political network—leaving many policy experts to speculate whether the president-elect himself might be their unwitting puppet.
Throughout the presidential primaries and the general election, the Koch brothers were steadfast in their refusal to support Trump, consistently critical of his candidacy. Charles Koch even once described choosing between Trump and Clinton as picking “cancer or a heart attack.” And when they hosted 400 wealthy conservative donors and politicians at their annual Koch network gathering at a luxury resort in Colorado, Trump wasn’t invited—a sequel to fundraising drama that played out a year earlier.
Yet, even after all the public snubs and criticism, Trump has been filling up his transition team and administration with scores of the Koch brothers’ friends, employees, and other fossil fuel advocates who have benefited from Koch funds. According to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, of the roughly 300 names currently on the transition team books or in play for Cabinet or other positions in the administration, nearly one-third are affiliated with the Koch network.
Scroll and zoom through the above map that I built for a DeSmog project that tracks Koch attacks on clean energy on the LittleSis platform, and it’s easy to see how the brothers are poised to influence Trump’s energy and environmental policies. From the Institute for Energy Research and the Heartland Institute to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a number of oil and gas shills and straight-up climate deniers are in prominent positions on Trump’s teams.
Take, for instance, the Department of Energy transition team, which is being lead by, Thomas Pyle, who was once employed directly by Koch Industries, then went on to a lobbying contract with Koch Industries, and today serves as president of a think tank that was founded by Charles Koch and receives considerable funding from the Koch network. Or the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, led by Myron Ebell, a prominent and outspoken climate denier who works for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market public policy organization that has received millions from the Kochs.
There are plenty more where those came from. For all the snubs and Trump’s talk of puppets and “draining the swamp,” the Koch brothers seem well-positioned to have more direct influence on the White House’s energy and environmental policy than ever before.