Faithful FlashReport readers know that when it’s merited, I opine on the biased reporting of many of the MSM publications in California. To be honest, I don’t call out egregious stories often enough — sometimes it’s too much of a burden (how many times to do I have to see stories that refer to Governor Brown’s proposed NEW taxes as merely tax extensions?). This morning I am aiming my sights at a story that ran on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday, “Koch brothers may fight California oil tax.”
Do not be confused by the headline. The Koch Brothers (as is clear to anyone who actually reads the story) are likely not even aware of this oil tax measure that is apparently the brain child of a community college professor from Cypress – it is a long way from qualifying for the ballot. Yet the paper saw fit to print a front-page story about it based on rumors and speculation. Despite the misleading headline, nothing in the story indicates that the Koch brothers even know there is an oil severance tax initiative circulating, let alone that they’re planning to spend money to defeat it.
Let’s look at the facts. The Koch brothers have historically stayed out of similar fights in California. In 2006, when another oil severance tax was placed on the ballot, and millions were spent on each side, the Koch brothers were not involved at all. In addition, the Koch’s have no oil refining operations in the state of California and as far as I can tell from their web site actually are not in the oil extracting business, which is what this initiative seeks to directly tax. To their credit, the Chronicle article points these facts out.
So now you are probably wondering why the Chronicle would even write this story since it is unlikely that the Koch’s are clearly unlikely to spend big bucks, in a presidential year on a ballot initiative that does not directly impact their business and an issue on which they have no record of engaging on in California? According to the Chronicle, they may be interested because what happens in California may spread to the rest of the country. However, there is one problem with that line of thinking. California would actually be last among oil producing states to impose such a tax – not to mention that Koch operates in those other states despite this fact. Again, the Chronicle reports this, seemingly discrediting the premise of its own story.
To be fair, there is a quote in the Chronicle story from my friend Peter Foy, Chairman of Americans for Prosperity, California, where he opines about the Koch’s and an oil severance tax measure, “They’d probably weigh in…” Hardly an emphatic quote worthy of constructing an entire article around, would you say?
This entire article is supposed to be about potential opposition to the oil severance tax initiative from the oil industry. Yet all the article tells us is that the Koch brothers most likely won’t be involved. The big oil companies that actually have extraction operations in aren’t given a mention as potential big spending opponents of this measure, despite their massive spending to defeat it in 2006. Valero, the only other oil company mentioned, is only brought up in the context of its involvement with Proposition 23, no speculation about how much they might spend on this measure despite the fact that they donated more than five times to pass Proposition 23 than Koch did.
Even Democrat strategist Steve Maviglio, who rarely passes on an opportunity to vilify Republicans (with panache, I might add), admitted that the Koch brothers aren’t heavily engaged in California politics. It’s very telling when even a Democratic operative like Maviglio won’t go along on the “bash the major libertarian donor” tour.
This entire article is pure speculation with no “news” aspect to it on which to report. This story which never should have been printed instead, because it is the San Francisco Chronicle, ends up on A-1. Like I said, why pass on an opportunity to take a cheap shot at a libertarian political donor?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Chronicle has taken a piece of incorrect speculation affiliated with the Koch brothers and blown it up. The paper recently ran a headline claiming that the Koch brothers were behind political hits against moderate Republicans in Sacramento (a.k.a The GOP 5). Again, the headline was misleading and the story based on wild assumptions and tenuous, if not entirely inaccurate, connections.
I respect the journalists at the Chronicle. In fact, I consider some to be good friends. But in this instance, this story should have been red-lined at the concept stage, not prominently placed in the paper.