I subscribe to a number of news services, political blogs and think tanks. They span the ideological spectrum, from the outer fringe reactionary right, to the so-called mainstream media, to libertarian positions, to the lunatic left. I want to hear all sides of issues so I may reach my own conclusions.
Needless to say, I am on the receiving end of a lot of opinions, conspiracy theories, and occasionally even sound reasoning.
Obviously, I don’t have time to read each one.
But when I received the essay from the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) entitled Five Ways the Government Keeps Native Americans in Poverty, I had to check it out.
It’s no secret that the federal government had consistently dealt the American Indians, aka Native Americans, a sorry hand. They were displaced from their bountiful hunting lands and transplanted to unforgiving, barren reservations where they were provided substandard educational facilities by uncaring, paternalistic bureaucrats in Washington—all in the name of Manifest Destiny.
Unforgiving and barren, that is, until the discovery of oil and gas on the reservations. Suddenly the welfare of Native Americans became a major buzzword.
There was one big red flag when I started reading the post, however.
The article was written by one Shawn Regan of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).
Both FEE and PERC are funded in part by Charles and David, the billionaire Koch brothers of Koch Industries. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/front-groups/foundation-for-economic-education-fee/
After failing to dislodge Barack Obama from the presidency in 2012, the Kochs quietly re-tooled, adapting the face of benevolent, caring humanitarians. Thus the rather sudden concern for the downtrodden, the environment, and the overall good of mankind.
So when reading about how the government keeps Native Americans in poverty, I paid special attention not to what Regan was saying but to what he did not say.
My first question before reading the first word was why are the Kochs suddenly so concerned with the welfare of Native Americans?
A 1989 U.S. Senate committee report, after all, found that the Kochs had cheated the Navajo tribe out of millions of dollars by deliberately short-measuring oil taken from Indian reservations. https://www.propublica.org/article/land-grab-cheats-north-dakota-tribes-out-of-1-billion-suits-allege
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs examined internal company documents and even sent investigators into the field to look at how Koch Oil employees were measuring the oil they took from tribal lands. The committee found that “Koch’s practice of sophisticated oil theft is carried out primarily by gaugers, the field personnel responsible for measurement of crude oil.” Gaugers report the oil measured and its quality on run tickets, which are the basis on which royalties are paid.
The quantity of the oil was measured by gauging the depth of the oil in the producer’s tanks before any was pumped out, the depth of the oil after the tank was pumped and the temperature of the oil to account for expansion or contraction. A fourth measurement determined the quality of the oil. “Koch gaugers were instructed to misstate each of these elements in the company’s favor and fraudulently report their phony measurements on the run tickets.” A gauger who reports that the company took more oil than it paid for was said to be “long” or “over.”
In all, the Navajo, Crow and Blackfoot tribes have been cheated out of more than $1 billion, according to a story by Pro Publica. https://www.propublica.org/article/land-grab-cheats-north-dakota-tribes-out-of-1-billion-suits-allege
Here’s a sample of some of the things Regan wrote (with his comments in boldface type followed by our interpretation of what he really meant in italics and parentheses):
“All development projects on Indian land must be reviewed and authorized by the government, a process that is notoriously slow and burdensome. On Indian lands, companies must go through at least four federal agencies and 49 steps to acquire a permit for energy development. Off reservation, it takes only four steps. This bureaucracy prevents tribes from capitalizing on their resources.” (We don’t want government regulators looking over our shoulders as we systematically destroy what little land these people have left—like the way we’ve helped destroy Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.)
“It’s not uncommon for years to pass before the necessary approvals are acquired to begin energy development on Indian lands – a process that takes only a few months on private lands. At any time, an agency may demand more information or shut down development. Simply completing a title search can cause delays. Indians have waited six years to receive title search reports that other Americans can get in just a few days.” (We’re the Kochs. We’re the public face of big oil and we’re used to getting our way without all those regulatory delays. Down in Louisiana, we spread a little money on the floor of the Legislature, pop over to the Department of Natural Resources, pick up our permits and we’re out the door in just a few hours, including lunch at Ruth’s Chris.)
“The result is that many investors avoid Indian lands altogether.” (That’s about to change: if there’s anyone easier to cheat than Cajuns, it’s those Indians who don’t have an advocate.) “When development does occur, federal agencies are involved in every detail, even collecting payments on behalf of tribes.” (We’ve been telling those folks in Louisiana the same thing for 100 years, so we hold franchise rights on how to do it.) The royalties are then distributed back to Indians (Yeah, right.) – that is, if the government doesn’t lose money in the process.”
“Royalties were set by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the agency consistently undervalued Indian resources. A federal commission concluded in 1977 that leases negotiated on behalf of Indians were “among the poorest agreements ever made.” (Uh, we don’t talk about that 1989 report which shows that we took it a step further with our bogus measurements.)
“A recent class action suit alleged that the government mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian assets. The case settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion—far less than what was lost by the feds.” (Shoot, we only took ‘em for $230 million).
“Thanks to the legacy of federal control, reservations have complicated legal and property systems that are detrimental to economic growth.” (When all other arguments fail, always fall back on the tried and true economic growth ploy. It never fails.)
“Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow Tribe in Montana, puts it plainly: ‘The war on coal is a war on our families and our children.’ Coal provides the greatest economic opportunity for the impoverished tribe, but regulations are making it hard for the tribe to capitalize on their natural resources. Some are even trying to prevent the tribe from exporting coal to Asia.” (Did we mention that Koch Carbon is one of the world’s largest traders in coal?)
So what’s the point of all this information about Koch and the Native Americans and just how does all this relate to Louisiana.
Well, besides being a major player in the fossil fuel industry, Koch Industries has set about on an ambitious—and expensive—campaign to purchase the federal (including Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court) and state governments with a complex network of innocent-sounding “educational” foundations that funnel hundreds of millions of unreported dollars into political campaigns and which underwrite such “informative” pseudo-investigative pieces such as the noble (on the surface, at least) essays on how the government keeps Native Americans in poverty.
Here are Koch
purchases contributions in Louisiana since 2003:
|Amoroso||A. J. (Buddy)||F103||3/18/2015||$1,000.00|
|Amoroso||A. J. (Buddy)||F102||1/8/2015||$1,000.00|
|Amoroso||A. J. (Buddy)||F102||3/18/2015||$1,000.00|
|Berthelot||John A. (Johnny)||F102||2/2/2015||$500.00|
|Buquet III||James J||F103||10/19/2015||$1,000.00|
|Buquet III||James J||F102||10/19/2015||$1,000.00|
|Burford||Richard T. (Ritchie)||F103||11/12/2015||$2,500.00|
|Burford||Richard T. (Ritchie)||F102||11/12/2015||$2,500.00|
|Burford||Richard T. (Ritchie)||F102||10/15/2015||$1,750.00|
|Burford||Richard T. (Ritchie)||F103||10/15/2015||$1,750.00|
|Burford||Richard T. (Ritchie)||F102||2/13/2015||$500.00|
|Fannin||James R. (Jim)||F102||1/17/2014||$1,000.00|
|Fannin||James R. (Jim)||F102||2/3/2015||$1,000.00|
|Fannin||James R. (Jim)||F102||10/16/2015||$500.00|
|Garofalo, Jr.||Raymond E. "Ray"||F102||11/16/2015||$2,500.00|
|Garofalo, Jr.||Raymond E. "Ray"||F103||11/16/2015||$2,500.00|
|Garofalo, Jr.||Raymond E. "Ray"||F102||10/16/2015||$2,000.00|
|Garofalo, Jr.||Raymond E. "Ray"||F103||10/16/2015||$2,000.00|
|LA Committee for a Republican Majority||F203||10/19/2007||$100,000.00|
|LA Committee for a Republican Majority||F202||10/24/2007||$100,000.00|
|LA Committee for a Republican Majority||F202||8/22/2011||$100,000.00|
|Lopinto, III||Joseph P.||F102||3/7/2014||$500.00|
|Republican Party of Louisiana||F203||10/16/2007||$12,500.00|
|Republican Party of Louisiana||F202||10/16/2007||$12,500.00|
|Smith, Jr.||Gary L.||F102||1/17/2014||$500.00|
|Smith, Jr.||Gary L.||F102||1/30/2015||$500.00|
|Strain||Michael G. (Mike)||F102||4/17/2014||$1,000.00|
|Strain||Michael G. (Mike)||F102||4/3/2015||$1,000.00|
|Strain||Michael G. (Mike)||F102||10/19/2015||$1,000.00|
|The Fund for Louisiana’s Future||F202||2/4/2015||$25,000.00|
|The Fund for Louisiana’s Future||F203||11/9/2015||$25,000.00|
|The Fund for Louisiana’s Future||F202||11/9/2015||$25,000.00|
|Ward, III||Richard J.||F102||3/10/2014||$500.00|
|Ward, III||Richard J.||F102||3/25/2015||$500.00|