Koch Industries, the largest privately owned energy company in the United States, is lobbying European policymakers on the environment, energy markets and EU free trade agreement negotiations, according to the recently updated Transparency Register set up by the European Commission.
The company, known for funding climate denial groups, has declared on the voluntary Register that it has spent between €200,000 and €299,999 ($223,634–$335,449 or £142,464–£213,695) on its European lobby efforts in 2014. This is similar to the amount declared for 2013 (€200,000–€250,000) and more than that declared in 2012 (€150,000–€200,000), which was the first year for which the Kochs entered data into the EU registry.
As the Transparency Register shows, the main focus for Koch lobbying in Europe last year relates to “all initiatives on the areas of environmental protection, trade and internal market, such as the recast of the fertilizer regulation, REACH [the EU's regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals], and EU’s free trade agreement negotiations.”
Other interests listed by Koch on the Register include energy, climate action, environment, agriculture and rural development, competition, customs, and taxation.
The figure registered could, however, significantly underestimate the amount spent by the Koch family, warns LobbyFacts, a joint project by Corporate Europe Observatory, LobbyControl and Friends of the Earth Europe: “The new EU Transparency Register continues to suffer from seriously unreliable data.” For example, many companies tend to under-report their lobbying spend.
Koch has a wide presence throughout Europe, with eight companies, such as Georgia-Pacific – which manufactures paper products, such as napkins, as well as fabrics, including LYCRA – Koch Fertilizer, Koch Carbon, and Koch Supply & Trading – which trades in oil and gas.
In 2009, Koch Industries launched its European arm under its legal, lobbying and public affairs branch, known as Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, in order to make discussions with local policymakers easier. Previously, they would send Koch representatives to Europe. Only in 2013 did Koch Companies sign up to the Transparency Register.
Thomas Dubois, managing director for government and public affairs at Koch Companies, serves as the central person in charge of EU relations for Koch; the company only lists one registered EU lobbyist.
Koch Companies is registered under the “in-house lobbyists and trade/business/professional associations” category – this represents half of the 7,910 registrants signed up to the EU register.
The other half is made up of NGOs, which represents just over 2,000 registrants, along with professional consultancies and law firms, think tanks, research and academic institutions, religious organisations and churches, as well as organisations representing local, regional or municipal authorities.
Brussels is said to be the second largest city in the world for lobbyists after Washington, D.C. Corporate Europe Observatory, a watchdog campaigning for greater transparency, estimates there are at least 30,000 lobbyists – almost perfectly matching the some 31,000 staff employed by the European Commission. But, unlike in the US and Canada, registration for lobbyists is not mandatory.
And, according to new analysis by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International, three-quarters of high-level meetings between lobbyists and the European commission are with private-sector companies. Only 18 percent are with NGOs.
The Transparency Register was launched in 2011 in an effort to “boost integrity” of the European institutions under the European Transparency Initiative. With almost 8,000 entries to date, the aim is for registration to become mandatory as of 2017.
In April 2014, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to introduce new measures to increase lobbying transparency, including restricting access to Parliament buildings for non-registered organisations and restricting Parliament’s representation at events hosted by non-registered organisations.
But, according to a report by the ALTER-EU coalition published last month, despite some improvements in the registry, the data remains unreliable, with many companies and lobby groups under-reporting their lobby spending, while others report “grotesquely exaggerated” figures, most often not by intent but by mistake, it’s assumed.
“Whilst the register is full of loopholes,” says LobbyFacts, “it is the only official source of information about which organisations lobby the EU institutions, how many lobbyists they hire, how much they spend on these activities, [and] which issues they try to influence.”
DeSmog UK has contacted Koch Industries for comment on its lobbying activities in Europe however the company has failed to respond in time for publication.
Photo: Donkey Hotey via Flickr