Koch Brothers Wield Influence in New Congress
Change in House Energy and Commerce Committee 'like night and day'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2011 3:48 PM CST
Protesters are seen outside the Kochs' annual fundraising meeting in this YouTube screenshot.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have been thrust into the spotlight as of late—and though they once ran outside the typical Washington political circles, their increasing influence is now becoming more clear. That influence is most obvious in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to which Koch Industries and its employees are the largest single oil and gas donor, contributing $279,500 to 22 Republicans on the committee and $32,000 to five Democrats. Of the dozen new Republicans on the panel, nine signed a Koch-backed pledge to oppose President Obama’s proposal for the regulation of greenhouse gases, and the Republicans on the committee have a Koch-friendly goal of restricting the EPA’s reach.

Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-founded advocacy group, helped five of the six freshman GOP lawmakers on the panel during last year’s campaign, the Los Angeles Times reports. Another committee member hired a former Koch Industries lawyer to be his chief of staff. Even Rep. Fred Upton, the committee’s new chairman who was once criticized for being too middle-of-the-road when it came to environmental issues, is now an important Koch ally, leading the charge against the EPA. Koch employees were among Upton’s top 10 donors last year, contributing $20,000. The change seen on the committee is “like night and day,” says an exec at the National Wildlife Federation. “Now the committee treats the Clean Air Act and the EPA as if they are the enemy.”