Oligarchs are the wealthy few who benefit from the government and for all intents and purposes call the shots behind the scenes. Oilprice.com considers five key oligarchs and oligarch families who will shape the future. They may not be the most powerful, or even the richest, but their influence is undeniable. Oh, and they are not all Russians. Turkey’s oligarchs deserve a place on the list because of the geopolitics of energy and conflict, and you’ve probably never heard of them. America has its own oligarchs, too; they are just less romanticized and devoid of the newsworthy “bling”, but their political power is no less formidable and the November presidential vote is arguably their playground.
The Koc Family, Courtesy Turkey
Let’s start with the most benign, the one you might not have heard of, but which is nonetheless extremely powerful by way of being the owners of the largest conglomerate in a country that holds many keys to near-future geopolitical energy dynamics. Koc Holdings has its hand in everything from oil refining and banking to car manufacturing and electronics, among other things. This is Turkey’s wealthiest family, which has always enjoyed government benefits, not the least from the ruling AKP party elite. Three generations of Koc’s have continued to amass wealth in Turkey, beginning with the family’s founder, Verbi Koc, in the 1920s.
Most notably, the Koc family own the Tupras refinery, which holds a dominant position in Europe’s fuel market, has managed amazing performance even in the midst of a global economic crisis. Tupras is also Turkey’s only refinery and it also controls most of the logistics, including major ports and storage facilities. Tupras also owns 40% of the country’s second-largest fuel retail chain. It also sets prices, where its European-Middle East-Africa colleagues do not enjoy this advantage. Middle Eastern and Russian suppliers favor Tupras for these reasons, though Iran has in recent years out-maneuvered Russian to this end. That said, sanctions against Iran have forced Tupras to diversify somewhat into Saudi, Libyan and Iraqi supplies.
Are they oligarchs or just billionaires? They are oligarchs who refrain from directly interfering in the work of the government, while the government agrees to ensure a certain amount of regulatory liberality that will not interfere with the Koc’s continued accumulation of wealth. To be more specific, Tupras gets to set fuel prices, with the acquiescence of the government, but at the same time, the government makes sure that Tupras supplies the domestic economy first.
If you are a foreign investor, you enter Turkey only through one its oligarch families. Still, these are not your typical Russian oligarchs; they are more concerned about their reputation and cannot afford to be blatant. They take care of their minority shareholders, and make plenty of investments in the country’s social welfare—from hospitals to nursing homes.
Roman Abramovich, Courtesy Russia
Russian oligarchs are of course the most colorful. They have rarely been able to resist the lure of over-the-top luxury as they fleeced the country of uncounted trillions, fleeing to resort islands here and there to run their fiefdoms from beach palaces or yachts. Or, alternatively, ending up behind bars for misunderstanding the consequences of biting the official hand that fed them.
While there are plenty of colorful Russian oligarchs to choose from, we’ll settle for now on Abramovich, largely because he just won a major legal battle with our favorite fleecer of post-Soviet Russia, Boris Berezovsky, his one-time mentor.
Abramovich is the owner of the Chelsea Football Club (Chelsea FC) and the Millhouse LLC private investment company, and is much the darling of oligarchs, especially when compared to Berezovsky, whose external appearance is just too sinisterly “mafia”. Last week, Abramovich won a $1.3 billion legal battle with Berezovsky, who had accused him of “intimidating” him into selling his shares of Sibneft oil—a company the two started together, now Gazprom Neft—at an undervalued price. This is what happens when you fall out of favor with on-again-off-again Russian President Vladimir Putin. Berezovsky fell out with Putin, and Abramovich took advantage of this. Berezovsky said it was extortion. A London court disagreed, of course.
According to Forbes’ 2012 hot list of the wealthy, Abramovich—a former Russian governor and Duma member, is currently the 9th richest person in Russia and the 68th richest person in the world. His fortune is estimated at around $12.1 billion.
The Koch Brothers, Courtesy USA
Yes, there is such a thing as an American oligarch; in fact, to a very great extent, presidential elections are oligarch elections. And the 6 November election is nothing without the Koch Brothers (no relation, apparently, to the Koc family of Turkey, though we appreciate the similarity).
The Koch Brothers, led by David Koch and Charles Koch, have built their fortune on oil derivatives speculation. The family’s wealth was launched by Fred C. Koch, who founded Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States. The family has long contributed massive amounts of money to the Republicans and Libertarians, and also wields its influence through millions in donations to free-market and other advocacy groups through the Koch Family Foundations.
While the Koch brothers have tended to shift their funds to Republican presidential efforts through their foundations, so that they are not directly traced to them, in July they sort of stepped out of the funding shadows by hosting a $50,000-plate dinner for Romney in the Hamptons.
David Koch’s net worth? About $25 billion—and counting.
The Salverria Family, Courtesy El Salvador
We cannot ignore the Salverria family of El Salvador, due to their connection to Romney, who called on their assistance to raise funds for Bain Capital, the currently controversial private equity firm. This story begins in 1983, when Romney headed to Miami where he would win $9 million in pledges that would amount to 40% of Bain’s start-up capital. It was here that Romney, to borrow a dramatic page from the liberals, sold his sole to the devil; or more precisely, to the managers of Latin American death squads, the Salaverria family key among them.
The Salaverria family (and other oligarch families in El Salvador) has been accused of directly funding Salvadorian right-wing paramilitaries who were responsible for a majority of the some 70,000 executions that took place in El Salvador in the 1980s.
The Salverria family has made its fortune in cotton and coffee production, helped along by the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which is a political party founded in 1981 by death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson. The reason for the death squads—in 1980, the government of El Salvador moved to implement some sweeping land reforms that called for the nationalization of the coffee trade. Essentially, this would have removed the coffee oligarchs from political power.
Harold Hamm, Courtesy of USA
We will avoid treading on the overwhelming territory of Big Oil and the power of Chevron, Exxon, the American Petroleum Institute and all their combined oil moguls who make the Koch Brothers look like car salesmen. Instead we will focus on one particular oil baron who stands out for his Bakken ambitions.
Hamm is the mastermind of Continental Resources, which is leading a massive campaign for drilling North Dakota’s Bakken formation. During the first quarter of 2012, Continental Resources “completed the equivalent of 43 wholly owned wells into the Bakken,” according to Forbes, and “unlocking those reserves helped Continental boost its proved reserves nearly 50% in the past year to 610 million barrels”.
Hamm is the 76th richest person in the world, with his 68% stake in Continental worth $7.7 billion. He plays a sizeable role in what we will call the “Romney Energy Team”, and has donated (on the record, at least), almost $1 million to the Restore Our Future Foundation, which is directly supporting Romney’s presidential bid.
For Hamm, it’s all about the Bakken oil boom, and of course, the Keystone XL pipeline, which will ensure a transit route for Hamm’s oil.
David Koch, the co-owner of America’s second largest private company, Koch Industries, an oil, pipeline, chemical, lumber, and finance conglomerate that has been called “the Standard Oil of our times,” has historically been press-shy. But he used the occasion of the Republican National Convention, which he attended as a delegate, to rebrand himself as a good citizen rather than one of the biggest and most secretive behind-the-scenes funders of the opposition to Barack Obama. (There are wealthy people backing Obama’s reëlection campaign as well, but as I reported in the magazine recently, he’s been having trouble on that front.) The fact that he’d take on the public role of a delegate was noteworthy on its own, but even more remarkable was that his week in Tampa culminated with an event billed as a “Salute to Entrepreneurs Building America,” which was really a kind of coming-out party that he threw himself in conjunction with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political group he co-founded.
“I … like to speak out,” Koch reportedly told a small throng at the event. Alas, Koch’s new interest in going public doesn’t yet include disclosure of how much he is personally spending on the 2012 campaign, since most of his donations go to a network of non-profits that hide the names of their donors.[…]Barone’s piece also chronicled Koch’s hurt feelings at facing public criticism for his extraordinary financial investment in American politics. A substantial portion of the four hundred million dollars—the brothers’ money, and that of their fellow conservative mega-donors—that Koch-related organizations plan to spend in this year’s elections is going toward financing scorching political ads, some of which have been condemned by non-partisan fact-checking groups as misleading. Yet asked how he felt about being criticized by opponents himself, Koch, who is seventy-two, told Barone, “It does not feel good.”
If the oil and gas industry doesn’t get its way this November, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Yesterday, I wrote a post on Bloomberg Market Watch’s upcoming expose on the Koch brothers and Koch Industries. Well, that article made it online last night, and had a few more surprises for readers. It turns out that some, but not all, of the money that Koch Industries made in their deals with Iran is traceable. And I doubt you’ll be surprised about where Bloomberg’s reporters found it.
from Politicus USA:
Bloomberg revealed the deaths, bribes, felony charges, envelopes stuffed with cash, criminal violations, deliberate poisoning of the air with cancerous smoke, and hundreds of millions of fines behind the Koch Brothers. They revealed that employees are taught to cheat and steal under “The Koch Method.” Oh, and the Kochs sold millions of dollars in petrochemical equipment to Iran, a country recognized for sponsoring terrorism but also one of three countries in the George W Bush identified “Axis of Evil.”
It’s ironic that Sarah Palin, whom the Koch brothers money paid to speak on behalf of the “Tea Party,” has accused President Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” See, the money from those petrochemical sales funded Americans for Prosperity which funds the Tea Party which pays people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to speak. David Koch is in fact the founder of Americans for Prosperity. This money trail is no longer murky.
Based on an analysis of FEC filings and IRS disclosure, Kenneth P Vogel of Politico reported this morning, “POLITICO’s analysis of disclosures filed with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission found that the large groups spend big bucks on salaries, like the $500,000 that FreedomWorks paid its chairman, Dick Armey, endorsements from radio hosts like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin, and speaking fees to movement heroes like Sarah Palin and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, not to mention millions more on consultants and ad buys.”
Explaining how the groups like Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works fund the Tea Party, Vogel detailed, “All the groups say they provide training, yard signs or help planning rallies and booking speakers. The Express has held dozens of rallies around the country and in April reported paying a $750 honorarium to Wurzelbacher, while Americans for Prosperity in 2010 spent $1.9 million on event planning, and $253,000 on honoraria including a $128,000 payment to the speakers’ bureau that represents Palin, with whom AFP had contracted to speak at its Defending the American Dream Summit in Clarkston, Mich., in May 2010.”
AFP also paid Palin to go to Wisconsin to tell the Fox brethern how bad unions were. Clearly we can see how well her employers treat people. Why would anyone need a union? Then there’s Glenn Beck, paid by Freedom Works. The Kochs denied having anything “specific” to do with Freedom Works, but Karoli at Crooks and Liars traced Koch brothers money into the origins of Freedom Works.
Remember, about 6 months ago, when various celebrities began donating large sums of money they’d received as payments from the Gaddafi family? What do you think the odds are that we see Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin doing the same?
Read the Bloomberg Market Watch article online here
New story about to hit newsstands, via Politicalgates
Here’s a rule of thumb about public relations: When P.R. pros begin furiously spinning a story before it has even come out, there’s a pretty good chance the story is going to be damaging to the reputation of said P.R. pros’ bosses.
And that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now, as an anonymous person or persons in the orbit of the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch try to discredit a forthcoming story in Bloomberg Markets magazine.
Based on the prebuttal items appearing this week in the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, and U.S. News and World Report, the Bloomberg story focuses on alleged malfeasance and/or fraud and/or bad behavior by the conglomerate Koch Industries.
Profits have gone up. Jobs have gone … down.
Contrary to what conservatives keep screaming (as if screaming it loudly enough and often enough will make it true), as businesses make more profits, THEY ARE NOT HIRING MORE WORKERS.
Lowering taxes on big business does not encourage business to use their profits to hire more people and lower employment. It just increases personal profit.
Among the Koch Industries lobbying crew’s many agenda items—climate change denial, school segregation, a right wing media takeover—is the company’s fight against legislation that would raise US chemical plant safety standards to protect against potential terrorist attacks capable of harming millions of Americans.A new investigation published by the Center for Public Integrity reveals the extent of Koch Industries’ efforts to combat safety measures recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security…
Roger Ailes, Fox News, Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Dick Armey, Freedom Works, Tom Donohue, Chamber Of Commerce,Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, Pat Robertson, Christian Coalition, Edwin Feulner, Heritage Foundation, Arthur Thompson, John Birch Society, Rupert Murdoch, News Corp, Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform, David Bossie,Citizens United,Tim LaHaye, Kenneth Cribb, Council for National Policy, James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly, Edwin Feulner, Steven J. Law, American Crossroads, Family Research Council,Family Talk Radio, Eagle Forum, David Keene, American Conservative Union, NRA,Tim Wildmon, American Family Association, David Barton, Wallbuilders, Noble Ellington, American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, Edward Crane, Cato Institute
All of these people and their organizations pose a serious threat to the American people. They target women, senior citizens, minorities, homosexuals, non-Christians, and American workers. So which person or organization is the most dangerous to democracy? The common thread throughout the list is the Koch brothers. They have ties to many of the people and organizations on the list and share many of the same goals. If one were to remove the Koch brothers from the equation an important source of funding and leadership would be eliminated from the conservative sphere. The Koch brothers are by far the biggest threat to American values and institutions. The truly evil thing about this group is that NONE of these monsters are elected by the people. Yet they have more power and influence over our elected officials and system of law and government, than we do.
ALEC is not the only one, not by a long shot. Other Koch-founded and funded groups include Citizens for a Sound Economy, Americans for Prosperity, the John Birch Society, CATO Institute, Heritage Foundation, Kansas Policy Institute, Reason Foundation, Institute for Justice, Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, American Legislative Exchange Council, Bill of Rights Institute, and others.
Just a little bit of the Koch Brothers’ web of corruption.
Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws (Businessweek)
Thanks to ALEC….