So the scenario I imagined yesterday did not come to pass. No debate. Certainly no muffins. Who would have thought that Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, would ignore Joel Francis’ challenge to debate him on Prop 23 or skip the opportunity to explain why his company is meddling in California’s clean energy future?
Joel Francis, California State University, Los Angeles senior, former Marine and debate team veteran, traveled from California to the Koch offices in Wichita, KS yesterday to issue the challenge in person. Koch Industries has given $1 million (via Flint Hills Resources, its wholly-owned subsidiary) to the Prop 23 campaign.
Rather than talk to Joel, Koch greeted him in a different way: by posting security at all office doors and by having him and other participants followed with plain-clothes security. Those on the scene said that Koch employees in cars honked and shouted at Francis in an attempt to disrupt him while speaking. Joel gave the debate challenge letter to the head of security at Koch Industries’ headquarters, who assured him that his letter would be delivered to Mr. Koch.
Being the second-largest privately-held company in the U.S., Koch Industries is not as well known as it should be. They have been called the “kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition.” They have been astroturfing tea party activity and have given big money to more politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) than you can shake a stick at.
So why did Francis bother going all the way to Kansas?
“As a senior, I’m worried that the dirty energy initiative Mr. Koch is funding would jeopardize $10 billion of private investment in the state’s clean economy and ruin one of Californian economy’s only bright spots. Many of us who are getting ready to enter the workforce are looking to the clean technology sector as a strong employment option,” Francis said. “If Mr. Koch is going to come into our state with his money, a lot of people would like to hear directly from him why he is trying to wreak our economy’s development.”
Steven Maviglio, a spokesperson for the No on 23 campaign, concluded, “The point was made: This mysterious out-of-state oil company donates a million dollars to kill California jobs. Mission accomplished.”
In case you missed it, here is the challenge Joel laid at Koch’s feet: