Last month, anonymous individuals posted a press release purportedly from the private, multinational firm Koch Industries. The company and its principal owners, brothers David and Charles Koch, have long been vocal about their support for conservative causes.
The announcement, which bore the Koch logo and was hosted at a site that looked like Koch’s, with a similar domain name to Koch’s, said the company would cut off its financing to Tea Party and conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the Fraser Institute. The activities of those groups, the hoax release said, “could jeopardize America’s continued global competitiveness in the energy and chemical sectors and Koch Industries’ ability to provide high-quality products and services to the American people.”
Koch hit back with a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement, cybersquatting and unfair competition.
But on Wednesday, Public Citizen filed a motion to have Koch’s lawsuit dismissed. The firm says the spoof was carried out by members of a group called “Youth for Climate Truth”, and says the First Amendment protects their anonymous, political speech.
Koch’s numerous business interests include minerals, oil refining, oil pipelines, chemicals, Lycra fiber, pollution control equipment, ranching and commodities trading. Its $21 billion acquisition of paper company Georgia-Pacific – maker of Quilted Northern, Angel Soft, Brawny and Dixie products – was the largest purchase of a public company by a private firm in U.S. history, Koch says.
The Public Citizen motion says that lawyers for Koch have issued subpoenas to two Utah-based internet companies, Bluehost and FastDomain, in an attempt to discover the pranksters’ identities.
A statement on Koch’s website says, “Koch Industries, Inc. is a firm believer in our nation’s First Amendment and the right to free speech. This lawsuit was filed in response to a willful act of identity theft, theft of intellectual property, and impersonation that extends beyond the boundaries of free speech.
“It was a publicity and fund raising stunt perpetrated with the intent to deceive and confuse the public, and disrupt and harm Koch Industries’ business and reputation.”
Other non-profits are also targeting Koch. This weekend Common Cause activists plan to protest a conference being held by the Koch brothers, which Politico says will include 200 businessmen, Republican politicians and conversative activitists.
Last year a Greenpeace report claimed that Koch Industries channeled nearly $50 million into efforts aimed at discrediting climate change science as well as groups opposed to clean energy policies.
In response to that report, Koch said in a statement: “The Greenpeace report mischaracterizes these efforts and distorts the environmental record of our companies. Koch companies have long supported science-based inquiry and dialogue about climate change and proposed responses to it.”