Three dozen scientists sent an open letter Tuesday to museums of natural history calling on them to cut ties with the Koch brothers and anyone else with connections to the fossil-fuel industry.
In the letter, and a subsequent petition related specifically to the billionaire Koch brothers, the scientists contend that museums of science and natural history should not be associated with “those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science.”
The petition specifically calls for David Koch to be kicked off the boards of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The movement is being organized by a new “mobile” museum called the Natural History Museum, a pop-up whose exhibitions appear in existing institutions.
The scientists plan to present the petitions to the museums in New York and Washington before their respective spring board meetings.
Koch, the billionaire conservative donor and executive vice president of Koch Industries, donated $35 million in 2012 for a new Smithsonian dinosaur hall. He had previously given $15 million to the museum’s Hall of Human Origins, which is named for him. At the New York museum, he donated $20 million to a dinosaur wing that is also named after him.
Randall Kremer, spokesman for the Washington museum, said that both exhibits deal in great detail with the impacts of climate change. And that Koch, like others on the board, is well aware of that.
Kremer told the Loop that the Kochs wouldn’t be supporting the museum if they “did not understand the science behind our public programs.” (The Smithsonian has been unequivocal in its belief that climate change is man-made.)
Koch did not respond to the letter, but Ken Spain, Koch’s managing director for external relations e-mailed a statement to us:
“David Koch and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation have pledged or contributed more than $1.2 billion to educational institutions and cultural institutions, cancer research, medical centers, and to assist public policy organizations. Mr. Koch remains committed to supporting these causes.”
It’s improbable that the museums are going to cut off a top benefactor. But the letter, signed by scientists from universities and environmental interest groups, is likely to be an irritant. (Actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted links repeatedly Tuesday to his 1.39 million followers.)
Enviros have long pointed to the Kochs’ support for climate-change deniers. And several Democratic senators have wanted to investigate whether the Kochs’ fossil-fuel companies were funneling money to groups trying to discredit climate change. The Kochs’ attorney reminded them that his clients’ activities were protected by the First Amendment.
A jovial Hillary Clinton joked with reporters Monday night about what she called her “shall we say, complicated” relationship with the media over the years.
Speaking to a crowd of reporters at Syracuse University’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting — won by The Washington Post’s Dan Balz — Clinton said she was looking to “new beginnings: A new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new e-mail account, a new relationship with the press.”
(That jocular reference to her latest brouhaha brought down the house.)
And she seemed wistful for a gentler time when the media and political reporters didn’t just cover personal foibles and miscues and gotchas, but also covered policy and issues of real concern to the public.
She lauded the late Robin Toner, the first female national political correspondent at the New York Times, who covered Clinton for decades, for how Toner covered substance, including the Clinton administration’s health-care proposal.
These days, Clinton said, “our most important debates occur in what I call an evidence-free zone,” she said, with “ideology trumping facts, made-for-cable shout-fests, Twitter storms, drowning out substantive dialogue and reporting that often leads to shallower, more contentious politics.”
Yes, there was none of that in 1990s. Except, of course, Whitewater, those cattle futures, the missing law-firm billings, Travelgate, the Mena airport, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones . . .
Then there was that spectacularly insane theorizing that first lady Clinton and White House aide Vince Foster were having an affair and that she shot him and rolled up his body in a carpet (how else could carpet fibers get on a jacket?) and, with an aide’s help, carried him from another location, maybe the White House, and left him at an overlook on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Ah, the good old days.
Speaking of “open letters,” as President Obama and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met in Washington on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 23 former ambassadors, other diplomats, and State Department and White House officials from the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and even Obama administrations sent an unusual open letter to Obama urging that he extend the stay of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The signatories include former national security advisers Sandy Berger (Clinton) and Steve Hadley (Bush); former Obama ambassadors to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and James Cunningham; and Obama’s former special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman. There’s also former Obama undersecretary of defense Michele Flournoy and former Bush undersecretary of state Nick Burns.
The original 2014 Obama plan called for withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2016. But the former diplomats and officials said that “at this delicate security, political and economic juncture in Afghanistan’s transition, we believe the current security drawdown should be altered to avoid triggering a level of increased instability that could be exploited by extremist forces.” The letter noted that the U.S. “walked away from Afghanistan once in the past,” with calamitous results, citing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, among others.
And on Tuesday afternoon, Obama agreed to be flexible.
“Based on President Ghani’s request for flexibility in the U.S. drawdown timeline, the U.S. will maintain its current posture of 9,800 troops through the end of 2015,” the White House announced. “The specific trajectory of the 2016 U.S. troop drawdown will be established later in 2015 to enable the U.S. troop consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016.”
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz