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Kicked in the Koch 
An oil pipeline company a bit too close to Slick Dubya for comfort faces indictment

by David J. Gonzo

Friday, August 4, 2000 -- NEW YORK (AmpolNS) -- Well, golly, gee!

In the wake of what one senior Republican official described as "the biggest orgy of hedonism in the history of politics," and at just the time when sound bites from George W. Bush's GOP Convention acceptance speech -- short on specifics and originality, long on cheap shots against Bill Clinton and Al Gore -- are making the rounds of the cable news shows, the candidate finds himself saddled with a potential felon in his own backyard, tied to him by family!

The story got buried by the major newspapers and wire services, but here's the gist: the U.S. Department of Justice has informed Kansas-based Koch Petroleum, one of the nation's largest oil pipeline companies, that it will face indictment on environmental charges in Texas that are about to be turned over to a grand jury, according to unnamed federal officials cited in news reports.

The indictment stems from evidence that five Koch employees conspired to conceal problems in concerning the monitoring of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, at Koch's Corpus Christi refinery in the mid-1990s, by filing a deceptive report concerning its benzene levels -- and that a state regulatory official pre-approved the language!

Koch Petroleum is, by the way, a major donor to the Republican Party. And some Republicans, including Texas Congressman Dick Armey, are trying to raise questions of "timing" -- but it's funny how Armey and his allies ignore a few facts: first, an investigation has been underway since 1996; second, Koch sought court delays to keep the documents secret and have the matter dealt with by Bush Administration state regulators rather than the EPA; and third, an agreement between Koch and the federal government to extend the statute of limitations has just expired.

Another problem for Koch: Texas officials now say they intend to support the federal investigation of Koch as part of a joint task force.

Also, the pipeline moguls look to be a repeat offender: earlier in the year, Kock settled one case concerning oil leaks in six states out of court with a record $35 million payment to the government, and it also pleaded guilty in Minnesota to discharging oil into streams there and paid an $8 million fine.

Here's the follow-the-money skinny:

And this story may be a little too close to George W. Bush for comfort: his sister, Doro Bush Koch, is married to one Bobby Koch, a member of the petro-business clan and Beltway lobbyist for (and senior vice president of) the San Francisco-based Wine Institute. Doro has been rumored to have been the biggest fundraiser of all of her brother's $100,000-plus "Pioneers."

Wonder where she found all that money -- the in-laws, maybe? Who says oil and wine don't mix?

'Nuff said.

Copyright © 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, American Politics Journal Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN No. 1523-1690