Koch Industries Paying for Zimmerman Defense: Irresponsible Rumor

KochFacts.com

Claim:  Koch Industries is paying the legal fees of George Zimmerman, the defendant in the Trayvon Martin Case.

Example:  (collected via email, April 2012)  Was posted on facebook pages.  Is this true? 

“In the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin…the company Koch which manufactures paper products is paying for Zimmerman’s legal fees because they feel he had legal right to bear arms and shoot Trayvon.  We are asking that people everywhere band together with us and pass this information and not purchase any of the following items because your money wil be paying for Zimmermans lawyer fees!!!  Please do not purchase any of the following items:  Angel soft toilet paper, Brawny paper towels, Dixie plates, bowls, napkins or cups; Mardi Gras napkins and towels, Quilted Northern Toilet paper, Soft and gentile toilet paper, Sparkle napkins, Vanity Fair napkins, Zero napkins,  PASS IT ON!”

FALSE

Origins:  Koch Industries is a multinational conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, which owns companies in a variety of industries, including pulp and paper.  A rumor claiming that Koch was paying the legal fees of George Zimmerman, the Defendant in the Trayvon Martin shooting case, and calling for a boycott of Koch-owned paper companies began to spread in mid-April 2012.  This rumor appears to be tied to a combination of George Zimmerman’s launching a website soliciting donations for his lawyers and living expenses and news reports linking Koch to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative policy group “that came under attack after the Trayvon Martin shooting for pushing Stand Your Ground gun laws nationwide”:

Few people know the American Legislative Exchange Council by name, but they may know the laws the organization develops.

For decades, the group of lawmakers and private sector officials has worked closely to draft legislation that focuses on everything from the fairly Mundane, like tax policy and cable TV regulations, to the controversial, such as voter ID laws and Florida’s “Stand You Ground” statute.

The last one pulled it into the spotlight in recent weeks after the death of teen Trayvon Martin.  The law gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight, and ALEC – as the group is known – has worked in recent years to spread it to other states.

ALEC announced that it was eliminating its public safety task force that had dealt with the “Stand Your Ground’ law and said it was refocusing those resources on economic matters.  The group said liberal foes are simply trying to score political points by taking advantage of the Martin tragedy.

Koch has denied having any connection to the passage of Florida’s  “Stand Your Ground” law:

Koch has had no involvement in this legislation whatsoever.  We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either.  In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association’s support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property.

As for the rumor of Koch’s of Koch’s paying George Zimmerman’s legal fees, we have found nothing (outside of mere repetition of the rumor)  to support it, and Koch itself maintains there is nothing to it:

Contrary to an irresponsible rumor that began circulating online on April 18, Koch has no involvement whatsoever with the defense of George Zimmerman, the defendant in the Trayvon Martin case.

As well, Melissa Cohlmia, Koch’s Director of Corporate Communications, told us that the is “entirely and unequivocally false.”

The office of Mark O’Mara, attorney of George Zimmerman, has not responded to a request for comment.

Last updated on Snopes.com 20 April 2012

From KochFacts.com of Koch industries inc.

Confronting False Allegations about the George Zimmerman Case

// // Contrary to an irresponsible rumor that began circulating online on April 18, Koch has no involvement whatsoever with the defense of George Zimmerman, the defendant in the Trayvon Martin case.

The exact origin of that rumor remains to be seen but similar falsehoods made by partisan activists in recent days have intentionally sown confusion about Koch. On March 23, Democratic party operative Karen Finney wrongly accused Koch of a connection with the tragic circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin matter. We provided MSNBC with a formal statement and demonstrable proof that Ms. Finney was deceiving viewers — and yet the network refuses to air those remarks or post them online.

Just days later, former White House aide Van Jones appeared on MSNBC and remarked, “You’ve got all of the passion around Trayvon and what a horrible injustice that was and you can draw a direct line to the Koch brothers.” We confronted the network about that lie as well and again they refused to air our statement.

Despite MSNBC’s appalling disregard for basic journalism standards, we will continue to set the record straight on this issue as often as necessary.

 

Setting the Record Straight on Firearm Coverage

// // Several left-wing media outlets, including The Nation and Mother Jones, have been advancing a false notion that Koch is somehow involved in lobbying for firearms legislation. The Nation magazine put it this way: “A notorious Koch brothers-funded lobby group may have played a leading role in writing and passing the 2005 Florida self-defense law.”

But this idea is entirely wrong in several key respects. First, Koch has had no involvement in this legislation whatsoever. We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either. In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association’s support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property.

The false assertions about Koch are another example of a conspiracy technique used by left-wing advocates in which they try to connect any public policy complaint to Koch — no matter how far-fetched or disjointed.

The reality is that ALEC is a non-partisan membership association for state legislators and many hundreds of other individuals, organizations, and companies also support ALEC. This includes about 2,000 public sector members, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Although obviously irresponsible, some left-wing groups apparently think that misleading their own supporters is a worthwhile practice. But we will confront this propaganda when it occurs and we would urge legitimate news outlets to disregard these false assertions we have cited.

Koch Letter by Letter Confrontation with MSNBC:

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

UPDATE We Confront Ongoing Dishonesty at MSNBC

// // From: Cohlmia, Melissa
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 9:44 AM
To: ‘Porges, Marian
Subject: RE: Response to MSNBC regarding Karen Finney

Dear Ms. Porges:

Thank you for your response. With all due respect, I find your response troubling and insufficient to address our concerns regarding Ms. Finney’s false and malicious statements about us. Contrary to your claim, we correctly stated in our March 27 email that Ms. Finney “accused Koch of a connection with the tragic circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin matter. ‘Who was the Typhoid Mary for this horrible outbreak,’ Finney asked. She then stated, ‘It’s the usual suspects the Koch brothers…the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point who funded and ghost write these laws.’” Your email brushes this aside by playing semantics and ignoring the fact that Ms. Finney’s statements were dishonest and baseless. In addition, you fail to even mention our concerns about activist Van Jones’ false and malicious statements on the April 8th Ed Show that, “You’ve got all of the passion around Trayvon and what a horrible injustice that was and you can draw a direct line to the Koch brothers.”

In light of this information we struggle to understand how your approval of MSNBC’s refusal to post our statement concerning this matter demonstrates is consistent with either journalistic ethics or accountability. Your claim that our statement was not in response to Ms. Finney’s false statements misses the point. We issued that statement the day before Ms. Finney’s comments because of our concerns that extremists like Ms. Finney and MSNBC would repeat the malicious lies that The Nation and Mother Jones had first published. Our experience the past few years has been that MSNBC often repeats the outrageous and distorted allegations about us that are first set forth in the far left blogosphere. Unfortunately, this has happened once again in this situation and you chose not to address it.

Your offer for us to appear on an MSNBC broadcast with either Ms. Finney or Lisa Graves, another activist who has dishonestly attacked us in the past, does not cure the harm that Koch has suffered through Ms. Finney’s and Mr. Jones’ false statements. Further, given our past experiences with MSNBC, Ms. Finney, and Ms. Graves, we are concerned that MSNBC will allow them to concoct other lies on the broadcast that we will have to correct, at the same time you and MSNBC have not permitted us to post a statement responding to the past lies by Ms. Finney and Mr. Jones. Because of MSNBC’s track record on ignoring even modest efforts at accurate and balanced coverage, we have no faith that appearing on a live broadcast would be anything other than a forum for Ms. Finney or Ms. Graves to unfairly attack us and make up new false storylines.

Given your failure to address this situation in any meaningful or appropriate manner, we are now forced to weigh other options in addressing the harm done to us by MSNBC’s reckless and willful broadcast of Ms. Finney’s and Mr. Jones’ false statements.

Sincerely,
Melissa Cohlmia


From: Porges, Marian
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 4:55 PM
To: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: RE: Response to MSNBC regarding Karen Finney

Dear Ms. Cohlmia-

Thank you for your patience.

I’d like to address your continuing concerns that Ms. Finney made “false” and “fabricated” remarks regarding Koch. I have yet again reviewed the portion of the program you mentioned (in your first letter) where Ms. Finney spoke about the Florida law. Please let me stress that at no point did Ms. Finney or MSNBC “charge that we are involved in a person’s death….” as you alleged in your recent email.

It is a fact that Koch is a financial supporter of ALEC as proven by 2009 tax forms 990 PF which we have reviewed. With that financial relationship established, it seems clear that Koch and ALEC share similar interests in some legislative matters.

We are not going to put any of your statement on our website at this point because that statement was issued prior to the March 23 broadcast so it was not actually in response TO our program.

In efforts to give Koch a full voice, I have a proposal for you. We would like to invite a Koch representative on our air to share a segment with Karen Finney and or/Lisa Graves at a time that works for both Koch and MSNBC. Ms. Finney would be a guest, not a host. Please let me know if you would like to take advantage of this opportunity. I feel this would be a tremendous chance for all of your concerns to be addressed.

Regards-

Marian Porges


From: Porges, Marian (NBCUniversal)
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2012 8:58 AM
To: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: Re: Response to MSNBC regarding Karen Finney

Ms Cohlmia-

The executive producer of the program was away last week, we will have discussions on this today or tomorrow.

Thank you-

Marian Porges

Senior Producer
NBC News


From: Cohlmia, Missy
Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2012 9:40 AM
To: ‘Porges, Marian (NBCUniversal)’
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: RE: Response to MSNBC regarding Karen Finney

Ms. Porges:

We have yet to hear back from you on our request to have our statement about the false accusations made about Koch posted on MSNBC’s website. Since you agreed that we deserve the right to respond regarding these false and irresponsible accusations, it is troubling that MSNBC still has not posted or otherwise communicated the statement we provided two weeks ago.

In the meantime, MSNBC has allowed that false and malicious accusation to be repeated last Thursday night on Ed Schultz’s program. His guest, Democratic activist Van Jones, said, “You’ve got all of the passion around Trayvon and what a horrible injustice that was and you can draw a direct line to the Koch brothers.”

If we are not going to be afforded the opportunity — neither in advance nor after the fact — to respond to the false and irresponsible charge that we are involved a person’s death, then it’s hard to see why anyone should take seriously MSNBC’s claims that it adheres to fundamental journalism standards. Please advise whether or not you intend to take action so we can then weigh our other options.

Regards,

Melissa Cohlmia


From: Cohlmia, Missy
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2012 5:12 PM
To: ‘Porges, Marian (NBCUniversal)’
Cc: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: RE: Response to MSNBC regarding Karen Finney

Dear Ms. Porges:

We agree with you that the producers were wrong not to include our statement. Therefore, I’d appreciate it if you would ask them to append our statement or a hyperlink on the web page where the Karen Finney segment containing the false statement about Koch still appears on MSNBC’s website.
Here is the link to that page. And here is a link to our original statement.

However, the after-the-fact posting of our statement does not fully address our concerns about Ms. Finney’s false and wholly fabricated comments. Accepted journalism standards would require MSNBC’s producers to ensure that there were facts to support Ms. Finney’s allegations before they were broadcast by MSNBC. Since that did not happen, Ms. Finney and MSNBC should affirmatively state that there are no facts to support her assertion. However, since we are dealing with partisans like Ms. Finney and MSNBC, I am left to surmise that accepted journalism standards do not apply here. Accordingly, we ask that the producers take responsibility for allowing these false and irresponsible allegations to be broadcast by informing viewers about our statement.

Thank you again for your continued engagement on these matters.

Melissa Cohlmia
Director, Corporate Communication
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC


From: Porges, Marian (NBCUniversal)
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2012 3:59 PM
To: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: FW: Response to MSNBC regarding Karen Finney

Dear Ms. Cohlmia-

Again, I thank you for raising your most recent concerns. I have looked into the issue and I have also read your statement dated 3/22/2012.

The producers of our program should have included at least part of your statement, “Setting the Record Straight on Firearm Coverage,” in their discussion. I have spoken to those involved with the segment.

Regards,

Marian Porges


Marian Porges
Senior Producer
News Standards and Practices
NBC News

Dear Ms. Porges:

I want to bring to your attention once again an MSNBC host that has falsely and maliciously disparaged Koch. On March 23, while guest hosting the Martin Bashir program, Karen Finney accused Koch of a connection with the tragic circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin matter. ”Who was the Typhoid Mary for this horrible outbreak,” Finney asked. She then stated, ”It’s the usual suspects the Koch brothers . . . the same people who stymied gun regulation at every point who funded and ghost write these laws.”

Because we saw this dishonest story line developing and were concerned other extremists would pick it up, we put out a public statement the day before Ms. Finney’s rant explaining that this story line was totally false and irresponsible. First, Koch has had no involvement in this legislation. We have had no discussions with anyone at ALEC, the legislative policy group at issue, about the matter either. In fact, the only lobbying on firearms issues we have ever undertaken in Florida was in opposition to the National Rifle Association’s support for a bill that mandated employers must allow employees to bring firearms onto company property.

It’s worth adding that ALEC also put out a statement that further refutes Ms. Finney’s assertions:

“It is a great shame that some are using this tragedy to further their political ends. Indeed, Paul Krugman describes advancing his political goals as the “silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing.” That is as callous as it is cruel, and it is also incorrect. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was the basis for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation, not the other way around. Moreover, it is unclear whether that law could apply to this case at all. “Stand Your Ground” or the “Castle Doctrine” is designed to protect people who defend themselves from imminent death and great bodily harm. It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation. It does not allow you to attack someone who does not pose an imminent threat. What it does is allow you to defend yourself and your family from immediate and real danger.”

We were never notified that Ms. Finney intended to make an allegation of that kind and thus were given no opportunity for input or reaction. It seems elementary that when one of your hosts falsely accuses us of somehow abetting a person’s death, we would first be given the chance to respond to such an outrageous and offensive lie.

In recent months we have brought to your attention several instances where guests on MSNBC have made false and disparaging assertions about us and/or have been permitted to obscure their affiliation as paid political operatives. We came to agreement that the network would be more diligent about living up to its standards on disclosure and would also afford us the opportunity to know prior to broadcast and react to those sorts of assertions. You wrote, “I hope you understand that this incident(s) is not a reflection of normal procedure at MSNBC.”

You should also be aware that on March 26, Ms. Finney signed and sent a letter on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee soliciting political contributions. Yet, she is presented to viewers as a “political analyst” and not as a paid fundraising operative for the Democratic party, as would be accurate.

If you could look into this matter and provide us some explanation, I would appreciate it. I would especially like to know why it has proven so difficult for MSNBC to extend us the most basic journalism standard of a right to reply to allegations about us that are made on the air — an assurance that you have made to us on several occasions when similar incidents have occurred.

Sincerely,
Melissa Cohlmia
Director, Corporate Communication
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

 

Sources:  Koch industries, Inc  Snopes.com 

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