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The Washington Post’s Anti-Koch Bias Shows

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Last week, reporters at The Washington Post wrote a poor excuse for an article attempting to tie the Koch brothers to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Unfortunately, it seems that the central contention in the article — that the Koch brothers were the largest leaseholders of the Canadian tar sands — was wrong:

You might expect the biggest lease owner in Canada’s oil sands, or tar sands, to be one of the international oil giants, like Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell. But that isn’t the case. The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres — an area nearly the size of Delaware — in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy. Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch’s lease holdings could be closer to two million acres. The companies with the next biggest net acreage positions in oil sands leases are Conoco Phillips and Shell, both close behind.

Unfortunately, they relied on an activist group for this information, which was wrong. As John Hinderaker notes at Powerline:

So Thursday evening, I wrote about the Post article here. I pointed out that Koch is not, in fact, the largest leaser of tar sands land; that Koch will not be a user of the pipeline if it is built; and that construction of the Keystone Pipeline would actually be harmful to Koch’s economic interests, which is why Koch has never taken a position on the pipeline’s construction. The Keystone Pipeline, in short, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Koch brothers.

My post garnered a great deal of attention, and Mufson and Eilperin undertook to respond to it here. It isn’t much of a response: they don’t deny the truth of anything I wrote, and they don’t try to sustain the proposition that Koch is even in favor of the pipeline, let alone the driving force behind it. They lamely suggest that if Koch leased 2 million acres, rather than 1.1 million as they reported on Thursday, then Koch might be the largest leaseholder. But they make no attempt to respond to the official Province of Alberta maps that I posted, which clearly show that Canadian National Resources, Ltd., for example, leases more acreage than Koch.

Click through to read a long, brutal takedown of the behind the scene incentives influencing the reporters. It’s not pretty, and its a very obvious conflict of interest.

The Post reporters followed up Hinderacker’s criticism here. Note that they don’t really deny any of his claims (nor do they admit that they were incorrect), but rather they claim that they wrote the article because the Koch’s are controversial political figures. Apparently that excuses sloppiness and inaccuracies.

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