John Stossel is Rolling in Koch Money
The former primetime TV star received $1.5 million in Koch contracts from 2017-2019. He cranks out content that reflects Charles Koch's priorities.
I’ve been corresponding with lawyers from Koch Industries and the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks, as they answer my requests for IRS tax filings from organizations controlled by Charles Koch.
Beyond the dizzying complexity of how these 50+ organizations and companies are structured, there’s one tidbit in particular that caught my eye:
John Stossel is one of Charles Koch’s top contractors.
Each year since 2017, John Stossel’s company, JFS Productions, received a half million dollars to do media contract work for the Charles Koch Institute.
From 2017-2019, Koch payments to JFS Productions total $1,541,715.
These screenshots link to the source documents:
New York’s business registry lists the address of “John Stossel, Inc.” as affiliated with JFS Productions.
John Stossel’s written opinion columns often list “JFS Productions” at the bottom.
(JFS = John Frank Stossel.)
These consulting payments are in addition to $397,688 from Charles Koch’s foundations to John Stossel’s nonprofit, the Center for Independent Thought (CIT), from 2007-2019, including a $72,688 payment disclosed in the 2019 Charles Koch Foundation 990.
John Stossel shifts into Koch career
John Stossel used to be a primetime TV host, on ABC’s 20/20. He sometimes made his colleagues uncomfortable when he blurred the lines between journalism and opinionated punditry. He liked to interview children for his segments, landing him in hot water when parents accused him of manipulating their kids in order to dismiss environmental concerns.
Stossel moved from ABC to the FOX Business Network in 2009. At FOX, Stossel continued to attack the validity of environmental problems.
He hosted anti-environmental “experts,” like The Heartland Institute’s Jay Lehr, who accused the US. Environmental Protection Agency of its “fraudulent” efforts to assert that air pollution still kills people. Nobody disclosed that Lehr spent three months in prison for defrauding the EPA.
In 2016, Stossel left FOX for new ventures, including with the Charles Koch Institute’s journalism fellowship program. Stossel continued to produce reassuring, paternalistic political videos on YouTube, called Stossel TV, via the Center for Independent Thought (CIT).
Stossel also took on a role at ReasonTV through the Reason Foundation. Reason counted the late David Koch as a trustee for many years, until shortly before Koch’s death in August, 2019.
The Reason Foundation has received $3,927,322 from Koch foundations since 1997, including $9,813 from the Charles Koch Foundation (see p. 55 and p. 59) and $31,750 from the Charles Koch Institute in 2019.
But it’s the Koch Institute’s direct contracts with JFS Productions that indicate how Charles Koch’s wealth is a major factor in John Stossel’s post-TV career.
JFS Productions Praise for Koch
JFS Productions is responsible for Stossel’s written opinion columns that are printed in outlets all over the country. He has used his platform to defend the Koch brand, including this article from January, 2017, the year that the Charles Koch Institute began reporting half-million-dollar payments to JFS Productions.
These are big contracts. Nonprofits filing 990s with the IRS are only required to list the top five contractors, and only for payments exceeding $50,000.
If JFS Productions wasn’t among the top five contractors in previous years, then no disclosure was required. And if Koch Industries pays John Stossel directly, that information is not disclosed.
Koch Industries, Climate, and Stossel
Knowing that Stossel is directly contracting for the Charles Koch Institute puts some of his work into a new context.
Koch Industries is defending itself in a Minnesota district court after MN Attorney General Keith Ellison named Koch in a lawsuit against oil companies that he says misled the public on matters of climate change science.
John Stossel has been a consistent critic of climate scientists and advocates for policy solutions to climate change.
Any climate policy rooted in science means reducing fossil fuel consumption quickly and dramatically. Rather than accept the nuanced conclusions of 97% of peer-reviewed research from thousands of scientists from numerous countries and institutions have determined, Stossel features simplistic and contradictory opinions of a handful of people who tend to work at Koch-funded organizations.
In November, 2019, John Stossel wrote an article on “Climate Myths” featuring two scientists who have admitted to taking money from fossil fuel companies.
Patrick Michaels is one of those people. Michaels has been paid by fossil fuel companies and downplaying climate change for longer than I have been walking.
Koch foundations have provided Cato with $16,510,861 in funding since 1997, including 11 payments totaling $2,391,093 from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2019, and $26,000 from the Charles Koch Institute in 2019.
Stossel’s “Climate Myths” article was published six months after Michaels was pushed out of Cato, but Michaels was a repeat guest on Stossel’s various television and video programs during his Cato years. Michaels now holds fellowships at the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Koch-funded CO2 Coalition.
Stossel’s 2019 column and video also featured Willie Soon, whose expertise apparently ranges from astrophysical solar variability, to polar bear biology, to mercury pollution and public health.
The common theme for Dr. Soon’s sprawling scientific expertise seems to be that his research always concludes that climate change and pollution are not concerning. That research tends to be funded by fossil fuel interests, including Charles Koch, ExxonMobil, Southern Company, and pass-through piggy banks used to keep donors anonymous.
The 2019 “Climate Myths” column accompanied a Stossel TV video on YouTube called “Are We Doomed?” The clip attempts to undermine climate change science and questions celebrity climate advocates, like Greta Thunberg and Al Gore. Stossel’s counter-experts included the usual suspects, Patrick Michaels, Willie Soon, and David Legates.
Stossel continues to produce anti-climate columns and videos.
Just last month—November, 2020—Stossel did another column and video segment, promoting a climate denial “documentary” created by the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), which occasionally receives Charles Koch’s money.
And back in August, 2020, Stossel did a video called “Thank You, Fossil Fuels,” packaged with a written column that attacked the concept of “environmental racism,” following widespread racial justice protests over George Floyd’s disturbing murder by Minneapolis police.
The 2020 video featured yet another spokesperson at yet another Koch-funded organization, Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute, which has received $3,352,537 from Koch foundations since 1997, including a $100,000 grant in 2019.
Now, the key question is:
What exactly is being produced by JFS Productions for the Charles Koch Institute?
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