News Release

A Campaign Against COVID Public-Health Measures

An investigative report is shedding light on “a nearly two-year campaign by right-wing and big business interests to force a return to normalcy to boost corporate profits amid a pandemic that is now surging once again thanks to Omicron.”

The report — “How the Koch Network Hijacked the War on COVID” — tells “the story of how that corporate-bankrolled campaign originally started, and how it has continued to supplant public health experts and hijack the governmental response to the pandemic.”

The authors of the report, Walker Bragman and Alex Kotch, point out that “when COVID began its spread across the United States in early March 2020, states responded by locking down to varying extents. All 24 Democratic governors and 19 of the 26 Republican governors issued weeks-long stay-at-home orders and restrictions on non-essential businesses. Lockdown measures drove down cases in the U.S. and likely saved millions of lives globally.”

However, “the decline of in-person shopping and work, combined with factory shutdowns in places like China, disrupted the economy. A 2020 report from the corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found the hardest-hit industries would take years to recover.” And, “One sector in particular that took a big hit was the fossil fuel industry. Oil demand fell sharply in 2020, placing the global economy on uncertain footing.

“Before long, business-aligned groups — particularly those connected to fossil fuels — began targeting the public health measures threatening their bottom lines. Chief among them were groups tied to billionaire Charles Koch, owner of Koch Industries, the largest privately held fossil fuel company in the world.

“The war on public health measures began on March 20, 2020, when Americans For Prosperity, the right-wing nonprofit founded by Charles and David Koch, issued a press release calling on states to remain open…. To fight its war, the Koch network also relied on the astroturf roadmap behind the anti-government Tea Party movement, using its dark money apparatus to coordinate anti-lockdown protests.

“Participants for a number of anti-lockdown rallies were recruited by FreedomWorks, a dark money group tied to Charles Koch instrumental in organizing Tea Party protests in 2009. Several of the 2020 rallies were also promoted by the Convention of States Action, a group founded by an organization with ties to the Koch network and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer that wants to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.”

The report was produced by a partnership of the Center for Media and Democracy and The Daily Poster. The authors of the report are:

WALKER BRAGMAN, walkerbragman@gmail.com, @walkerbragman

   Bragman is a reporter for The Daily Poster and co-founder of OptOut Media Foundation, a nonprofit charity that promotes independent media and produces the OptOut news app.

ALEX KOTCH, alex@prwatch.org, @alexkotch

     Kotch is senior investigative reporter at the Center for Media and Democracy. He was previously a staff writer for SludgeTYT InvestigatesInternational Business Times and Facing South. His work has been published by dozens of outlets including The NationThe American Prospect, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, and Vice. He is co-founder and executive director of the OptOut Media Foundation.