• Michael McAuliff

Schumer, Wyden Target Koch Over Russia

Congress should strip tax benefits from companies that continue doing business in Russia, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said Friday, targeting Koch Industries in particular.


Koch, which is run by Republican megadonor Charles Koch, has decided to keep operating Guardian Industries in Russia, which consists of two glass factories employing about 600 people.


Koch said in a statement Wednesday that it was keeping the plants open to protect its workers.


"The health, safety and wellbeing of all employees is our top priority, including our employees in Ukraine, Russia, and thousands more across Europe at various Koch companies," said Koch's president and COO Dave Robertson.


"While Guardian’s business in Russia is a very small part of Koch, we will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them (which is what The Wall Street Journal has reported they would do)," Robertson said. "Doing so would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good."


Many other major corporations, however, have decided to leave Russia, with more than 400 firms departing, suspending or cutting back on Russian operations, according to data crunched by the Yale School of Management. Koch is among 27 companies that the Yale group identified as "digging in."


Schumer and Wyden already ripped Koch on Thursday, but stepped their criticism up to a call for legislation Friday.


“Koch Industries is shamefully continuing to do business in Putin’s Russia and putting their profits ahead of defending democracy. The noxious stench of Trump still hangs over Koch Industries," the pair said in a statement.


"As the democracies of the world make huge sacrifices to punish Russia for Putin’s illegal and vicious invasion of Ukraine, Koch Industries continues to profit off of Putin’s regime," they said. "It is time for Koch Industries to put the values of democracy ahead of its own profits. We are calling on Koch Industries to immediately suspend their operations in Russia."


Koch (and presumably the other companies remain active in Russia) could lose tax breaks at home under in idea, which Wyden's committee could advance.


"Senate Democrats are exploring legislation to add Russia to existing laws that already deny foreign tax credits for taxes paid to North Korea and Syria," Wyden and Schumer said. "American companies that continue to do business in Russia should not receive U.S. tax benefits that offset taxes paid to Putin’s regime."


Whether or not they could pass such a bill is unclear. By highlighting Koch, Schumer is drawing attention to a company loathed by the left for both its business activities and its founder's massive support for right-wing causes.


It would make any easy political argument for Democrats if Republicans in the Senate oppose such legislation, but it would also allow Republicans to dismiss any Koch-focused measure as political.