Reality Check: Environmental group ad aims to tie Johnson to Kochs

Reality Check: Environmental group ad aims to tie Johnson to Kochs

MADISON, Wis. - Is Sen. Ron Johnson really taking calls at his Senate desk from businessmen David and Charles Koch? A third-party environmental group wants you to think so in its latest ad.

"When the oil billionaire Koch brothers call Sen. Johnson, what do you think they talk about?" the announcer asks.

The ad is paid for by EDF Action, a group that says it is the "political action partner" of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the nation's biggest environmental advocacy groups. The group is a 501(c)4, which is a political nonprofit that doesn't have to disclose its donors.

"What do you think they talk about?" the announcer asks. "How the Koch brothers' companies polluted Wisconsin, even Green Bay?"

News 3 finds this needs clarification. Georgia-Pacific was involved in pollution of the Fox River more than 40 years ago, and in 2010 it and nine other companies were sued to clean up chemicals in the river from years of pape-making. Those chemicals, called PCBs, were banned in 1971 and are no longer used. The legal battle has continued over the years over who should pay for the cleanup. Georgia-Pacific and other companies are currently paying for the dredging of the Fox River.

"Or how they spent millions to support Johnson, as he voted their way 90 percent of the time and supported special tax breaks for big oil polluters?" the announcer says in the ad.

News 3 finds it's true that Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super-PAC largely funded by the Kochs, has paid for ads for Johnson, specifically about the Tomah VA scandal. It's also true that Americans for Prosperity, another conservative Koch-funded organization, has given him a 90-percent rating on issues that they care about.

On the tax breaks, News 3 finds that Johnson voted in 2012 with most other Republicans and some Democrats against a Democratic measure to halt subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies. Democrats said the companies had record profit margins and didn't need the help, which Republicans argued it was targeting one industry unfairly.

If you have an idea for a Reality Check, send it to us at realitycheck@channel3000.com.

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