Koch Industries, the Wichita, Kan., Company run by billionaire Republican megadonor Charles Koch, broke its silence on plans for its Russia operations on Wednesday – and said it would continue to operate its two glass-manufacturing facilities there.
The company, which is bucking the trend of US companies withdrawing or curtailing their activities in Russia following the unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine, said closing the plants would put its employees at greater risk and “do more harm than good.”
In a statement signed by Chief Operating Officer Dave Robertson, Koch said its two glass-manufacturing facilities, which are part of Guardian Industries, a company acquired in 2017, employ about 600 people, and that outside of that it employs 15 individuals in Russia.
“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.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said the news was shameful and charged Koch with putting profit ahead of defending democracy.
“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 in a statement. “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. ”
Senate Democrats are exploring legislation to add Russia to existing laws that deny foreign tax credits for taxes paid to North Korea and Syria, ”they added.
“American companies that continue to do business in Russia should not receive US tax benefits that offset taxes paid to Putin’s regime,” they said.
The Koch statement came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the US Congress by video link and urged the US to further help his country as Russian forces attack civilian targets, killing women, children and seniors.
“All American companies must leave their market immediately because it is flooded with our blood,” Zelensky said.
The Koch statement came after the newsletter Popular Information broke the news Monday that Koch was continuing in Russia on a business-as-usual basis, based on comments and statements made by the company since the start of the attack.
Koch reportedly declined to comment amid multiple requests from Popular Information to the parent company and subsidiaries on the ground in Eastern Europe. The report was picked up by other media outlets, including MarketWatch, which also sought Koch comment to no avail.
On Wednesday, the newsletter followed up with a fresh article that outlined how pundits and groups backed by Charles Koch were publicly advocating against sanctions on Russia, all without disclosing their ties to the industrialist.
“The horrific and abhorrent aggression against Ukraine is an affront to humanity,” Robertson said in his statement. “It violates our company’s values and principles, which are grounded in the fundamental truth that the system most conducive to human wellbeing, progress, civility and peace is one based on respect for the dignity of the individual, the consistent rule of law and the right to freely exchange goods and services. ”
But hundreds of US companies have opted to do exactly what Zelensky requested and either pull out of Russia or curtail their activities there.
Some made the decision last week after Yale business-school professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld published a list of companies that were still there after the first week of the conflict.
Sea: Yale professor is keeping tabs on companies still operating in Russia despite Ukraine invasion – and many have now pulled out