Koch Bros. In Concert

Four lucky concertgoers at a gospel holiday concert in Richmond, Va., in December got an unusual Christmas gift from the gig’s sponsor, Fueling U.S. Forward: rather than receiving a piece of commemorative swag, they learned their energy bills would be paid.

The Dec. 16 concert at Trinity Family Life Center drew more than 300 and was part of a larger event including a panel discussion “about energy, specifically the role it plays in making the holidays possible,” according to Fueling U.S. Forward’s website.

– Trinity Family Life Center
Fueling U.S. Forward Concert

In fact, it was so successful that the group promises even more such concerts in 2017. Fueling U.S. Forward is a public relations group promoting fossil fuels and is funded by Koch Industries, headed by ultraconservative billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

The brothers are known for funding political efforts against climate change research and health care regulation, and have heavily funded TEA Party groups and Republican Party candidates, among other conservative causes. So why are they funding concerts in Virginia? According to the New York Times, it’s part of a Koch campaign that is “quietly courting new allies in their quest for fossil fuel resurgence: minorities.”

The paper reports that Fueling U.S. Forward, founded in early 2016, has aimed at least three such “outreach” efforts at black voters, “arguing that they benefit most from cheap and abundant fossil fuels.”

Or, as Fueling U.S. Forward spokesman Alex Fitzsimmons said in a Facebook Live broadcast in August, “winning hearts and minds.”

Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, told the Times he considers the campaign to be “an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy.”

Fueling U.S. Forward enlisted the help of nonprofit Reaching America, which describes itself as advocating “innovative solutions for African Americans not based on right or left wing views,” and RadioOne, which caters to black listeners, in organizing the Richmond concert.

During the show, audience members were encouraged to contact legislators to communicate concerns about energy costs and against polices “that force greater use of less reliable and more expensive energy sources (e.g., wind and solar),” according to the Fueling U.S. Forward website. “All in all,” the website’s event report concluded, “people walked away with a positive message of energy abundance and the value energy brings to all of our lives – as well as a great concert! We look forward to bringing this conversation to more communities in the coming year.”