Brexit-Loving Koch Acolytes Are Getting Rich Off Climate Change Denial in the UK


The swamp is spreading.

An investigative report published last night by DeSmog UK, a blog focused on the politics around environmental issues in Britain, laid out in painstaking detail how American conservative lobbyists pushing climate denial have seeped into the everyday affairs of British politics. The piece is fairly massive, as it wades through the muck of the political lobbying scene in London.

The thrust is that a married couple living in London—Matt Elliott, a British lobbyist and consultant, and Sarah Elliott, a Trump-loving American who is the chair of Republicans Overseas—has been helping grow a network of influence in and around Britain as a way to cash in on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (stupidly-but-conveniently otherwise known as Brexit.) For them, this means seeking funding from the likes of Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers and then using that money to lobby for deregulation of environmental protections and a diminished government.

As the report lays out, the Elliotts were intensely influenced by the Tea Party movement and resulting libertarian policies flowing out of America. Sarah Elliott, who was born in Virginia, was a member of the Tea Party and worked as a researcher for the Grover Norquist-led group, Americans for Tax Reform. It’s there that she met Elliott, per DeSmog UK, who long admired Norquist. As for the Tea Party, he has this to say in an interview with The Guardian in 2010:

You could say our time has come … We need to learn from our European colleagues and the Tea Party movement in the US… It will be fascinating to see whether it will transfer to the UK. Will there be the same sort of uprising?

Since then, Elliott had his hands in a number of right-wing, pro-Brexit political consulting groups—Big Brother Watch, Business for Britain, Conservative Friends of Russia, New Culture Forum, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and the Institute of Economics Affairs, or IEA. Elliott was also the head of the Vote Leave campaign, per the site. This is where Mercer comes in.

While Elliott was running the Vote Leave campaign (which was fined £61,000 for being shady with its finances leading up to the Brexit vote), the group contracted with a Canadian data analysis firm known as Aggregate IQ, or AIQ. As it turns out, AIQ held a private agreement with SCL Elections, or SCLE, that dictated SCLE would maintain the rights to all of AIQ’s intellectual property—the voter data.

SCLE was the parent company of the Mercer-funded firm Cambridge Analytica which, if you’ll remember, shuttered after it was uncovered that it used the data from 50 million Facebook accounts for political campaigns willing to hand over the cash. So, Mercer simultaneously had his hand in funding and controlling the data collected and used by the two largest pro-Brexit entities, Leave.EU and Vote Leave.

The Kochs are involved in the Cato Institute and the Atlas Network, a D.C.-based nonprofit that takes money from the Charles Koch Foundation and the Koch-connected Donors Trust. As DeSmog reported, Atlas then spreads those funds around to groups that spout their free market bullshit, with several specifically pushing climate science denial, in an attempt to help fossil fuel industrialists further strip the world of its resources.

Elliott is a listed mentor of the Atlas Network, and two of the groups he founded, Taxpayers’ Alliance and Big Brother Watch, are part of the network. Among the network’s members is the IEA, with its American branch sharing an office with Atlas. Within the IEA is a group known as Epicenter, a libertarian thinktank run by a former co-worker of Elliott’s that, in tandem with the U.S.-based Cato Institute (a libertarian thinktank founded and funded by the Kochs) recently published a plan that called for deregulation and claimed the EU’s environmental regulations would bring “wealth destruction” to the UK.

OK, big breath—I know this is A Lot. Even in this insanely abbreviated version, there are far too many moving parts and nefarious actors, specifically those who know how to manipulate financial disclosure laws through nonprofits and faux-charities to get their money in the right, or rather the wrong, hands. One of the co-authors of the DeSmog blog, Mat Hope, published a TL;DR thread to help get the big points out that might help make this all a bit more digestible.

Still, I’d encourage you to check out the full piece, because even if you’re not halfway literate in the slimy underworld of political consulting and cash-for-legislation trading, it’s not hard to recognize the themes as painfully familiar to those in American politics. With the UK on the brink of pushing a deal through to bring its withdrawal from the EU on home, the same operatives actively working and succeeding at stuffing their pockets with fossil fuel money in America are silently ensuring they don’t miss out on the payday to come with their fully realized plan of Brexit, future generations of non-rich people be damned.

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