Koch Spokesmouth Beaten by College Students

For the final week of September, Koch Industries’ Director of Corporate Communication Melissa Cohlmia was in a flat spin. She knew that Bloomberg Markets magazine had been investigating Koch on a global scale and the results would soon be published. That it wasn’t going to be pretty was a no-brainer but Cohlmia had no way to gauge where the shit would fly once Bloomberg switched on the fan.

Cohlmia naturally likes to get in front of bad publicity and her strategy is to deny everything beforehand and hope for the best, as in her famous email to left-wing bloggers, just prior to Tax Day 2010, stating that the Koch brothers didn’t fund the tea party rallies. Of course they didn’t, they funnel their money through their various PACS, which Koch Industries was forced to admit the next day when one blogger stopped laughing long enough to call up.

Although she had been interviewed for the article and used the opportunity to deny, deflect, downplay and make excuses for every Koch swindle and screw-up (in addition to tossing in a few red herrings), Madam PR Whiz fell back on her usual strategy, and suddenly right-wing blogs everywhere were attacking Bloomberg Markets for lying about these innocent conservative billionaire victims. This feverish pro-Koch blogging activity attracted the attention of Salon:

Here’s a rule of thumb about public relations: When P.R. pros begin furiously spinning a story before it has even come out, there’s a pretty good chance the story is going to be damaging to the reputation of said P.R. pros’ bosses.
Based on the prebuttal items appearing this week in the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, and U.S. News and World Report, the Bloomberg story focuses on alleged malfeasance and/or fraud and/or bad behavior by the conglomerate Koch Industries.

BUT …… on October 2nd, while Melissa Cohlmia was enjoying a harmless Sunday, some shocking news popped up, probably in her BlackBerry (courtesy of Google alerts, perhaps?). The famous Politicalgates blog had again gotten the jump on the mainstream media, and was publishing excerpts from the Bloomberg article! Oh, noes!

Within seconds, she was in crisis mode. So deft and experienced in crisis management is Melissa Cohlmia that she would later in the month be the main attraction at Wichita State University’s annual ‘Comm Week’ gathering for students in communications disciplines – the theme of her presentation being “Crisis Communication”.

After having just put out such a big PR fire, Cohlmia’s presentation was bound to be a sizzler! Students had already been happily tweeting about how much they were looking forward to it …

After getting the horrible news that the Bloomberg investigation had escaped, the Director of Corporate Communication connected with Koch management, who were themselves on the case immediately. How degrading it must have felt for their $100 billion per year company to be suddenly thrown into complete chaos by a humble blogger instead of the New York Times or the Washington Post. Did they feel any better when later that day Bloomberg uploaded the offending article to their website, and the cat was formally out of the bag?

Koch’s lawyers may not have been on the case, because it took some time for their rebuttal to appear on the internet – and then it was so wishy-washy and nit-picking that, given the gravity of the revelations in Bloomberg Markets magazine, it was dismissed.

The fallout was impressive; people were outraged to learn of the deaths of two teens when their car exploded after having encountered a cloud of toxic Koch gas; the whole tea party movement was besmirched when it was discovered that the unpatriotic Kochs had been happily trading with Iran outside of the United States; and humiliating occasions such as the telephone call to Koch-owned WI Governor Scott Walker from a fake Koch brother, and the covert taping of the Koch brothers’ annual gathering to plot the demise of democracy in the U.S. were dredged up and rehashed.

After little more than a week the Koch Google numbers began to cool and Twitter moved on to other outrages. Melissa Cohlmia would have an excellent war story for the students – and the student world has been buzzing all week with the anticipation of it…

The buzzing stopped sharply, however, when Comm Week 2011 commenced – Melissa Cohlmia had pulled out of the event! Melissa the experienced, Melissa the mentor, Melissa the war horse, Melissa Cohlmia from Koch Industries – not coming? What a disappointment! What a letdown! Was she unwell? Was she in an accident? Had she suddenly left the employ of Koch?

No, no, and no. Melissa Cohlmia pulled out of the event shortly after Politicalgates published its excerpts and Bloomberg published the rest of the story. Poor Mr Heldman was forced to give the “Koch Crisis Communication” presentation by himself because Koch “Crisis Making” Industries is apparently gutless, rude, unreliable and anal (and those are probably the good points).

In the students’ own words, “she bailed. She flaked!” And how they chortled at the perfect irony …

Is Koch Industries that intimidated by a room full of college kids – or merely scared of their questions …?

Illegal bribes in foreign countries, dead kids, selling to America’s enemy …. yep, plenty of questions there; and plenty more work for journalists.