Via America’s Lawyer: Charles Koch is pledging to turn a new leaf after decades of using wealth to fomenting political division. Plus, construction giant Skanska faces a litany of lawsuits related to its Pensacola Bay Bridge which was put out of commission by Hurricane Sally. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Charles Koch says that he now regrets spending his life creating cultural and political division in America. Lee Atwater, this is who I think of with this story. Lee Atwater had a brain tumor. Okay. Lee Atwater was the person who brought us the Reagan presidency, where he shows up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and he it’s very clear. It’s a presidency run of division. Lee Atwater learned under, under Karl Rove. He learned under Segretti and he was kinda known as the dirty tricks guy. I mean, that was his, that was his, that was his label. He was the dirty tricks guy. Bring in Lee Atwater when we want to do a lot of horrible things. So Lee Atwater is on his death bed, dying of a brain tumor. He says, you know what, I wish I hadn’t done this. Now we have the Koch brothers, David, of course is dead. The, one of the brothers is dead from cancer. And so we have another one who’s living. I don’t know how to take it. What, what is your take on what he’s saying here?

Farron Cousins:                  No, this is absolutely Charles who’s 85 years old, you know, he’s not long for this world at this point, just in a timetable stance and he’s trying to do the same thing. He wants his legacy, his brother’s legacy, to be one of unity. He says one of building bridges and this, you know, he’s came out and says, wow, did we get it wrong, I think was his exact quote, in this, in this article. But.

Mike Papantonio:             Wow, did we get it wrong. This is the guy who brought us the tea party.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             I mean, he financed everything about it too. ALECs, there has, you know, across the nation, ALECs has absolutely decimated decency with their legislation. They were the money from ALECs. I could go on.

Farron Cousins:                  Oh, right.

Mike Papantonio:             Organization after organization.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. I mean, union busting, fracking. I mean, this guy, his company is responsible for more than 300 different oil spills across the country.

Mike Papantonio:             One of the biggest fines, in my recollection. I saw this environment, it was above $30 million, it was one of the biggest environmental fines, which was still a slap on the wrist.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             But there was oil everywhere. It was in the aquifer. It was everywhere. Department of justice, as usual, does nothing. They slap them on the wrist. That’s what this, the, both of these brothers have been used to over the years. You know, I got a hold out and hope for the best here, Farron. Is it, is it reasonable to believe that he has had a change of mind, that now Charles is saying, you know, all I have is my legacy. That my brothers, you know, I, I wrote a book, I, you might remember one of the fiction books I wrote where I took the two brothers and made them into interesting characters.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             And it was easy to deal with that. He wants to change that image, doesn’t he? Can, can he do it?

Farron Cousins:                  He, he wants to change it, but he’s not actually willing to do anything to change it because, you know, you had brought up Georgia. Well, he is still pumping a couple of millions of dollars, a couple million dollars into the Republicans in these runoffs while at the same time saying, gee, partisanship is so bad. I wish I hadn’t done it, but you’re still doing it. You can’t say you don’t want to do it while you’re still funding this stuff.

Mike Papantonio:             Governor Scott Walker, the, maybe the most odious, the most odious person in politics before Donald Trump. So, so Scott Walker is propped up by the Koch brothers for, we know at least $3 million.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s more, much more than that. But he invented, he invented Scott Walker up in Wisconsin, didn’t he?

Farron Cousins:                  He, he did. And Scott Walker kind of gave rise to this new, newer breed I should say, of Republican, the one who went out there and wasn’t afraid to go and say, the unions are, are, are, are evil. You know, not just, oh, we need to get rid of, but just absolutely demonizing these organizations in a way we had not seen before. Even Reagan, wasn’t this overt with it, just absolutely pushing the corporate interest without pretending that he wasn’t.

Mike Papantonio:             Don’t you get to a point, it’s no re, you get to the point where there’s no return.

Farron Cousins:                  Oh, right.

Mike Papantonio:             I think that’s what’s happening here.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Recently, our hometown, Farron in our hometown, was rocked by the negligence of a company called Skanska. And I think people need to understand how Skanska, a company like Skanska affects towns all over America. Give me the story about Skanska and let’s draw some parallels between how people react to local politics, would you.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. Well, well right here in our town with Skanska, you know, we just had hurricane Sally came through. They’re building a bridge for us. It’s the only way in and out of that town at the moment, unless you want to take a two hour detour. They didn’t secure their barges that they’re using to build the bridge, the barges get loose, they smack into the bridge, they break it. It’s no longer operable. The barges then get washed up into other areas, more destruction.

Mike Papantonio:             They were in peoples, people’s backyards.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. And so Skanska says, or Skanska says, yeah, we’re, you know, sorry, but, oh well. Not much we can do. And so we decided, well, well, who is this company? And we look into it and we find out that not only have they been doing similar negligent projects across the United States, they have been found internationally to be paying bribes, to be paying off cartels. I mean, this is an international company.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. Fraud.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Bribery, interaction with cartels, so they can pull off their business. This, this is a, this is a, they’re make, bring in $18 billion a year. It’s one of the biggest construction companies on the globe. They happen to be in Sweden, but they got offices all over the United States. This is the new norm. Skanska is the new disgusting norm. And what’s so bothersome about Skanska, is it never should have happened here in Pensacola.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Why did it happen? How did, how is it that they had public hearings where Skanska is standing up saying, we want to build your bridge. One, it’s one, it’s a huge bridge, it’s a three, three mile bridge across a massive waterway. And so they stand up, we can do this for you. And oh, by the way, you know, we’re going to be the low bidder and oh, by the way, when you evaluate how they came, as far as, as far as their evaluation in the process of saying, is this the company, or should we, or these other two companies, the company. When they go through that evaluation process, these people on the bottom, of almost everything.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             And so, so, but why did it happen? How did it happen?

Farron Cousins:                  It happened because, you know, we got to admit here, we weren’t paying attention.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  And not just we as a community, but, but we weren’t either.

Mike Papantonio:             We, me, me and you, we weren’t. We weren’t.

Farron Cousins:                  But, there, there were these meetings.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  The city council meetings, the town hall meetings, the things that we think of, oh, no, that’s something people did in the forties. No, they talk about this kind of things. They talk to whoever shows up and they say, this is the company we’re leaning towards. Does anybody have any objections, any problems with this? Anything we should look at? But because most people think that activism is only on a national scale.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  You’ve to show up at the latest protest, or you got to vote against Trump. No, it’s all local. Politics starts locally.

Mike Papantonio:             Right.

Farron Cousins:                  And if we get more involved locally, it’s going to have the impact that we want to have nationally.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. We, we should have been at the meetings.

Farron Cousins:                  Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             Where they had public meetings. We are in the business of news. We could have found out about the frauds. We could have found out about the bribery. We could have found about the failures, where people are killed because they’re, they’re, they’re building process was so awful that people were actually killed. There was a bridge that collapsed down in Orlando. It was, as soon as it was open.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Six or seven people died. But the point is, if nobody shows up at the hearing, you have politicians who are dysfunctional, that are going to just, they, they don’t even, they don’t even take a look, a serious look at anything. That happened with Skanska here.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             You have lawyers working for the department of, in this situation, the department of transportation that signed off on a contract that a flying monkey moron would not have signed off on. But again, we had a responsibility to do something and we didn’t do it. We could have stopped these folks. We could have stopped them in their tracks at that hearing. We, we have businesses that will not be in business a year from now.

Farron Cousins:                  Some of them have already shut down.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  Some of them, right near that bridge, since there’s no longer any traffic and no need to go that way, have already closed their doors. These are businesses, one of them was the first job I ever had when I turned 15. It is gone now.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  It had been in that city for 40 years.

Mike Papantonio:             And we can’t, and the, it’s complicated, but we’re doing what we can to fix it, but where we really dropped the ball, you and I should have shown up and people should have shown up for those early hearings where they’re, where they’re up in front of an audience saying, we’re your folks. Thank you, Farron.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.