Joel Francis, the Cal State-Los Angeles senior and Marine Corps veteran, on Tuesday delivered his debate challenge letter in person to Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. Francis has asked CEO Charles Koch to join him in California for a public debate about Koch's funding of Prop 23, a measure that would roll back California's clean energy investments and job creation efforts.
After receiving no response from Koch following the video posting of his challenge last week, Joel traveled all the way from Los Angeles with a group of fellow college students and Gabe Elsner, campaign director of Powervote CA and the California Student Sustainability Coalition. Francis said his goal was simple: to meet Charles Koch briefly to hand him the letter inviting him to a public debate "anytime, anywhere in the state of California" between now and election day about why Koch would attack the fastest growing sector in California's struggling economy -- clean energy jobs, which are growing 10 times faster than other sectors.
The company responded by posting pairs of security guards prominently outside each entrance to the Koch corporate campus. Marked and unmarked Koch security vehicles trailed several cars after they dropped the students off on the front lawn of Koch HQ. (The vehicle I arrived in along with PowerVote's Gabe Elsner was also trailed as it left the scene.)
Larry Moorman, Koch's Director of Corporate Security, immediately approached Elsner and wrongly claimed the party was on private property. Elsner responded that county records indicated the first 18 feet of lawn adjacent to the curb was public property, and Moorman walked back to his post outside the front door without comment.
Huddled closely together on the narrow strip of public lawn in front of Koch Industries' infamous corporate logo, Joel delivered a statement reiterating his modest challenge, flanked by several California students holding signs saying "Mr. Koch: Got Courage?" and "Hands Off Our Clean Energy Jobs!"
Joel and Gabe then approached the front door of the building to request the meeting with Charles Koch. They were again met by the trenchcoat-wearing Mr. Moorman, who refused them entry, but agreed to ensure delivery of Joel's letter to the elusive CEO. When pressed by the pair on whether Koch had any statement in response to Joel's challenge, Moorman declined further comment, then reminded them they were on private property and had "no legitimate business reason for being here."
"You know where the easement is," Moorman said, referring to the county-designated public space adjoining the street.
Retreating 20 steps back to the safety of the public strip of lawn, Joel **placed a phone call** to Koch's main line and was transferred to Charles' secretary, who said Mr. Koch was not available. She took Joel's cell phone number and promised to deliver the message.
Today, Joel is back in California rallying students across the state to vote no on Prop 23. Whether Charles Koch will answer his polite request to a public debate remains to be seen.
"I think that if you're going to wreck the economy of a state you don't even live in, you ought to have the courage to explain yourself in person," Francis said.
Stay tuned for updates, including video footage of Francis' visit to Koch headquarters coming soon.
**Disclosure: Since Joel and Gabe both experienced technical difficulties with their phones, I let Joel use my cell to place the call to Charles Koch's office.**
Update #1:The car I arrived in along with Gabe Elsner was tailed after dropping us off (on public property), and our driver reported being passed by three times by a red burgundy Cadillac with Missouri plates AA3Z5L, driven by a white male smoking cigarettes. Whether this was a Koch employee or contract security guard has not been confirmed but I am working on finding out.
Update #2: Here is a video from PowerVote CA about Joel's visit to Koch HQ.