Koch’s 2017 Spending: Growth and Loss

Koch Foundation's Annual Contributions.png

Since 2005, UnKoch My Campus and Greenpeace USA have tracked a grand total of $256,780,623 from four foundations controlled by Koch Industries to 503 university campuses and six nonprofits that closely support specific universities.

After analyzing the Koch’s recently released 2017 990 tax forms, we find that Koch foundations spent $62.24 million on 296 distinct campuses, with $7,709,828 going to six nonprofits that are either rooted on a campus or acting as a pass-through to a campus.

Find below a quick highlight of Koch’s 2017 campus funding. More on our methodology is described below. See a searchable database of Koch funded campuses, now updated to 2017!

-UnKoch My Campus, Jan 3, 2019

The Top Koch Campuses of 2017

Ten campuses received over $1 million:

CKF's Annual Campuses and Cumulative Total Campuses.png

1. George Mason University (GMU): $13,468,800.
(Not including IHS, see #14)
Rice University: $3,157,000
3. Utah State University (USU): $1,520,000
4. Harvard University: $1,463,059
5. University of Chicago: $1,385,256
6. University of Utah: $1,250,000
7. Baylor University: $1,104,550
8. Montana State University: $1,070,232
9. Wake Forest University (WFU): $1,029,000
10. Texas Tech University (TTU): $1,004,300

Sixteen campuses received $500,000 to $1 million:

Campuses Receiving More than $100K (Annually).png

11. University of California, San Diego (UCSD): $957,000
12. Southern Methodist University (SMU): $897,800
13. University of Colorado, Boulder (CU): $863,000
14. Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) at George Mason University: $858,803
15. Ohio State University (OSU): $835,000
16. Iowa State University (ISU): $781,000
17. Texas A&M University, College Station: $741,000
18. University of Southern California (USC): $701,705
19. Lindenwood University: $644,000
20. Wichita State University (WSU): $614,000
21. New York University (NYU): $605,000
22. West Virginia University (WVU): $553,162
23. Catholic University of America (CUA): $552,500
24. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): $534,200
25. Florida State University (FSU): $519,684
26. Tufts University: $503,000

In addition:

53 campuses received $100,000 - $500,000
38 campuses received $50,000 - $99,999
120 campuses received $10,000 - $49,999
58 campuses received $500 - $9,999

Big Growth, Bigger Loss for the Third Year in a Row

Our findings, as reported by Paul Basken in the Times Higher Education, include the fact that:

while 58 new campuses received Koch funding in 2017-18, 63 others saw their support ended. That marked the third straight year in which the foundation’s departing campus partners outnumbered its new ones. (Times Higher Education, Jan 3, 2019)

New Campuses Added and Non-Renewed Campuses.png

Charles Koch Institute Unleashes Massive Lobbying Effort

CKI Lobbying.png

In 2016 and 2017, the Charles Koch Institute reported spending $2 million direct lobbying, and $500,000 on grassroots lobbying. Because their budget is so large, CKI is still within its legal limit to maintain its non-profit status.

The Ivy League Succumbs to Koch

Harvard University is now the first Ivy League school to receive over $1 million from Koch in a single year. Seven of the eight Ivy League universities were on the Koch payroll in 2017, and all eight have received Koch money in recent years:

Harvard: $1,463,059 in 2017 ($2,473,099 between 2012-2017)
Cornell: $160,000 in 2017 ($212,000 between 2015-2017)
Princeton: $91,000 in 2017 ($224,600 between 2015-2017)
Yale: $80,618 in 2017 ($85,618 total, 2015-2017)
Brown: $74,500 in 2017 ($1,634,298 between 2008-2017)
Dartmouth: $58,500 in 2017 ($133,000 between 2008-2017)
Columbia: $36,850 in 2017 ($46,850 between 2015-2017)

David Koch Foundation Resumes Political Spending

Unusually, the David H. Koch Foundation chipped in $400,000 to the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) at George Mason University. Charles Koch has been the IHS chairman for decades. Charles Koch’s foundation typically gives IHS multi-million dollar grants every year, as opposed to the David H. Koch Foundation, which had not financed IHS since 2001.

In fact, the last time the David H. Koch Foundation financed any sort of political group was in 2008, when he gave a million dollars to Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Until he was pushed out by his brother Charles in June of 2018, David Koch was the chairman of the AFP Foundation. We will have to wait until November, 2019 to see if David Koch’s foundation continued to spend money on universities or political organizations in 2018.

Times Higher Education Report

Basken’s reporting on the Koch foundation interviews with George Mason University’s president, Angel Cabrera. Basken describes efforts by GMU’s students and faculty to prevent donor influence:

“Everybody wants this,” [Cabrera] tells Times Higher Education. Existing policies for vetting donations at the Virginia public university are “very vague” and “put fundraisers and deans at risk, because they have to apply their own judgement about what they think is acceptable”. . .

The protesters may be winning, in the sense that George Mason is among many universities now making clear that academic interference of the type seen from the Koch Foundation will not be tolerated. . .

George Mason, with its record $129 million in Koch Foundation support since 2005, has been home to an especially active opposition. That resistance includes a student-led lawsuit seeking public access to the university’s donor agreements. Cabrera’s responses include an internal review that found several instances in which donor contracts – signed before he arrived in 2012 – gave the Koch Foundation some level of input into faculty hiring and retention.

John C. Hardin, director of university relations at the Charles Koch Foundation, answered that with a written acknowledgement that such conditions existed, and a promise that they no longer will. Cabrera pledged to draft and implement new guidelines that would better protect the university’s academic independence. . .

The contracts identified in the George Mason investigation “were not outrageous: they just raised questions.” Still, after learning of them, “I didn’t think those agreements were OK. I thought those agreements were problematic.” . . .

He defends the integrity of his institution’s association with the Koch Foundation chiefly in terms of the reputational ranking of its economics department – the chief recipient of Koch funding – which is home to two Nobel laureates. “This is not a crappy, manipulated department,” Cabrera says. (Times Higher Education, Jan 3, 2019)

Basken’s reporting also includes the expansion of Koch’s academic programs into other countries:

The Koch Foundation has made some of its own moves overseas, but it is happening very slowly. Its first and largest relationship is with McGill University in Canada, where $6,000 in grant money in 2010-11 has grown to $150,000 in 2017-18. Another eight Koch recipients can be found in Canada, Australia, the UK, Liechtenstein and China, but most receive just a few thousand dollars. (Times Higher Education, Jan 3, 2019)


Our list of Koch-funded universities is generally a straight-forward reflection from the source documents, when Koch foundation 990s list the schools receiving funds by name. Many of these gifts are administered to nonprofit foundations that exist solely to support a specific university, such as the George Mason University Foundation.

A few other universities are listed in Koch tax forms without obvious names, such as the “Agora Institute,” which is at the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, or the “University Enterprises Corporation” at California State University, San Bernardino. We do our best to identify programs that are hosted by campuses, but are not listed as such in Koch tax filings.

We include six nonprofits because of their exceptionally close relationship with Koch-funded programs at certain universities:

  1. The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) at George Mason University, which is located on GMU’s Arlington, VA campus and is branded by the university.

  2. The Mercatus Center at GMU, which didn’t [directly] receive funds in 2017 but has the same arrangement as the IHS. Charles Koch himself has directed both of these programs for many decades, as a founder of Mercatus and as the chairman of the IHS. It is possible that Mercatus receives Koch money via the GMU Foundation, but GMU does not offer such disclosure if that is the case.

  3. The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which passes along most of its funds for programs and scholarships at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) that the Koch Foundation and Koch Industries established, in particular, the Center for Advancing Opportunity. TMCF received $6,627,250 from CKF in 2017

  4. The Jack Miller Center, which passes along most of its funds to university programs that Charles Koch is also financing directly.

  5. The Alexander Hamilton Institute, which was established just off-campus of Hamilton College in Virginia after Hamilton professors rejected a proposals for a campus center like those established by donors like Koch. The AHI staff include a few Hamilton professors.

  6. Strata Policy, near the campus of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. This nonprofit was set up by USU’s primary Koch-funded professor, Randy Simmons. Strata has frequently co-branded reports with Simmon’s program that is officially on-campus at USU. It is unclear if Strata Policy is still operating, or has been folded into the official USU programs that Koch recently expanded with a $25 million grant pledge.

These six nonprofits listed above represent a heightened level of integration into Koch’s preferred style of establishing campus hubs that teach and preach the ‘free market’ gospel and feed both research and young talent into Koch’s think tanks and political advocacy groups. (See OpenSecrets 2018 for more details).

This database does not include dozens of other Koch-funded nonprofits that are focused on higher education, because they do not have close ties to a specific college or university. Examples include the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE), the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL).

As for the Koch-funded campuses, our methodology includes law schools as a subset of broader universities. We separate schools within a university system--such as the University of California system or the SUNY schools in New York, as well as distinct regional campuses such as the College Station and Commerce campuses that are both part of Texas A&M University.

Our data is sourced directly from IRS 990 tax forms filed by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Charles Koch Institute, the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation, and the David H. Koch Foundation. The most recent of these files is from the calendar year 2017. Our full database uses the year 2005 as a benchmark because that seems to be the year that Koch began expanding beyond just George Mason University and a handful of other campuses.