Ch. 4: Koch Newtork's Anti-Civil Rights Crusade

Part 3: Legalizing Discrimination in Higher Education

  1. Project on Fair Representation

  2. Center for Individual Rights


In addition to combating civil rights protections, the Koch network has more overtly fought to dismantle affirmative action and legalize racial discrimination.

While some might argue that these incredibly wealthy white supremacists may be entitled to their own opinions, Koch’s network has pushed beyond ideology, using these ideas to manufacture aggressive anti-civil rights political change.

Two of the most aggressive legal opponents have fought to eradicate civil rights protections won during the 1960’s are the Project on Fair Representation and the Center for Individual Rights. Both are supported almost entirely by DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

1. Project on Fair Representation

Recent court battles have been carried out by an initiative called the Project on Fair Representation, which is described as a “not for-profit legal defense foundation that is designed to support litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts.”

The project is led by Edward Blum, who is not a lawyer but a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and white nationalist Charles Murray. The project was founded and is housed within DonorsTrust itself.

Some of Blum’s funders have been identified as the Searle Freedom Trust and the Bradley Foundation, both of which co-fund Koch’s academic and political programs. Searle CEO Kimberly Dennis described their political victories sought through litigation:

Our biggest victories lately have come in the legal arena . . .There have been numerous Supreme Court decisions that we helped to fund. These produced decisions in policy arenas as diverse as voting rights, environmental regulation, education, and health care. . .Of course these things can all be changed by one heart attack on the Supreme Court . . .But there are also state courts. There’s a lot you can do in litigation.” (Philanthropy Roundtable, Agenda Setting, 20)

The Project on Fair Representation was also responsible for the bringing forth the Supreme Court case Fischer v. University of Texas, which would have dismantled affirmative action in universities across the country.

A Reuters special report revealed how Blum’s cases are selected and driven entirely by anonymous Koch network donors:

Working largely on his own, with the financial support of a handful of conservative donors, Blum sought out the plaintiffs in the Fisher and Shelby County cases, persuaded them to file suit, matched them with lawyers, and secured funding to appeal the cases all the way to the high court. Abigail Fisher is the daughter of an old friend of Blum’s - a man who happened to call when Blum was in the midst of a three-year search for a white college applicant who had been rejected despite solid scores. Blum eventually got Shelby County to file suit after trolling government websites and cold-calling a county official.

Blum introduced Fisher’s father and Shelby County officials to the same high-priced but politically sympathetic Washington lawyers, who agreed to work for a cut rate to be billed to Blum’s backers. Neither Fisher nor Shelby County is paying to fight the cases that bear their names.

Over the past 20 years, Blum has similarly launched at least a dozen lawsuits attacking race-based protections. In addition to the Fisher and Shelby County cases, two other Blum-backed cases reached the Supreme Court (Reuters, 2012).

Blum confirmed a recent $100,000 donation from the Bradley foundation for the project after he “wrote them a pitch letter regarding the Fisher case and asking for support with costs” (Reuters).

Center for Individual Rights   

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is “dedicated to the defense of individual liberties against the increasingly aggressive and unchecked authority of federal and state governments.” For CIR, this means fighting affirmative action.

CIR was founded by Michael Greve and is currently chaired by Jeremy Rabkin. Both are professors at George Mason University School of Law, a department that has received millions from the Koch foundation, including $10 million in 2016.

Theodore Cross, the editor of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education wrote in 1999 about the “African-American Opportunities in Higher Education: Racial Goals of the Center for Individual Rights.” He described how CIR ran a campaign in 1998 to urge white students whose admission to a university was rejected to sue “even if they had no proof that they were being discriminated against.” He described how CIR:

has used staged litigation, deceptive public statements, and incitements of racial fears for the purpose of ethnically reengineering college admissions procedures in a way that would remove most African Americans from our leading colleges. The goals of the Center appear to be far less concerned with equal treatment of the races than with guarding the interests of segregationists and protecting the established economic and class advantages that enable whites to maintain their superior access to the leading colleges in the United States. (Full text at the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism)

In the early nineties, when they helped a white supremacist sue his university, CIR received funding on at least three occasions from the Pioneer fund, an organization dedicated to “research asserting the genetic superiority of whites.”

According to 990 tax forms, CIR has received over $3,812,300 since 2006 from the Koch network’s anonymous donor advised funds, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

Other donors have included the DeVos Family Foundation and $2,155,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation since 1990.

In 1997, CIR received funding directly from Charles Koch’s now-shuttered family foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.


Part 4 of this Chapter examines how these groups were part of a larger effort by the Koch network to dismantle and suppress voting rights.