Ch. 5: The Battle for the Campus

Part 2: Campus “Free Speech”:

  1. Shielding Extremists on Campus

  2. Koch Professors protecting hate speech

  3. Charles Murray and the American Enterprise Institute

  4. Using flawed research to support campus "free speech"


1. Shielding Extremists on Campus

Since early February 2017, UnKoch My Campus has been following the sudden and coordinated proliferation of “campus free speech” laws across the U.S. These bills create academic and/or legal sanctions for students on campus whose protests “disrupt” the free speech of others, specifically speakers invited to campus.

The North Carolina ACLU observed that the NC CFS law “substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others.” The policy adviser of South Dakota’s ACLU questioned the necessity of the bill, "I don’t see why that’s necessary. It’s already the law. It’s already what the Constitution requires."

The Florida ACLU expressed concerns that “this bill will chill freedom of expression on our state’s college campuses,” forcing universities “to expend significant resources in defending against such frivolous lawsuits” and “to restrict students’ speech and peaceful assembly out of concern that someone might boo too loudly.”

South Dakota Board of Regents Executive Director Mike Rush noted how the bill "authorizes litigation that would likely be brought by out-of-state interest groups. . .We just don't think this is a good bill for South Dakota right now."

Across the country, campus demonstrations have drowned out the hateful ideology of speaker provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Davis, white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida, white nationalist Charles Murray at Middlebury University, or Heather MacDonald at Claremont Mckenna. This was all done with constitutionally protected free speech.

These laws would skew the meaning of free speech in a way that sacrifices the protected speech of individuals in order to amplify the “speech” of the Koch-network’s political extremists.

CFS laws allow such incendiary speakers or groups that sponsor them to sue a school or demonstrator for “disrupting” the free speech of anyone on campus. Some versions of the law prevent schools from “disinviting” speakers once they been invited.

These punitive measures would create several chilling effects, among students and faculty, but also for administrators who would be pressured to 1) allow increasingly extremist, non-academic speakers on campus, and 2) crack down on counter-demonstrators.

Another striking feature of these laws is that the donors behind the speakers are the same as the donors behind the groups pushing the laws.

Campus Free Speech Crisis: An ALEC/Goldwater Production

These laws are based on “model legislation” called the Campus Free Speech Act that was developed (not by lawmakers but) by think-tanks funded by the Koch-network, the Goldwater Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), in conjunction with the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has its own version, the FORUM Act. ALEC helps corporations, lobbyists, and their think-tanks directly draft on vote on legislation that ALEC-affiliated legislators then file in their home states.

As of February 2018, one year since its release, even with our limited knowledge of ALEC members, we can see a tremendous overlap of legislators filing and sponsoring Campus Free Speech bills that have been affiliated with ALEC:

  • 49 ALEC affiliated legislators are sponsoring or co-sponsoring 33 campus free speech bills in 15 states (on average, 1.5 ALEC sponsors per bill)

  • 12 out of 15 states with CFS bills have at least one ALEC affiliated sponsor

  • 14 total bills have been introduced by an ALEC legislator, with 20 out of 33 total bills have an ALEC sponsor or co-sponsor

ALEC began ramping up its free speech focus in 2016, including workshops and publications eventually leading to the creation of ALEC’s Center to Protect Free Speech, which expressed grave concerns that:

Students, especially conservatives, often face unconstitutional restrictions of their speech by universities. Is the “marketplace of ideas” broken? How will this impact the rest of our culture? And what can state legislators do about this problem on the public university campuses that make up the third largest expense in state budgets?

ALEC launched the Center to Protect Free Speech February 7th 2017, one week after the public release of the Goldwater Institute’s model bill.

During the May 2017 meeting of ALEC’s Education and Workforce Task Force, the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act, was introduced into the Higher Education Subcommittee. The Goldwater Institute’s Jonathan Butcher is the Chair of ALEC’s Education and Workforce Development Taskforce, and the Center to Protect Free Speech appears to have introduced the model bill.

The funders behind Goldwater, EPPC, and ALEC, are many of the same donors who are supporting controversial speakers, like white supremacist Milo Yiannopoulos, Charles Murray (through the American Enterprise Institute), and Heather MacDonald (Manhattan Institute) are all members of Koch’s donor network and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, including (Milo’s benefactor) Robert Mercer, the DeVos Family, the Bradley Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation and their anonymizing DonorsTrust/Donors Capital Fund.

According to 990's, between 2002 and 2016, the Goldwater Institute has received at least $2,921,912 from the Koch network’s DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, while the Ethics and Public Policy Center has received $873,000. The Freedom Center (an anti-muslim hate group) who sponsored Milo’s UC Berkeley talk received $659,290 from DonorsTrust/Donors Capital Fund.

The second largest common donor involved was the Bradley foundation, which gave $25,000 to the Goldwater Institute, $7,964,210 to the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and $8,438,000 to Horowitz Freedom Center.

Over the past decade, the Ethics and Public Policy Center has received $199,124 from the Charles Koch Foundation, while the Goldwater Institute received only $75,000 in scattered donations between 2004-06. Yet, in 2016, Koch made an abrupt $100,000 donation to Goldwater.

The Campus Free Speech Attack Dog Is Born

Speech First is a legal organization whose mission is to "protect students’ free speech rights on campus" through "advocacy, litigation, and other means." They aim to show universities that "shutting down unwanted speech will no longer be tolerated."

Speech First claims it will start with three lawsuits in 2018 with legal groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom helping to bring the challenges to court. Founder Nichole Neily says that "at this point, the only thing that will bring some of these administrations into line is the threat of being hauled into court, and so that is exactly what we plan to do."

Neily's immediate past employment has been as executive director of Koch's Independent Women’s Forum, and manager of external relations for the Cato Institute. She was most recently the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which owns the Koch network's investigative journalism franchise, The Franklin Center is directly funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, and heavily funded through the Koch network's anonymous DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

2. Koch Professors Protecting Hate Speech

Two months into the release of the Campus Free Speech Act, the Charles Koch Foundation announced the creation of a $1.7 million center established at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, whose director Tim Shiell is responsible for facilitating a “civil and rational debate and research” on how “civil liberty issues guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petitioning the government” are tied to “institutions and innovation in government, civic, business, social, scientific and religious settings.”

Shiell was a “whistleblower” that called on the Koch-funded free speech organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the National Coalition Against Censorship to stop the UW-Stout from taking down what was widely regarded by students and administrators as racist paintings from a campus building (Campus Reform).

In a 1998 book called "Campus Hate Speech On Trial," Shiell lamented that “despite commitments to free speech and the open exchange of ideas, American colleges and universities had increasingly ignored such principles by implementing numerous hate speech codes designed to protect students from racial, sexual, and other forms of harassment.”(KU Press).

Shiell’s center at UW-Stout “will provide programming on campus and across the state, including speakers, panels and workshops. Stipends for faculty and student research also will be available.”

Marshall DeRosa, FLorida Atlantic University

Another Koch funded professor who has a particular connection to hate speech is Florida Atlantic University’s Marshall DeRosa. DeRosa was a longtime “faculty” for the research arm of of a white nationalist hate group, the League of the South Institute.

He was one of the few voices in support of Florida's Campus Free Speech bill, arguing that:

Under the new law when a university limits free speech under the pretense of a legitimate government interest, e.g., the Heckler’s veto, it is subject to lawsuits and fines. This will incentivize administrators to proceed with caution when limiting free speech on public safety and/or other grounds. (March 2018, Red Alert Politics)

As of 2016, DeRosa was also the “sponsor of several on-campus conservative student groups” including Turning Point USA.

Turning Point USA is national organization with fossil fuel funders that has increasingly been exposed for racial bias, ties to the Alt-Right, illegal political activity for the Ted Cruz campaign, and injecting “dark money” into student government elections. DeRosa’s TPUSA chapter listed among 2016-2017 “victories,” according to a leaked TPUSA document. Entitled the “Campus Victory Project,” it outlines strategies including “the implementation of ‘free speech’ policies eliminating barriers to hate speech” (Mayer, 2017).

One of DeRosa’s student groups invited incendiary Alt-Right figure Milo Yiannopoulos to FAU’s campus.

This free speech legislation has served as an open invitation for extremist speakers, with the original “Campus Free Speech Act” released on the same morning of Milo Yiannopoulos’ infamous appearance at UC Berkeley.

Supporters of the Tennessee bill called it the “Milo bill,” and read a statement from Yiannopoulos at their press conference, proudly conveying his claims:

We are winning the war. And we will continue to win as long as students, and now defenders of free speech within the government, stand up to ivory tower intellectuals and left-wing administrators intent on shutting up any speech they don’t find convenient.

Another notorious speaker provocateur with close ties to Charles Koch has been touring college campuses recently: white nationalist Charles Murray.

3. Charles Murray and the American Enterprise Institute

Charles Murray is a white nationalist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Murray’s work “racist psudoscience.”

Charles Murray is also a consistent presenter at Charles Koch’s donor seminars (as recently as 2017 and as far back as 2014), and Murray’s works are cited twice in Charles Koch’s book, the Science of Success.

While there are many free-market think tanks are receiving Koch funds, beyond the groups that are owned by the Kochs, AEI holds a leadership position within Koch’s secretive donor network. In leaked documents, AEI president Arthur Brooks is seen leading panels at Koch’s expensive political gatherings. Brooks instructs Koch network donors that “free enterprise is more than just an economic system- it is a moral imperative, and we must defend it at all costs.”

Members of Koch’s donor network that sit on AEI’s board of trustees include Ravenel Curry, Clifford Asness, and William Walton, as well as Betsy DeVos, whose parents are longtime collaborators with the Koch family. According to 990 tax forms, this network of donors has used two anonymizing donor advised funds, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, to provide AEI with over $24.8 million between 2002 and 2016.

Charles Murray has been touring the country funded by American Enterprise Institute and other Koch-funded campus programs. His recent visit to Indiana University was co-sponsored by the Koch-funded Tocqueville Program. Faculty and student resistance to Murray resulted in an open letter to the event sponsors, police violence against demonstrators, and snipers on the rooftop of the event venue.

The other sponsor of Murray’s visit was IU’s campus chapter of the American Enterprise Institute. These AEI student “executive councils” are growing rapidly:

The Executive Council program began in 2013 on 25 undergraduate campuses and has since grown to over 300 student leaders on more than 80 campuses across the country. These groups of up to six students per school form the core of AEI’s outreach to undergraduates.

A 2017 investigation by journalist Alex Kotch noted that:

At a leadership training program available to executive council members this summer, Murray is teaching a course called “The Building Blocks of Human Flourishing”

This course is based on his 1988 book In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government, which is cited by Charles Koch in his Science of Success. The American Enterprise Institute claims that Murray’s In Pursuit “aims to enable people to pursue happiness,” which Murray describes as the very “duty of a human being functioning as a human being.”

Drawn from his minimalist-government viewpoint, Murray proposes that government not try to force happiness on the people with federal policies or programs but, rather, that it provide conditions that enable people to pursue happiness on their own.

In Pursuit is one of two books by Murray on the recommended reading list at Koch’s 2016 Donor Summit, the other one being Coming Apart: The State of White America.

Murray has been touring the country, invited by AEI campus groups, to talk about his 2012 book Coming Apart: The State of White America.

Coming Apart builds on Murray’s infamous The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in America, the latter of which argued that intelligence is genetic, and that the intelligence of minorities and women is inferior to the intelligence of white men. Murray told Reason Magazine in 2012 that he still stood behind his research, stating, “would you tell me anything in the data that has changed?”

According to an archived report by Media Matters:

The book was widely seen as a piece of profoundly racist and classist pseudo-science, and was denounced by the American Psychological Association. It had relied heavily on studies financed by the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi organization that promoted eugenicist research. Immediately after its publication, [the] Bradley [Foundation] raised Murray's annual grant to $163,000.

The Bell Curve is one of three Charle Murray books listed as recommended reading by the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE), who granted Murray the Adam Smith award in 1992 (two years before The Bell Curve was published. The award is described as:

the highest honor bestowed by The Association of Private Enterprise Education. It is given to recognize an individual who has made a sustained and lasting contribution to the perpetuation of the ideals of a free market economy.  

Charle Koch has also received an APEE award, their 2005 Herman Lay award, and the Koch foundation has worked closely with APEE to build their network of campus programs.  

While some in Koch’s academic network provide intelectual validation for white nationalist ideology, or help promote incendiary speakers on campus, others have recently used flawed research to argue for the Campus Free Speech laws themselves.

4. Using Flawed Research to Support “Campus Free Speech”

Halfway through the first year of the Campus Free Speech Act, the Charles Koch Foundation funded a study by a UCLA professor that appeared to make an overwhelming case for CFS laws.

He cited findings from a poll showing that “a surprisingly large fraction of students believe it is acceptable to act—including resorting to violence—to shut down expression they consider offensive.”

The author explained his need to skip peer review:

I plan to publish a detailed analysis of the results in an academic paper, but given the long time delays associated with academic publishing, and the timeliness of the topic, I believe it is important to get some of the key results out into the public sphere immediately.

After being pressed about his methodology, polling experts and journalists were able to determine that he failed to disclose, and even made misleading statements, about a flawed methodology including a “self-selection bias”:

his survey was not administered to a randomly selected group of college students nationwide, what statisticians call a “probability sample”. Instead, it was given to an opt-in online panel of people who identified as current college students.”

Critics denouncing the study, including polling ethics expert Cliff Zukin, went so far as to say that the “way the survey results have been presented” were not just as flawed, but constituted “malpractice” and “junk science” that “should never have appeared in the press."

Furthermore, it was also discovered that the survey had posed the question about violence and speech in the days immediately after the deadly Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia. This detail was also left out of the study, and Koch researcher told the Guardian that the timing was “purely coincidental.”


In Part 3 of this chapter, we see that, in addition to undermining diversity and promoting extremist viewpoints on campus, the Charles Koch Foundation is also infiltrating Historically Black Colleges and Universities with their trademark "strings-attached" money.