Koch's Political Strategy and the Role of Academia

Click to read Koch's true motivation for academic giving, "policy change."

Click to read Koch's true motivation for academic giving, "policy change."

Charles Koch’s political activities, now largely referred to as the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, utilizes what they call an “integrated strategy” for privately funded policy change.

It involves the targeted funding of universities, think tanks, front groups, and politicians for the “implementation of policy change.”  

Since 2003, this strategy has been utilized at Koch's highly secretive bi-annual donor summits. 

The Center for Public Integrity published (Lauren Windsor's) recordings of a 2014 Koch summit, in particular, a session entitled “Leveraging Science and Universities." 

At the 2014 summit, Kevin Gentry of Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation bragged to a roomful of donors:

Listen to Koch's donor summit above, and click here for the full transcript 

students that graduate out of these higher education programs also populate the state-based think tanks and the national think-tanks…they become the major staffing for the state chapters on the grassroots innovation around the country….

So the network is fully integrated. So it’s not just work at the universities with the students, but it’s also building state-based capabilities and election capabilities, and integrating this talent pipeline. I hope that those of you [who] are excited about the electoral process, you’ll invest there. Those of you who are excited about universities, invest there. (full transcript)

Fundraising simultaneously for academic and political projects, Gentry reminds donors of a 32-state strategy for a “culture of freedom that will not just change the policies of those states, but also have a significant impact on the federal government.”

Florida State University’s Bruce Benson described in 2007 how potential university grant recipients may attend Koch Foundation summits:

Koch has organized a group of Foundations with similar agendas that meet twice a year to discuss funding strategies, etc. If some version of this proposal is agreed to, Koch will invite representatives from FSU to these meetings, introduce us, allow us to make our pitch, and encourage others to join them in funding the program…. [T]hey also want FSU to demonstrate a commitment to the program (e.g., make a sincere effort to raise other money from their network of foundations). (Benson memo, 2007)

free market programs funded by Koch's network of donors are political, not educational.

Additional documents from Koch's summits, as well as recordings from a conference of Koch funded academics, suffice to show that Koch's academic programs are being executed in bad faith, and that they should be rejected outright.

The objectives of the Charles Koch Foundation’s academic programming can be traced back as far as a 1974 speech given by Charles Koch as chairman of the Institute for Humane Studies to a room of business men: 

We should cease financing our own destruction and follow the counsel of David Packard, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, by supporting only those programs, departments or schools that “contribute in some way to our individual companies or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.” [...] We must recognize that a direct political approach contains certain inherent dangers. [...] Thus, political activity is less cost­ effective than the other approaches, and businessmen should allocate resources accordingly. The important strategic consideration to keep in mind is that any program adopted should be highly leveraged so that we reach those whose influence on others produces a multiplier effect. That is why educational programs are superior to political action, and support of talented free­ market scholars is preferable to mass advertizing. The development of a well financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us at the moment. As the Powell Memorandum points out, “business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.” But the system can be restored if business will re­examine itself and undertake radical new efforts to overcome the prevalent anti­capitalist mentality. (Charles Koch, 1974, Anti­capitalism and Business, pg 6­7)