Possible link exists between industrial spending and educational institutions
By Julia Rentsch, GECO Correspondent
On November 3 2014, news source Mother Jones published an article titled “The Koch 130” that attempted to corral into one list all of the Koch brothers’ philanthropic causes that comprise their web of political spending. For good reason it is still listed as a highly important read on the home page of the news site, holding its place alongside more recently written pieces.
Koch Industries, a conglomerate that deals in petroleum, chemicals, energy, fiber, fertilizers, pulp and paper (among other things) is owned by Charles and David Koch, who are well-known for their decades-long records of giving to numerous causes that uphold their right-leaning philosophies.
Koch Industries is the second-largest private company in the U.S. and is estimated to have annual revenue of $115 billion which, for comparison, Rolling Stone reports to be larger than the well-known companies IBM, Hewlett-Packard or Honda.
Surprisingly, though the company is financially bigger than many others, the name Koch Industries is not very big amongst the public, which for the most part is unfamiliar with the company’s empire and philanthropy.
According to Mother Jones, “the Koch surname has become synonymous with political spending,” and in a report from The Wall Street Journal, it was written that donations from the Kochs “are tainted by tea party-friendly politics, and rife with hidden strings and agendas.”
On MJ’s list are some causes we can deem nice (the arts, wildlife conservation, cancer research, the American Museum of Natural History), but also some that are not so nice (the Libertarian Party, anti-abortion groups and groups against gay marriage).
Educational spending is another favorite Koch spending category, and the MJ journalists compiled a list of forty-two colleges, high schools and centers that have received over a hundred thousand dollars from any of the Koch foundations since 1998.
According to the Mother Jones article, Northwestern University, Brown University, Harvard University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and numerous other institutions have been given Koch funds.
The list is not exhaustive, and they plan to expand it in the future.
Thankfully, Gettysburg is not listed as a beneficiary—but what of the others, who are stuck with the ethics battle of receiving money from such an ethically ambiguous source as Koch Industries?
Not only are Koch Industries on the whole treacherous for the environment, but there also have been claims that their spending gives them undue influence on what is being taught in the schools to which they donate.
Spokespeople for institutions that receive money from the Kochs are usually adamant that the donations do not influence what is taught in classrooms, but these claims are not always easily supported.
A year-old exposé from The Washington Post adds information from an investigation by The Center for Public Integrity, a well-established nonpartisan, non-profit news organization, which states that a story from the Tampa Bay Times revealed that in 2011 a $1.5 million donation to Florida State University’s economics department from the Charles Koch foundation “stipulated that a Koch- appointed advisory committee select professors and conduct annual evaluations” in the department.
The Kochs clearly have an agenda, and the controversy surrounding the money they give out should indicate a need for schools to closely examine the donations they receive and ensure that they do not inadvertently support ideals that they do not claim to take stock in.
Even though Gettysburg has evaded gifts from the Kochs, our college’s finances are privately man- aged, so it is nearly impossible to find out if any of Gettysburg’s money comes from gifts or investments in other sources that support unsustainable practices or questionable politics.
In a world where money is the most powerful motive for action, it is extremely important to be aware of the existence of not just the Kochs, but of any money that comes with a price.