[Disclosure: The author participated in the Charles Koch Institute’s Koch Associate Program in 2015-2016, which is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. The Capital Research Center is a partner in both the Koch Internship and Koch Associate Programs.]
Summary: UnKoch My Campus prematurely claimed a victory in May when donor agreements between George Mason University and the Charles Koch Foundation revealed the extent to which the foundation controls its university investments through grants. But before UnKoch My Campus throws stones about “dark money,” it needs to come clean about its funding and agenda.
Watch our video about UnKoch’s hypocritical maneuvers to suppress intellectual diversity here:
If UnKoch My Campus is genuine in its concern for outside influence in public education, then it’s seriously underestimated the scale of the problem. Charles Koch’s money is only a fraction of a percent of all private giving to higher education. The Tides Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and plenty of individual givers have just as much “undue influence” in American universities and it would be impractical and downright feckless to forego funding that expands opportunities for students across the country.
But, of course, the group’s concern probably isn’t genuine. Backed by the furthest fringes of the professional Left, UnKoch exists to silence business and free-market interests, making the group’s accusations that CKF threatens academic freedom risible hypocrisy. The only threat Koch-funded research centers and economic departments pose on campus is to the incumbent left-wing intellectual orthodoxy. In truth, it is the Center for Media and Democracy, Greenpeace, and the American Federation of Teachers (through the UnKoch campaign) who are advocating against open intellectual debate.
Certainly, those running and funding UnKoch have their own agenda, to which they are entitled. The fact that they are affiliated with known illiberal and leftist organizations may be coincidental and secondary to the message they espouse. The lack of transparency around their funding (which Ralph Wilson erroneously described as grassroots and organic) shouldn’t be used to discredit their organization—just as those in conservative and libertarian circles shouldn’t be tarred and feathered over associations or relationships. However, UnKoch is happy to use such fatuous relationships to discredit and cow the Charles Koch Foundation and its grantees.
Until UnKoch and its partner organizations are willing to fully disclose their donors and funding sources, they should instead consider that they benefit from the same rights and protections they accuse the Koch Foundation of exploiting.