Though more famous for their secretive workings in politics, the Koch brothers also funnel millions of dollars into the education system using their network of conservative groups. A new report from the Center for Public Integrity finds that Koch groups delivered more than $12.7 million to 163 colleges and universities around the country in 2012.
According to the report, two Koch groups fund programs that are either vaguely or more specifically oriented around libertarian and conservative ideas. For example, the Charles Koch Foundation contracted the economics department at Florida State University to select professors through a Koch-appointed committee. George Mason University, a school outside Washington, DC that considers itself a “premier university source for market-oriented ideas,” received $8.49 million from the Koch foundation in a single year. The foundation also funds fellowships or teaching positions at the University of North Carolina, Ohio State University, and New York University, while the Jack Miller Center helps bankroll programs at 45 institutions, like Harvard, that “reinvigorate the teaching of America’s founding principles and history.” Education officials deny these gifts arrive with strings attached.
While the Center for Public Integrity notes the practice is common among wealthy Democratic donors, too, none matches the vast Koch network. Millions of dollars isn’t much compared to each Koch’s $40 billion net worth.
The millennial generation is overwhelmingly progressive and makes up an increasing portion of the electorate. On top of their behind-the-scenes role in education, Koch groups have more overt millennial generation outreach. The group Generation Opportunity built its massive social media following through misleading means, by creating anti-Obamacare and anti-government Facebook pages simply called, “Being American,” “The Constitution,” and “Gas Prices Are Too Damn High.” At the price of $750,000 last fall, Generation Opportunity threw 20 college campuses tailgate parties with alcohol. The not-so-subtle theme of the tailgates was to convince students they are better off uninsured than getting health coverage through Obamacare.
Meanwhile, conservative politicians and the American Legislative Exchange Council, another group funded partly by the Kochs, work against millennial voters with legislation designed to make it harder for students to vote where they go to school. Many voter ID laws also exclude student IDs at polling places.