Protests against the influence of the Koch brothers have broken out anew in reaction to the announcement that they plan to spend $890 million on the upcoming presidential campaign. Yet even their non-political giving has garnered opposition—most recently in the wake of an announced $1.75 million grant to the Catholic University of America.
Grant Gallicho, a writer for Commonweal who thinks it is fine for Catholics to pay for abortion but not for libertarians to pay for Catholic education, repeats worries from a group of theologians that this sends “a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics that the Koch brothers’ anti-government, Tea Party ideology has the blessing of a university sanctioned by Catholic bishops.”
To illustrate the extent of the Kochs’ dystopian agenda, here are a few of their most shocking attempts to buy influence.
1. $100 million to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
The 2008 pledge paid for a renovation of the home of the New York City Ballet.
2. $25 million to the United Negro College Fund
The 2014 grant prompted the AFSCME public employees union to end its support of the College Fund, which supports historically black institutions and provides scholarships.
3. $100 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A 2007 grant paid for constructing a center for integrative cancer research.
4. $20 million to the American Museum of Natural History
The 2006 gift went to fund a dinosaur wing of the museum.
5. $65 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The 2012 gift created a new public plaza that passing pedestrians and visitors to the museum could enjoy.
6. $10 million to the Public Television Program ‘NOVA’
The gift to the science program prompted accusations that Koch was trying to undermine science.
7. $100 million to New York-Presbyterian Hospital
The gift paid for a new ambulatory care center.
8. $10 million to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
The grant went to support the institution’s work in molecular biology and genetics.
9. $814,000 to Kansas State University Office of Diversity
The money went to support “historically under-represented students.”
10. $35 million to the Smithsonian Institution
The money went to fund a “hall of human origins” exploring the evolution of man.
The intensity of anti-Koch protests might lead one to believe that a donation from a free-market tycoon can turn any non-profit bureaucracy into a vestal cult for creative destruction—even when there are no strings attached and no expectation the gift will support anything other than ballet, cancer research, or minority education.
Even if the Kochs were trying to turn their recipients into free-market shills, there is little reason to think they would succeed. Donor intent is a brittle thing, which is why the foundation created by J. Howard Pew, to highlight “the evils of bureaucracy” and “values of a free market,” has lately supported not Austrian economics but early childhood education, global-warming awareness initiatives, and campaign-finance reform.
The Kochs are no more likely than previous free-market benefactors to buck the liberal and bureaucratic bent of the non-profit world. This is why—love them or hate them—we can all calm down.