The Koch brothers are supersizing their already hefty investments into college students’ hearts and minds.
A pair of private foundations led by the billionaire industrialists poured more than $23.4 million into U.S. colleges and universities during 2014, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of tax documents recently filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
That’s several million dollars more than the $19.3 million the Charles Koch Foundation and Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation together spread among schools during 2013 — and nearly double the $12.7 million they spent in 2012.
This increased funding in 2014 follows a recent Center for Public Integrity investigation that revealed the Koch brothers, Charles and David, consider the higher educational programs they fund a “fully integrated” part of a massive organizational network fighting to enact deregulatory government policies and elect conservative political candidates.
Meanwhile, private foundations led by liberal political bankroller George Soros — the Kochs’ de facto Democratic foil who also heavily funds higher education — spent slightly more money on a smaller number colleges and universities than the Koch foundations did during 2014.
The most notable difference: While some of Soros’ higher education grants go to programs aligning with his domestic policy priorities, the majority are focused overseas, tax records show.
Almost all of the higher education programs the Koch foundations fund cleave to the brothers’ philosophy of promoting free markets and laissez-faire capitalism in the United States.
In some cases, the Koch foundations have attempted, or succeeded, in attaching certain strings to their contributions, such as control over curriculum, and more recently, obtaining personal information about students. Dozens of college officials interviewed this year by the Center for Public Integrity assert that their professors retain full academic freedom and may teach as they see fit, regardless of who is funding their programs.
The vast number of agreements between wealthy donors and the college and universities they fund are never made public, so it’s impossible to comprehensively assess the conditions attached by such benefactors.
George Mason University, a public school in Northern Virginia about 15 miles from Washington, D.C., received almost $16.8 million — the majority of the money Koch foundations last year directed at higher education in 2014, and by far the most of any recipient.
Charles Koch has long maintained close personal and financial ties to the university, which hosts a pair of research centers specializing in free market economics and individual liberty: the Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies.
Thirteen schools received six-figure amounts last year, led by Florida State University; The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; Creighton University in Nebraska; Troy University in Alabama and Indiana University.