Billionaire Charles Koch’s personal foundation disclosed $81.7 million in grants to 140 colleges and universities in its 2021 IRS filing, the latest obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
The chairman and CEO of Koch Industries—who is worth $60.2 billion, according to Forbes—injected $51 million into the foundation through his Charles G. Koch 1997 Trust, and another $800,000 through his Stand Together Trust during the same period.
According to the filing, the Charles Koch Foundation distributed a total of $93 million in grants in 2021 that included millions to right-wing policy, litigation, media, and advocacy groups, among other causes.
“In the 2020 election cycle, 28 organizations controlled by Charles Koch, his family, and Koch Industries executives spent a combined $1.1 billion, primarily to influence public policy and politics in the U.S., and had net revenues of $2.7 billion,” as Connor Gibson reported for CMD.
George Mason University once again topped all higher education beneficiaries of Koch Foundation grants, receiving a total of $20.7 million. Of that, $4.6 million went to the university’s Institute for Humane Studies, which Koch has funded since the 1960s. As chairman emeritus, he currently sits on the Institute’s board of directors along with the Koch Foundation’s Ryan Stowers, who is the current chairman, and Stand Together‘s Brian Hooks.
The second largest Koch Foundation grant again went to Catholic University of America, which received just under $4 million. In the past, this controversial funding source has sparked protests from dozens of Catholic leaders.
Koch has given Catholic University more than $13.5 million over the past decade, including $10 million for its business school, named after Christian right activist-donor Tim Busch. In 2017, Busch stated that he and Koch had “arranged” for a “nearly $50-million gift” to Catholic University that had “reenergized” the school and “made it great again.”
Rounding out the top five higher education recipients of Koch Foundation grants in 2021 are: Arizona State University ($3.9 million), New York University ($3.7 million), and Utah State University ($2.6 million).
The Charles Koch Foundation is notoriously secretive about its grant agreements with universities, often calling into question the impact of the funding on academic freedom. “We publish the grant agreements for all our major, multi-year gifts to universities,” it claims on its website.
However, only a selection of grant agreements are listed to date in the section of the site dedicated to sharing information on annual grant agreements.
Almost half a century ago, Charles Koch reportedly told a gathering of his peers to “focus on attracting youth” because “this is the only group that is open to a radically different social philosophy.”
For Koch, investing in university programs that promote his worldview is a key part of building a pro-corporate, libertarian infrastructure. Noting that “attack[s] on free markets emanate” from institutions of higher education, Koch argued that, “We should cease financing our own destruction and…support only those programs, departments or schools that contribute in some way to our individual companies or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.”
In addition to the $81.7 million the Foundation gave in higher education grants in 2021, it invested $3.1 million in right-wing national infrastructure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation received the largest donation ($817,500), followed by the 1889 Institute ($696,000) and the BRG Institute ($475,000).