The Koch Brothers and the campuses

Former Supreme Court of the United States Associate Justice Lewis Powell likely is smiling from wherever he rests in final repose. The Powell Memo was issued by Powell, a corporate lawyer for big tobacco and other business while in private practice, on August 23, 1971, addressed to Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman of the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Memo was a blueprint to businesses to inject their messages into business and onto campuses. Recent news identifies the success on the educational front- and we know the corporate activity in the political sphere.

In a memo from UnKoch My Campus, the group stated the following about George Mason University (the law school was renamed for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia):

“Documents obtained by alumni and students through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal that private donors have considerable influence over George Mason University’s law school, economics department, and the Mercatus Center.”

The students found that the Koch Foundation had significant influence over faculty selection and research and academic programs, noting in the memo:

“Faculty and students at George Mason University have been raising concerns about donor influence, particularly influence of the Charles Koch Foundation, since 2011. The Charles Koch Foundation has donated almost $200 million to over 400 universities since 2005– George Mason University has received over 50% of those total donations.”

The connection between the Koch brothers and The Powell Memo is nothing new. In a 1974 speech by Charles Koch, in which he stated:

‘That is why educational programs are superior to political action, and support of talented free market scholars is preferable to mass advertizing. The development of a well financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us at the moment. As the Powell Memorandum points out, “business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.” But the system can be restored if business will reexamine itself and undertake radical new efforts to overcome the prevalent anticapitalist mentality.’ (Charles Koch, 1974, Anticapitalism and Business, pg 67) 

GMU is not the only place where the Koch’s are active in the academic sphere. In Arizona, 20% ($2 million) of the budget for new money for the state universities will go to the “freedom schools” on each of the college campuses. You might recall the Professor Watchlist site created a few years ago to identify those who were “advancing a radical agenda” in the college classroom. It was designed to only ferret out those deemed “liberal” – but like with much projectionism taking place in our great nation, it appears that the conservatives are the ones buying the minds of our future generations, just as Lewis Powell outlined in 1971.

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