Alternet has the article How Billionaire ‘Philanthropy’ Is Fueling Inequality and Helping To Destroy the Country. It gives another side to my feeling that philanthropy from billionaires might seem laudable, but if they had not used predatory practices to gain near monopolies so that they could have billions of dollars to give, the world might actually be a better place.
I’ll show an extensive quote from one section of the article to demonstrate why I am so upset with MIT for accepting a large donation from the Koch brothers to build a cancer research center and name the building after the Koch brothers.
David and Charles Koch, together worth $35 billion, have perfected this philanthropic misanthropy perhaps better than anyone else. Their Kansas-based Koch Industries is the second largest private company in the country after Cargill, with annual revenues estimated to surpass $100 billion. Together they control thousands of miles of oil pipelines from Alaska to Texas; fertilizers, minerals and biofuels; Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups and Lycra.
A research team at American University found that from 2007 to 2011, Koch foundations gave $41.2 million to 89 nonprofits and sponsored an annual libertarian conference. The report details how Koch Industries’ $53.9 million federal and state lobbying budget routinely goes hand-in-glove with Koch-affiliated nonprofits’ “public advocacy” for reasons having little to do with the public and everything to do with the brothers’ sprawling business interests. Koch lobbyists advocate for bills like the Energy Tax Prevention Act — which sought to roll back the Supreme Court ruling allowing EPA regulation of greenhouse gases — that are then supported in congressional testimony by “experts” from Koch-funded nonprofits.
Though private foundations cannot legally “be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests,” the study’s authors note that IRS enforcement is largely “sporadic and somewhat mysterious,” and even in the case of an investigation communications between the foundation and the government are generally kept from the public. The Koch nonprofit machine has exploited this loophole for all it’s worth, testifying before congressional committees at least 49 times since 2007.
For decades, Koch philanthropy has also waged ideological warfare within U.S. universities, contributing over $30 million to 221 universities since just 2011. Here, the payoff couldn’t be plainer. A 2012 report in Academe documented the Koch-funded coup in Florida State University’s economics department, showing how “in exchange for his ‘gift,’ the donor got to assign specific readings, select speakers brought to campus and instruct them with regard to the focus of their lectures, shape the curriculum with new courses and specify the number of students in the courses, name the program’s director, and initiate a student club.”
The Charles G. Koch Foundation gave FSU $1.5 million to sponsor two assistant professors, fund fellowships and shape curricula promoting free-enterprise doctrine. It then created an advisory board to distribute money to faculty and ensure their work aligned with the foundation’s ideology.
The Kochs have tapped many useful allies, academic and non, in their collegiate ploys. A year before the FSU story, Inside Higher Ed exposed how administrators at Clemson University cultivated the Koch Foundation to build its “Institute for the Study of Capitalism,” receiving $1 million for the effort. BB&T, the financial institution whose former chairman and CEO John Allison heads the Koch-backed Cato Institute, regularly pays universities to chair favorable professors, typically in economics. Cooperative institutions are rewarded with Koch dollars as a bonus. American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop found 10 such universities, where BB&T-chaired professors coincided with Koch cashflow.
Perhaps what they have done to economics departments in other schools will give pause to a certain reader of this blog who told me that we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth with regard to the MIT donation. This reader has many personal connections into and pride for the Sloan School at MIT and the economics department at MIT. Would he be so proud if those schools started teaching and preaching Kochian economics?
Any MIT alumni or alumnae out there want to join my protest movement of stopping all gifts to MIT and making sure they know why you are stopping?