Rich Fink

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Rich Fink is executive vice president and a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries, Inc. (since at least 1989), in Washington, D.C. Through his involvement in Koch, its free-market foundations, and various associated free-market think tanks, Fink is an influential, background player in free-market policy lobbying.[1]

Koch Connection

The Koch Brothers are the conservative billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to Big Tobacco

With financial help of the Koch brothers, Richard Fink assisted in establishing the conservative think-tanks Mercatus Center and Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), as well as the powerful conservative interest group Americans for Prosperity. Fink had established himself as an ally of big tobacco in the mid 1980's, personally writing letters to U.S. representatives as well as the Surgeon General and testifying before the National Economic Commission, using his positions at the Mercatus Center and CSE as leverage. In September 1985, Fink wrote to a federal representative, stating, "Dear Representative: On behalf of the 220,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy, I urge you to consider the heavy costs of the U.S. tobacco program, and the enormous benefits to consumers and taxpayers which would result from the elimination of that program."[2] As CSE continued to advocate pro-tobacco policy, the tobacco industry opened lines of funding, and between 1995 and 1999 at least $1,000,000 was appropriated to CSE with some estimates suggesting the number to be closer to $2,000,000.[3]

In 1999 the United States filed suit against American tobacco companies for deceiving the public about the dangers of tobacco use. Faced with $280 billion in penalties, tobacco companies sought help from allies outside the industry whose goal was to avert the federal suit. A document drafted by Phillip Morris asked these allies "to write op-eds, LTEs and editorials, give speeches or testimonies, create policy reports, join coalitions, and provide access to policymakers."[4] Already an established tobacco ally, in 2000 CSE requested $2,000,000 from Phillip Morris in order to continue their pro-tobacco advocacy.


Since the 1980s, Fink has advocated a theory of "Ideological Entrepreneurship", or "Political Marketing", for selling free-market ideology to the public. Using Friedrich Hayek's models of the production process, he shows that to influence policy, you must first develop the intellectual "raw materials"; then develop these into policy "products"; and finally "market" and "distribute" them to "consumers". On this basis, Fink argues that conservative grantmakers should invest in three areas: university programs, think tanks, and implementation groups. Specifically through this line of argument, Fink has been credited with a major influence over the grant-making strategies of conservative foundations since the 1990s.

During his time as an academic at Rutgers University (where he instigated an undergraduate program in Austrian economics), Fink was on the editorial board of the Austrian Economics Newsletter. For this involvement, he has been also been credited with a role in the revival of Austrian Economics during the 1970s.[5] While at Rutgers, Fink also founded the Center for Market Processes.

In 1981 he moved to become assistant professor of economics at George Mason University, where he started another undergraduate program in Austrian economics (with Karen Vaughn). He took the Center for Market Processes with him (the CMP subsequently went on to become the heavily Koch-funded Mercatus Center, of which Fink is Director).

Fink left George Mason in 1984 to become president and CEO of the new, Koch-funded think-tank, Citizens for a Sound Economy, but returned in an executive role to head a capital campaign feasibility study, as executive vice president of University Advancement and Planning.

In 1993 Citizens for a Sound Economy spearheaded a campaign to stop President Clinton's proposed energy tax: "Our belief is that the tax, over time, may have destroyed our business," Fink, who had now left CSE, told The Wichita Eagle. While the Koch Foundations could not legally lobby against the tax, Citizens for a Sound Economy rallied public opposition, especially in Oklahoma, where then-Senator David Boren agreed to help kill it.[6]

Positions held


  1. Richard Fink: The Koch Brothers’ Big Tobacco Man Behind the Kochtopus Curtain, The Checks and Balances Project, January 31, 2013.
  2. Original Letter, Richard Fink, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, September 28, 1985.
  3. Richard Fink: The Koch Brothers’ Big Tobacco Man Behind the Kochtopus Curtain, The Checks and Balances Project, January 31, 2013.
  4. Richard Fink: The Koch Brothers’ Big Tobacco Man Behind the Kochtopus Curtain, The Checks and Balances Project, January 31, 2013.
  5. Austrian Economics in the 1970s as Seen by the First Ten Issues of The Austrian Economics Newsletter, Hiroyuki Okon, Paper presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of The Japanese Society for the History of Economic Thought, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, May 2003.
  6. Sidebar: Petrodollar Scholars, Robert Parry, The Nation, August 26, 2013.