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Rich Fink

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Rich Fink is executive vice president and a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries, Inc.; co-founder of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center, president and a director of the Charles G. Koch Foundation[1] and a board member at a number of other organizations with ties to the Koch brothers. The conservative Weekly Standard has described Fink as "a fixture in Koch Industries, coordinating business ventures, philanthropy, and activism and becoming Charles Koch’s intellectual sounding board."[2]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing 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 the Koch Brothers

The conservative Weekly Standard has described Fink as "a fixture in Koch Industries, coordinating business ventures, philanthropy, and activism and becoming Charles Koch’s intellectual sounding board."[2] In addition to holding an executive position at Koch Industries, Fink sits along with Charles Koch on the boards of the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center, as well as serving on the boards of the Koch Family Foundations.

According to a 2011 profile of Charles Koch in Philanthropy, Fink's relationship with the Kochs began in the late 1970s when he was looking for funding to form the Center for the Study of Market Processes, which was to be a center for advancing Austrian school economics at Rutgers, where Fink was a professor. Charles Koch flew Fink to Wichita to be interviewed for funding, which he received.[3] The Center later moved to George Mason University, where it eventually became the Mercatus Center, which has received millions in funding from the Kochs over the years. Philanthropy writes that Charles Koch and Fink shared a goal for Mercatus:

"...Koch and Fink had another goal in mind. Mercatus would bridge two worlds. Like many of the on-campus centers that Koch has funded, it would continue to conduct original academic research […] At the same time, it would take advantage of its proximity to Washington, bringing its scholarship into direct contact with public policy."[3]

With financial help from the Koch brothers, Richard Fink assisted in establishing the conservative think-tank Mercatus Center, as well as Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation. CSE was later renamed the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which in turn launched the powerful conservative interest group Americans for Prosperity.[3] Fink is a board member of AFP, while David Koch is chairman of the board for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Registered as a 501(c)(4) social welfare non-profit, AFP spent $122 million during the 2012 election cycle[4], including over $33 million on its campaign against Barack Obama's re-election.[5]

According to the Weekly Standard, Fink also shares credit with Charles Koch for initiating the Koch network semi-annual summit meetings in 2003.[2] While lists of participants at the secretive meetings have not generally been made public, available documents for meetings in 2010 and 2014 show that Fink was scheduled to make presentations and meet with donors.

A 1997 report by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy included this illuminating description of the Fink/Koch strategy to "invest in change along the entire production continuum":

"In a presentation at the Philanthropy Roundtable's 1995 annual conference, Richard Fink, president of the Charles G. Koch and Claude R. Lambe charitable foundations, made good use of market metaphors to outline how foundations can exert the greatest impact on public policy. Adapting laissez-faire economist Friedrich Hayek's model of the production process to social change grant-making, Fink argued that the translation of ideas into action requires the development of intellectual raw materials, their conversion into specific policy products, and the marketing and distribution of these products to citizen-consumers.
"Grantmakers, Fink argued, would do well to invest in change along the entire production continuum, funding scholars and university programs where the intellectual framework for social transformation is developed, think tanks where scholarly ideas get translated into specific policy proposals, and implementation groups to bring these proposals into the political marketplace and eventually to consumers."[6]

See also: Koch network.

Fink has been involved with many Koch-linked organizations, including:

Richard Fink's son, Chris Fink, serves as vice president for development at Americans for Prosperity.[9]

Background

Richard Fink received his bachelor's degree in economics from Rutgers University, his master's from UCLA, and his doctorate from NYU.[8]

By 1977, Fink was a professor of economics at Rutgers University, where he founded the Center for Market Processes with financial help from Charles Koch[3]. Fink was also on the editorial board of the Austrian Economics Newsletter from 1977 to 1982. A working paper for the Ludwig von Mises Institute includes Fink in a list of scholars who were "very active" in the revival of Austrian economics in the 1970s.[10]

In 1980 Fink moved to George Mason University, taking with him the Center for Market Processes, which was renamed the Mercatus Center in 1998.[11] Fink continues to serve as a member of the board of directors at the Mercatus Center.[8]

Fink left George Mason in 1984 to become president and CEO of a new Koch-funded think-tank, Citizens for a Sound Economy.[3] According to the Weekly Standard, David Koch described CSE as

"a sales force that participated in political campaigns or town hall meetings, in rallies, to communicate to the public at large much of the information that these think tanks were creating […] Almost like a door-to-door sales force that some of the cosmetics organizations have."[2]

In 1993 Citizens for a Sound Economy spearheaded a campaign to stop President Clinton's proposed energy tax. According to Jane Mayer in the New Yorker:

"The group waged a successful assault on Clinton’s proposed B.T.U. tax on energy, for instance, running advertisements, staging media events, and targeting opponents. And it mobilized anti-tax rallies outside the Capitol—rallies that NPR described as “designed to strike fear into the hearts of wavering Democrats.”[12]

Fink joined Koch Industries in 1990.[8]

Controversies

Comments on Accusations of Astroturfing

Fink has decried accusations that the Koch brothers have engaged in "astroturfing." In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Fink made the following statement in response to a question about accusations that Tea Party groups were "corporate-sponsored ‘astro-turf’ rather than real grassroots movements":

"That’s nonsense. It’s clear from the very personal and passionate expressions of concern at these events that they haven’t been scripted or orchestrated. Tea parties reflect a spontaneous recognition by people that if they do not act, the government will bankrupt their families and their country. They’re absolutely right about that.
"Now, if our work over the past 30 or 40 years has helped stimulate some of those citizens who are becoming more active, that’s great, but it’s a far cry from pulling strings. What we have done is support the Americans for Prosperity Foundation [...] David Koch has been a steadfast supporter of that foundation, though Koch-related funding of AFP and the foundation has amounted to a small percentage of their overall funding in recent years. That’s a testament to their broad appeal.
"AFP and its state chapters have begun collaborating with tea party groups, and we’re in favor of any group willing to constructively address irresponsible government policies."[13]

Defending the Kochs' Support of WI Gov. Scott Walker

In February 2011, "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker fell prey to a prank phone call from a New York blogger impersonating David Koch, one of the two wealthy brothers who were big donors to his political campaign and GOP efforts generally," according to NPR.[14] Fink responded in an interview with the conservative National Review Online, saying

"With the Left trying to intimidate the Koch brothers to back off of their support for freedom and signaling to others that this is what happens if you oppose the administration and its allies, we have no choice but to continue to fight."[15]

Ties to Big Tobacco

Fink 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."[16]

The tobacco industry provided significant amounts of funding for CSE in the 1990s. Between 1995 and 1999, at least $1,000,000 was given to CSE, with some estimates suggesting the number to be closer to $2,000,000. In some cases, CSE wrote to tobacco corporations explicitly requesting funds for its campaigns against tobacco regulation.[17]

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."[18] Already an established tobacco ally, in 2000 CSE requested $2,000,000 from Phillip Morris in order to continue their pro-tobacco advocacy.

Positions held

References

  1. Charles G. Koch Foundation, 2012 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Matthew Continetti, "The Paranoid Style in Liberal Politics," Weekly Standard, April 4, 2011. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 James K. Glassman, "Market Based Man," Philanthropy, Fall 2011. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  4. Michael Beckel, "Koch-backed nonprofit spent record cash in 2012," The Center for Publicy Integrity, November 14, 2013. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  5. Center for Responsive Politics, Americans for Prosperity, election spending report, 2012 cycle. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  6. National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Moving a Public Policy Agenda: the Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations, organizational report, July 1997, quoted here.
  7. Center for Responsive Politics, Koch Industries, annual lobbying report. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Mercatus Center, Richard Fink, organizational website, accessed June 16, 2014.
  9. Andy Kroll and Daniel Schulman, "The Koch Brothers Left a Confidential Document at Their Donor Conference," Mother Jones, February 5, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  10. 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. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  11. Mercatus Center, History and Timeline, organizational website, accessed June 16, 2014.
  12. Jane Mayer, "Covert Operations," New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  13. Mark Tapscott, "What if all businessmen were as dedicated to free markets as the Kochs?," Washington Examiner, July 18, 2010. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  14. Frank James, "Wisconsin Gov. Walker Takes Prank Call From Fake 'Koch' Brother," NPR, February 23, 2011. Accessed July 1, 2014.
  15. Robert Costa, "Koch Executives Speak Out on Wisconsin," February 24, 2011. Accessed July 1, 2014.
  16. Original Letter, Richard Fink, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, September 28, 1985.
  17. Richard Fink: The Koch Brothers’ Big Tobacco Man Behind the Kochtopus Curtain, The Checks and Balances Project, January 31, 2013.
  18. Richard Fink: The Koch Brothers’ Big Tobacco Man Behind the Kochtopus Curtain, The Checks and Balances Project, January 31, 2013.
  19. Freedom Partners, Board Members, organizational website, accessed June 16, 2014.
  20. George Mason University, "Board of Visitors, meeting minutes, May 11, 2005. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  21. George Mason University, ["https://docushare.gmu.edu/dsweb/GetRendition/Document-5037/html Board of Visitors, Student Affairs Committee], meeting minutes, March 20, 2012. Accessed June 16, 2014.