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Koch and Utah State University

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Follow the money in the Koch wiki.

Utah State University (USU) is second only to George Mason University in receiving funds from foundations controlled by Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch. On May 6, 2017, USU announced that it agreed to receive a $50 million grant, $25 million of which was pledged by the Charles Koch Foundation.[1] A video featuring USU President Noelle Cockett, Charles Koch, and Jon M. Huntsman, Sr. was released by the university to promote the gift, the largest in the history of the university.[2]

From 2007-2015, USU received $2,048,500 from the Charles Koch Foundation, mostly for the USU Institute for Political Economy at USU's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, run by professor Randy Simmons.[3]

In addition, Koch gave $1,481,600 to a privately-managed, off-campus nonprofit called Strata Policy. Strata was founded by Randy Simmons and other USU professors who also receive Koch grants for their work on campus.[3]

Strata and USU frequently co-brand reports.[4] Some of this research has been criticized for using outdated or inaccurate data, and for being used to advance the lobbying activity of Koch Industries in other states, specifically in attacking laws that require utilities in Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania to increase use of clean energy over time.[5] The USU / Strata reports aimed at state and federal policies are not published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Strata has received taxpayer funds, via the Utah legislature, to conduct public relations promoting the handover of federal lands to the state of Utah.[6]

Charles Koch Foundation Funding to USU, 2007-2015

According to data compiled by Greenpeace USA, using Koch Family Foundations IRS tax filings:[3]

2007: $32,500

2008: $89,000

  • $74,000 paid
  • $15,000 paid for "Institute for Political Economy"
  • $100,000 unpaid pledge approved for future payments

2009: $172,000

  • $47,000 paid
  • $125,000 paid
  • $350,000 unpaid pledge approved for future payments

2010: $170,000

  • $170,000 paid
  • $250,000 unpaid pledge approved for future payments

2011: $205,000

  • $125,000 paid
  • $35,000 paid for "Research"
  • $45,000 paid

2012: $170,000

2013: $145,000

  • $45,000 paid for Koch Scholars program
  • $100,000 paid for faculty support[7]

2014: $65,000

2015: $1,000,000

2017: Pledge of $25,000,000, to be paid out over ten years, matching an identical $25 million pledge by the [Jon M.] Huntsman [Sr.] Foundation [1]

Koch Funding to Strata Policy, 2014-2015

2014: $1,146,600

  • $1,120,000 paid by Charles Koch Foundation
  • $26,600 paid by Charles Koch Institute

2015: $335,000

  • $350,000 paid by Charles Koch Foundation
  • $25,000 paid by Charles Koch Institute

2008 Grant Agreement: Koch Pledge for $625,000

On August 14, 2008, a grant agreement was signed by the Charles Koch Foundation, Utah State University, and the Utah State University Foundation.[8] The agreement was signed by Richard Fink, who at the time was an Executive Vice President at Koch Industries and president of the Charles Koch Foundation, former USU President Stan Albrecht, Dean Douglas Anderson of the Huntsman School of Business, and former USU vice president F. Ross Peterson on behalf of the Utah State University Foundation.

The grant was set to last for five years, until 2013. It is not clear how Koch and USU negotiated financial exchanges in 2013, 2014, and early 2015, before the 2015 grant agreement was published (see below).

Objectives and Purposes

The 2008 agreement mandated that all Koch-funded activity at USU conform to "Objectives and Purposes," using the following definition:

"The purpose of the support for the Professors is to advance the understanding and practice of those free voluntary processes and principles that promote social progress, human well-being, individual freedom, opportunity and prosperity based on the rule of law, constitutional government, private property and the laws, regulations, organizations, institutions and social norms upon which they rely. These goals will be pursued by supplementing the academic talent currently at USU to create a strong program that will focus on building upon and expanding research and teaching efforts related to individual freedom, social progress, and human well-being."[8]

As documented by the New Yorker, the Center for Public Integrity, and The Undercurrent, "well-being" is a phrase generally understood by people receiving Koch grants to be a friendly messaging tool to advocate for anti-tax, anti-regulatory ideology.[9][10] Wake Forest University professor James Otteson told a group of political donors privately assembled by Charles Koch for a Freedom Partners summit in 2014, "Who can be against well being? The framing is absolutely critical." Otteson told donors that saying "Study of Capitalism" or "economic freedom," another term found in older Koch grant agreements, would not be as effective in convincing skeptics to approve Koch funds for university research.[7] [11]

Tenure and Tenure-Track Faculty Hires

The grant agreement stipulates that USU must hire five professors in total; one senior level, fully-tenured "Koch Professor," and four tenure-track faculty. USU agreed to risk losing further grant funding if the Koch foundation did not approve certain candidates:

"CGK Foundation will not be obligated to pay any of the Funding Amount with respect to a candidate for a Professor position that has not been approved by CGK Foundation. In the event that USU and CKG Foundation fail to agree on a candidate for a Professor position, CGK Foundation may in its sole discretion cease all obligations under this Agreement or any other agreement between the parties regarding such Professor position."[8]

Limitations imposed through the grant agreement's "Objectives and Purposes" are reiterated for all faculty positions financed by Koch:

"USU agrees to recruit and maintain the Professors in accordance with the Objectives and Purposes. [...] USU agrees to recruit Professors who support the Objectives and Purposes and have demonstrated advancement of, or show the promise of working effectively in collaborative efforts to advance, the Objectives and Purposes. The Parties expect that the Professors' research will compliment, inform and build upon existing in business, finance, economics, institutions and property rights as they relate to and inform the foundations of prosperity, social progress and human well-being."

Right for Koch to Revoke

A redundant trigger clause for the Koch Foundation is built into the agreement:

"CGK Foundation reserves the right to discontinue or withhold any Funding Amount to be paid under this Agreement if, in CGK Foundation's reasonable discretion, USU has not fully complied with the terms and conditions of this Agreement; the Professors are not advancing the Purposes and Objectives; or such action is necessary to comply with any law or regulation applicable to USU or to CGK Foundation."[8]

Confidentiality vs. Public Records

An odd provision at the end of the 2008 agreement appears designed to discourage public officials from disclosing the document to anyone who legally requested it using Utah's public records laws, citing laws in both Utah and Kansas: "Subject to the terms of the Kansas Open Records Act, USU will not use, disseminate or any way disclose confidential information obtained by or provided to USU by CGK Foundation or a ?disqualified person? as that term is defined under Section 4946(a)(1) of the Code. For purposes of this Section, confidential information will include all information reasonably considered by the Parties to be confidential to one another including but not limited to financial strategies, correspondence, minutes, foundation documents and other similar information, subject to disclosure requirements 'of public Universities under Utah law. This is not to be construed to limit the academic freedom of the faculty to conduct their research and publish their findings, provided such research and findings do not incorporate or use any confidential information of CGK Foundation."[8]


2015 Grant Agreement: Koch Pledge for $1,540,000

[12]

2017 Grant Agreement: Koch Pledge for $25,000,000

On May 6, 2017, the Charles Koch Foundation pledged $25 million, matching $25 million that was simultaneously pledged by Jon M. Huntsman, Sr. through the Huntsman Foundation.[13] The agreement is set to last 10 years, expiring by (or before) February, 2027.

Center for Growth and Opportunity

The Koch-USU contract mandates the creation of a new "independent" 501c3 nonprofit organization called the Center for Growth and Opportunity, which is to maintain "affiliation" with USU.[14]

The new Center is distinct from the existing Koch-funded programs at USU, the Institute for Political Economy (IPE), and the Center will take control over certain programs that were previously run out of the IPE, such as the Koch Scholars program. All professors hired with Koch grant funds and all student receiving Koch scholarship funds are expected to work for the Center.

The Center's mission "is to explore, through research and educational programs, the scientific foundations of the interaction between individuals, business, and government to improve well-being for individuals and society."[15] The language closely mimics that of the Charles Koch Foundation's own public relations push in response to criticism that its grants are violating the academic freedom of professors and students around the country,[16] and the CKF's grant application language.[17] The phrase "well-being" can also be traced to the Koch network's broader communication strategy, developed in response to the unpopularity of many of Charles Koch's policy positions.[18][19] This mission must be followed by USU in order to continuing passing annual grant renewal evaluations by the Koch and Huntsman Foundations.

The HSB-CKF Fund

USU agreed to create a new fund in the Huntsman Business School to be "used solely to support HSB Programs as stated in this agreement." The fund is open to other donors. If the Koch-USU contract is terminated at any point, both parties agree to "confer regarding the donor's intent" for any leftover funds, and must create a new contract to guide the spending of money left in the HSB-CKF Fund.[20]

Tenure and Tenure-Track Faculty Hires

Using Koch foundation funds, USU agrees to hire six new faculty "at least three" of whom must be tenure-tracked. All six positions must be "affiliated" with the Center for Growth and Opportunity, and three of the positions must support the Hunstman Scholars Program.[21]

Student Scholarships, Programs and Curriculum

Through the Center for Growth and Opportunity, Koch will provide support for 20 full-tuition scholarships to graduate students in the Huntsman Business School.[22] Up to 20 undergraduate students can receive fellowships of $6,000, and up to 30 undergraduate students can receive $1,000 stipends for participating in the Koch Scholars Program. All students receiving Koch-subsidized scholarship or fellowship funds are required to help advance the Center's research.[23] [24]

Right for Koch to Cancel Payments

Each year's pledge of up to $2.5 million is contingent upon:

  • USU adhering to the "Purpose and Objectives" of the grant agreement [25]
  • The Koch Foundation's approval of annual "Stewardship" reports submitted by USU's Huntsman Business School [26]
  • The Huntsman foundation's approval of annual Stewardship reports from USU, as outlined in the 2017 Huntsman Foundation Grant Agreement [27]
  • The continued affiliation between USU and the Center for Growth and Opportunity [28]

SourceWatch Articles

Sources Cited

  1. 1.0 1.1 Kevin Opsahl USU announces $50 million joint Koch-Huntsman gift, largest in school history, Logan Herald-Journal, May 6, 2017
  2. Eric Warren, USU Huntsman School of Business Receives $50 Million Gift, Utah State University, May 6, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Charles Koch University Funding Database, PolluterWatch, accessed May, 2017.
  4. Research, Strata Policy, accessed May, 2017.
  5. Energy & Policy Institute, Strata Policy, accessed May, 2017.
  6. Paul Rolly, Utah taxpayers are helping out the Koch brothers, Salt Lake Tribune, May 10, 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dave Levinthal, Koch brothers' higher-ed investments advance political goals, The Center for Public Integrity, Oct. 30, 2015
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Charles Koch Foundation and Utah State University 2008 Grant Agreement, first published by Inside Higher Ed, 2011, republished by Greenpeace, 2014
  9. Chris Young, Why Are the Kochs Investing in Happiness?, Center for Public Integrity, republished by Slate, June 25, 2014
  10. Jane Mayer, New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers, The New Yorker, Jan. 25, 2016
  11. Lauren Windsor, Exclusive Audio: Koch Bros Aim for College Campuses, The Undercurrent, American Family Voices, Published Oct. 30, 2015
  12. Charles Koch Foundation and Utah State University 2015 Grant Agreement, first published by Center for Public Integrity, 2015, republished by Greenpeace, 2016
  13. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, signed May 6, 2017, obtained via GRAMA request by USU students, published by Greenpeace USA August, 2017.
  14. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, Attachment A: "Center for Growth and Opportunity," p.7.
  15. 2017 Affiliation Agreement Between Utah State University and the Center for Growth and Opportunity
  16. Valerie Strauss, Charles Koch's Unique Definition of "Academic Freedom", Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog, Nov. 7, 2014.
  17. Apply for Grants: Foundations of Well-Being, Charles Koch Foundation, accessed Aug. 22, 2017.
  18. Jane Mayer, New Koch: Rebranding the Koch Brothers, the New Yorker, Jan. 25, 2016
  19. Chris Young, Why Are the Kochs Investing in Happiness?, Slate / Center for Public Integrity, June 25, 2014.
  20. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, Section 7.c: "The Fund," p. 3.
  21. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, Attachment A: "The Faculty Support," p. 7.
  22. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, Attachment A: "Graduate Fellowships," p. 8.
  23. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, Attachment A: "Undergraduate Research Fellowships," p. 8.
  24. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, Attachment A: "Koch Scholars Program," p. 8.
  25. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, 8.b: "Termination by Donor," p. 3.
  26. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, 7.a: "The HSB Stewardship Report," p. 2.
  27. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, 7.d: "Contingent Gift," p. 3.
  28. 2017 Utah State University Grant Agreement w Charles Koch Foundation, 7.d: "Contingent Gift," p. 3.

Additional References

Academic Freedom References