Koch Invested $127.5 Million in Building Right-Wing Infrastructure in 2018

Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries with an estimated net worth of $43.1 billion, distributed over $127.5 million in 2018 through his personal foundation to support right-wing infrastructure and the so-called "talent pipeline" needed to staff it, IRS filings obtained and examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) show.

The Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) pulled in over $168 million in revenue in 2018, bringing its total assets to over $765 million. Charles Koch contributed $50 million himself to the foundation that year, the filings detail.

Universities and Colleges Receive $84.4 Million

CKF dispersed two-thirds of the $127.5 million in 2018 to universities and colleges, or a total or $84.4 million. George Mason University, host to the Koch-funded Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies, took in the most at $16.2 million. This amount far exceeded the second largest recipient of Koch cash, Utah State University, by $12.4 million. (A full list of CKF grants to universities and colleges is available here.)

Koch has expanded his investments into the number of universities and colleges year by year in order to ensure that in the long term there will be advocates against regulation and for his vision of free-market capitalism.

Koch told a gathering of his peers in 1976 to "focus on 'attracting youth' because 'this is the only group that is open to a radically different social philosophy,'" according to Jane Mayer.

In order for Koch to realize his vision for society, he will need the foot soldiers to fill out the massive right-wing infrastructure he has built over the years at the national and state level that he continues to fund in the millions.

"For more than 40 years, Charles Koch has been trying to remake America to fit his agenda against the people in our democracy regulating corporations to advance his bottom-line and his extremely narrow view of government, as documented in Chris Leonard's new book Kochland," said Lisa Graves, the board President of CMD, Director of KochDocs.org, and the co-founder of Documented. She added: "As Koch grows older, he has expanded his effort to shape our world beyond his lifetime by spending more and more indoctrinating young people in his deeply distorted conception of public policy, in addition to his efforts to capture the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts with his pro-corporate, anti-regulatory wish list."

State Policy Network Affiliates Bring in $3.2 Million

Fourteen "affiliate" members in the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of right-wing "think tanks," advocacy groups, and other registered nonprofits in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom, received $3.2 million in CKF funding in 2018.

SPN is composed of 64 "affiliate members," and 98 "associate members," and its affiliates now bring in over $120 million in revenue, CMD recently reported.

SPN member groups are called on in the states to provide the academic legitimacy for right-wing policy ideas in the states through reports, public hearing testimonies at state capitals, and, increasingly, in the media.

Many of the right-wing policies are drafted as American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills and introduced by lawmakers -- almost all of whom are Republican -- into their respective state houses. ALEC received $300,000 from CKF in 2018, and another $34,000 from the Charles Koch Institute in the same year.

The $334,000 to ALEC from Charles Koch in 2018 is less than half of the amount he provided it in 2017 through the same vehicles.

Of all the SPN groups getting CKF funding, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) received the largest amount at $1.2 million. TPPF brings in the most money of any SPN affiliate, CMD previously reported.

The next largest SPN recipients of CKF cash in 2018 were all organizations that focus on union busting. The Mackinac Center (MI) secured $600,000, and the Buckeye Institute (OH) and the Freedom Foundation (WA) each received $250,000 respectively.

Other SPN groups that received CKF funding in 2018 are:

  • James Madison Institute (FL): $249,000
  • Beacon Center of Tennessee: $120,500
  • Pelican Institute (LA):  $122,000
  • Goldwater Institute (AZ): $100,000
  • Pacific Research Institute (CA): $100,00
  • Badger Institute (WI): $78,000
  • John Locke Foundation (NC): $55,000
  • Mississippi Center for Public Policy: $25,000
  • Advance Arkansas Institute: $28,440
  • Rio Grande Foundation: $25,000

More Cash for Tucker Carlson's Hateful Propaganda

CKF provided $746,250 in 2018 to Tucker Carlson's "charity," the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF). Carlson is known for his Fox News show, but he also publishes The Daily Caller, which has now received a total of $3.4 million from Charles Koch since 2012.

Earlier this year, CMD reported that "Koch cash accounted for 83 percent of the The Daily Caller News Foundation's $1.1 million in revenue" in 2016.

CMD examined the questionable relationship between the non-profit and for-profit arms of Tucker Carlson's operation in 2017. The mechanics of how they operate together raise serious concerns about whether Carlson's tax-free nonprofit is operating primarily for the private benefit of his for-profit media outlet, which would be a violation of the tax code.

Carlson has deep ties to the Koch network. He was a senior fellow at the Koch-backed Cato Institute in 2009, a D.C. think tank that has received millions from Charles Koch, including $2.1 million in 2018.

And More Money for the "Conquerors of the Courts"

CKF gave the Federalist Society, which The Washington Post coined the "Conquerors of the Courts," $768,000 in 2018. The Federalist Society, along with its activist leader Leonard Leo, has reshaped the Supreme Court and many of the Federal Courts by aggressively promoting the appointment of right-wing judges.

Both Trump appointees to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, were members of the Federalist Society and were added to a nomination list Leo personally compiled for Trump.

Last week, Kavanaugh took a victory lap at the Federalist Society's Gala, saying to his supporters who helped get him seated, "I will always be grateful."

David Armiak

David Armiak is research director with the Center for Media and Democracy. David joined CMD in 2015, has conducted extensive investigations on dark money, corporate corruption, and right-wing networks, and is responsible for filing and analyzing hundreds of public records requests every year. David has a strong research interest in social movements and political power, and has delivered many talks on the subject.