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GMU Students Stand Up to the Koch Brothers

What do dark money, climate change and George Mason University students have in common? The Koch Brothers. Join us at the Fairfax County Courthouse on Tuesday, April 24, at 9 am, to stand up for transparency in our universities, and against the dark money that influences climate policy in our country. George Mason students are going to trial against the GMU Foundation.


If you’re concerned about climate change, you should be paying attention to the actions of Charles and David Koch. In The New Yorker, Jane Meyer writes: “President Trump may be the face of America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, but, as deeper reporting is making clear, it’s the Kochs and their fellow fossil-fuel industry donors who really own the policy. Whether responsibility for such a consequential move will redound to their favor remains to be seen. But it’s worth remembering that Fred Koch, Charles and David’s father and the founder of the family company, had a favorite admonition. He warned his boys to keep a low profile and stay below the surface, because, as he put it, ‘It’s when the whale spouts that he gets harpooned.’"

Editorial cartoon by Monte Wolverton, Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Copyright Monte Wolverton, 2014.

If you’re concerned about environmentalism in Virginia, you should definitely pay attention to the Koch brothers. They have a keen interest in one of our public universities, George Mason University. For over 30 years, these brothers have been investing in universities and university programs across the country, in hopes of advancing an anti-regulation agenda throughout academia.

“Students that graduate out of these higher education programs also populate the state-based think tanks and the national think-tanks…they become the major staffing for the state chapters on the grassroots innovation around the country…. So the network is fully integrated. So it’s not just work at the universities with the students, but it’s also building state-based capabilities and election capabilities, and integrating this talent pipeline. I hope that those of you [who] are excited about the electoral process, you’ll invest there. Those of you who are excited about universities, invest there.”

Students & faculty protest the (Koch-backed) renaming of GMU law school to Antonin Scalia Law School

Though Koch money and influence reaches into many universities, more Koch money is going into George Mason University than any other institution. In fact, the top three academic recipients of Koch money are all housed at GMU: the GMU Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, and the Mercatus Center. The GMU Foundation alone has received 25 times as much money as the next highest academic recipient of Koch money, Florida State University. (Charles Koch is the chairman of the board of directors of IHS, and a member of the board of directors of Mercatus.) You can read about the full extent of their influence at George Mason here.

In the last few years, students have started fighting back, nationally and at individual universities. There is a tremendous national organization, UnKoch My Campus, and you should absolutely check out their website, because it has tons of fascinating research and resources.

In 2014, George Mason students began a grassroots campaign called Transparent GMU, which aims “to shed light on the potential undue influence of GMU donors,” and “to ensure academic freedom and integrity are upheld.” They began by filing a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), and they have now filed a lawsuit against George Mason University and the George Mason University Foundation, demanding that the university and its foundation comply with Virginia’s state laws and release the requested information.

The trial date is almost here. Would you like to come out to the Fairfax Courthouse to support GMU students on Tuesday, April 24, 2018? You can! Find out the logistics here.

And please sign the Transparent GMU petition here. Let's stand strong with these students!

Image courtesy of UnKoch My Campus

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