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A Nonprofit Donation Has Purchased Your Mind, And It’s…

Between 2005 and 2014, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation — Koch as ‘in the multi-billionaires who have been funding the Tea Party since before its official inception’ — donated more than $90 million dollars to major academic institutions across the South, according to The Institute for Southern Studies. The purpose of that nonprofit donation? To purchase the thoughts of Americans.

How does that work? To answer that question, we have to turn to a man named Richard Fink. Richard Fink does an extraordinary amount for the Kochs: he’s the President of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, he’s a founding member of the Mercatus Center and Americans for Prosperty, and he sits on the Board of Directors of more than a dozen of the Koch’s (hundreds of) other nonprofits.  The Koch brothers have been relying on Fink’s extraordinary ability to strategize on a grand scale since the early 90s, and until quite recently, there’s been little clue as to what Fink does that’s worth getting paid the astronomical sums they pay him.

However, in 2012, Richard Fink quietly re-published a paper he had originally written long before he was tackling politics. When it was first published in Philanthropy magazine in 1996, it was entitled “From Ideas to Action: The Role of Universities, Think Tanks, and Activist Groups.” When it was republished, it was much more unsubtly titled “The Structure of Social Change.” It shows you exactly how the Koch Foundation’s money is intentioned for the explicit purpose of buying your thoughts:


When we apply this model to the realm of ideas and social change, at the higher stages we have the investment in the intellectual raw materials, that is, the exploration and production of abstract concepts and theories.

In the public policy arena, these still come primarily (though not exclusively) from the research done by scholars at our universities. At the higher stages in the Structure of Social Change model, ideas are often unintelligible to the layperson and seemingly unrelated to real-world problems. To have consequences, ideas need to be transformed into a more practical or useable form.

In the middle stages, ideas are applied to a relevant context and molded into needed solutions for real-world problems. This is the work of the think tanks and policy institutions. Without these organizations, theory or abstract thought would have less value and less impact on our society. But while the think tanks excel at developing new policy and articulating its benefits, they are less able to implement change.

Citizen activist or implementation groups are needed in the final stage to take the policy ideas from the think tanks and translate them into proposals that citizens can understand and act upon. These groups are also able to build diverse coalitions of individual citizens and special interest groups needed to press for the implementation of policy change.

 We at the Koch Foundation find that the Structure of Social Change model helps us to understand the distinct roles of universities, think tanks, and activist groups in the transformation of ideas into action.


If you’re the tl;dr type, let me summarize that for you:

  • There are billionaires who are paying universities to produce tainted research, paying think tanks to recommend biased policies based on that tainted research, and then paying activists to rally support behind those biased policies.



This is how America’s story is getting corrupted from the very bottom to the very top — the Koch brothers are literally super-villains, with an actual, real-world plan in place that is spending millions and millions of dollars to establish complete control over how you think by manipulating the process of how ideas move through the socio-political sphere.

If there was ever a time to be as scared as possible of the wealth gap, this is it — the moment when you realize that it’s possible to be wealthy enough that you consider it not just possible, but a valid strategy to buy an entire political movement. Not just the party (though they are definitely the people responsible for the Tea Party.) Not just the crazy think tanks that come up with the stupidest policy concepts we’ve ever heard of (though they are behind a long list of think tanks.)

No, they also want to purchase the studies and science that harvest evidence for our policy decisions.

How does $90 million actually buy them science itself? Well, first off, as was pointed out by one anti-Koch member of the faculty at Western Carolina University, “The Charles Koch Foundation has previously set forth explicit expectations in line with their political views in exchange for monetary gifts to universities, thereby constraining academic freedom by influencing and interfering with the development of new knowledge.”

But it’s even more insidious than that — these are super-villains, remember — because the Kochs don’t ever move on just one level at a time. While they’re donating money to colleges and universities, they’re also spending huge quantities of money on elections. Which is relevant, because it only takes a handful of well-positioned state legislators to gain control over the hiring and firing of a college’s Board of Directors. Once you have a couple of people on the Board of Directors and your millions of nonprofit donation dollars on the line, you can twist a university’s arm and get it to produce whatever kind of research you want.

So the next time some conservative — or particularly Libertarian — nutjob starts quoting “evidence” from a legitimate study at you, take a close look at the college that produced it. The likelihood is that the school is part of the Kochtopus.


And if that’s not some straight-up super-villain stuff, nothing is.

(Featured Image courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr, shared using a Creative Commons 2.0 license.)

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