Charles and David Koch are two of the richest people in the country. Together, they are worth $86 billion and have built a political empire that makes the political machines of the early 20th century look small. Their secretive network of billionaires and millionaires dump millions of dollars in our elections, launching thousands of attack ads against candidates who do not adhere to their specific, controversial agenda. In the 2014 election cycle alone, the Kochs’ secret network of dark money groups are expected to spend nearly $300 million. The candidates they help elect become beholden to the Kochs’ special interests, and not to the voters they are supposed to represent.
Elections, though, are not the only vehicle in which the Koch brothers attempt to advance their agenda. New research from Greenpeace shows that the Kochs have poured millions into public and private colleges and universities, often with strings attached. Koch-funded universities tend to promote the Koch agenda, and sometimes it’s even written specifically in professors’ contracts. One of the now hundreds of higher education institutions to receive Koch funding is my alma mater, the University of Dayton. Between 2010 and 2012, UD has received $46,250 from the Charles Koch Foundation. It is unclear what the funding was specifically for, but UD accepting Koch funding is in clear violation of the institution’s Catholic Marianist values.
When I was a freshman at UD, I heard story after story about the value of “community.” UD urged its new students to live by the basic idea in Catholic social teaching of being your brothers’ keeper and taking care of one another. Throughout my four years at UD I took part in university-sponsored events addressing environmental protection, human rights, and social justice. These are the community values the University of Dayton instilled in me, but they are not the values of the Koch brothers.
Charles Koch, whose political agenda is largely based on his own financial and personal gain, has spoken out against the idea of “community” when he attacks “collectivism.” The Kochs have spent millions funding efforts to repeal laws that guarantee workers a living wage, protect Americans from pollution, and save lives by expanding access to affordable healthcare. The Kochs’ secretive dark money operations and destructive political agenda is at odds with the values of the University of Dayton. And I’m not the only one who believes this. Just last year, five UD faculty members signed a letter addressing how Koch funding to the Catholic University of America is at odds with Catholic teaching on “moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship.”
As a proud graduate of the University of Dayton and an advocate for a real democracy where every American gets an equal say regardless of how much money is in their bank account, I urge my alma mater to stop accepting funding from the Koch brothers in order to protect the university’s values of community, faith, and social responsibility.
Jay Riestenberg graduated from the University of Dayton in 2011 and is a research analysis for Common Cause in Washington, DC.