Koch Support to Wisconsin Higher Ed Tops $1 Million

May 17, 2017

Graduation  Caps and Cash

A recent $425,000 grant to the University of Wisconsin-Stout by the Charles Koch Foundation is the largest single, annual gift ever given to a Wisconsin college or university by the rightwing grantor, but not the first. The tally to all Wisconsin colleges and universities tops $1 million.

UW-Stout, located in Menomonie, announced in early May that it will receive the grant from the conservative foundation to use in 2017-18. The grant is renewable annually for up to three more years, for a potential $1.7 million in total funding from the foundation.

In addition to the UW-Stout grant, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review of annual financial reports filed by the foundation with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service found just over $621,000 in grants to nine Wisconsin public and private colleges and universities between 2007 and 2015. (A foundation report for 2016 is not yet available.) Here are the Wisconsin schools and the total amount each has received since 2007 from the Charles Koch Foundation:

UW-Stout $425,000

UW-Madison $311,058

Beloit College $191,500

UW-La Crosse $32,500

Carthage College, Kenosha $30,000

Lakeland College, Plymouth $25,000

UW-Green Bay $9,500

Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee $7,500

UW-Eau Claire $7,082

Concordia University, Mequon $7,000

Charles and David Koch are the billionaire owners of Koch Industries. The brothers have been among the top funders of rightwing organizations and causes for decades. The Kochs founded Americans for Prosperity, a secretive rightwing electioneering group. They have also been generous backers of the American Enterprise Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)Cato Institute, Federalist Society, Heartland Institute, Heritage Foundation, and the State Policy Network, among others.

The Charles Koch Foundation is among numerous Koch family foundations, but the only one that is focused on grants to higher education institutions. The foundation’s reports over the years describe the purpose of its grants to the Wisconsin schools as for “general operating support,” “educational programs,” or “general support.”

At least some of the schools have used their Koch grants for research and guest speaker programs.

UW-Stout says it will use its Koch grant to create the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation. The new program will offer research, workshops and guest speakers on campus and across the state on civil liberties.

In 2014, UW-Madison’s Political Science Department used $70,000 in Koch money to create a post-doctoral teaching and research position involving classical liberalism .

Beloit College has used its Koch grants for a student research and guest speaker program involving global wealth and economics.