After publication of this letter, Stand Together noted that in the Chronicle’s fact-checking of this letter we had missed some significant sourcing and therefore we published inaccuracies. Among them, it noted that the Associated Press reported that Koch has been a leading voice speaking out against critical race theory bans. And it noted that Koch Industries, which is separate from Stand Together, did not continue to work in Russia but had to keep a glass-manufacturing plant open until it could be closed safely. It also says the author relied on citations that were inaccurate in many of its descriptions of Stand Together’s funding. After reviewing the citations from independent news organizations, we agree we should have gone much further in our fact checking.
To the Editor:
The philanthropy world has been inundated with responses and counter responses since the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an op-ed (April 13, 2023) by cross-ideological grant makers and association leaders calling for greater philanthropic pluralism. I found it interesting that one of those authors was Brian Hooks, the chairman and CEO of Stand Together — the umbrella group that anchors several of Charles Koch’s political-advocacy projects and organizations and that, before a strategic rebranding, was known as the Seminar Network.
I’ve followed the philanthropic and political investments of Charles Koch and his late brother David for the last seven years of my career. The Koch network has a well-documented pattern of calling for greater pluralism and working across the aisle while actively funding projects that create the material conditions for greater suffering. This includes funding priorities that deepen systemic and structural stratification, advance the myth of meritocracy, and protect a capitalist society that harms and exploits people of color under the guise of a neoliberal free market.
The network’s investments in criminal-justice reform and pluralist projects are peanuts compared with its investments to create climate disinformation, stall action on the environment, privatize public lands, dismantle food assistance, Medicaid, and public education, and eliminate reproductive rights.
The protests to re-open during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic? Funded by the Koch network. The moral panic over critical race theory and the so-called grassroots mom movement to disrupt school boards? Funded by the Koch network. The erosion and eventual overturn of Roe v. Wade? You guessed it — the Koch network. From rolling back child-labor restrictions to unabashedly continuing to do business with Russia, Koch’s impact on the nation’s sociopolitical landscape is staggering.
Just in this past week, Koch funded groups are reportedly working to undermine the U.S government’s ability to settle its debt, potentially pushing the country into a financial crisis that will disproportionately harm working class and working poor families. These same families could have benefited from a living wage that Koch-backed groups have long worked to sideline.
I struggle to see Stand Together as anything but another iteration of the Koch network’s same smoke-and-mirrors strategy, and it grieves me to see many progressive institutions welcome their image-laundering approach. If it is serious about addressing toxic polarization, why is the Koch network still funding it? Pluralism cannot be leveraged as a cudgel against accountability, repair, and transformation. Charles Koch and his political-advocacy organizations must stop funding the problem before they purport to be a part of the solution.
UnKoch My Campus