Charles and David Koch are shrewd, cynical operators. After 2012, they are leveraging every wedge they can find to divide traditional allies. In at least one case, they're succeeding.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Koch Industries announced a $25 million scholarship program funded by the Koch foundations, which caused the AFSCME to withdraw all financial support from UNCF. They had two primary reasons. First, the acceptance of the Koch gift and attendant conditions, and second, UNCF President Michael Lomax's speech at the last Koch summit.
Saunders doesn’t mention what Lomax said at the Koch summit, or even what the topic of discussion was. If you take Saunders’ letter at face value, he took the position that if you don’t agree with someone politically, you shouldn’t attend their events or speak to them. Which is ridiculous—but shows just how intolerant those on the left are becoming, at the same time that they accuse the right of intolerance.
In recent years the Koch brothers have become Public Enemy No. 1 for unions. They’re credited with bankrolling many of the initiatives that have weakened organized labor, like their support for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed to weaken the collective bargaining power of public-sector unions in Wisconsin, which subsequently became, in 2011, the site of some of the biggest union-related demonstrations in recent history.
But that has nothing to do with educating African-American students.
It has everything to do with educating African-American students! I'm surprised she could even put those two sentences next to each other. How can you disconnect the actions they funded in Wisconsin with their requirements for Koch scholarships and the purity of free markets? Perhaps Goff has forgotten or deliberately chosen to ignore the terms and conditions of a Koch-funded scholarship. Let's review what they look like. Here's an excerpt from the UNCF Koch Scholarship page:
The UNCF/Koch Scholars Program is a new educational initiative that explores how entrepreneurship, economics and innovation contribute to the well-being of individuals, communities and society. The program offers scholarship opportunities to exemplary undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students in eligible fields of study, and combines academic support, mentoring and networking opportunities to yield a comprehensive student learning experience.
George Mason University's Mercatus Center is a perfect example of Koch-sponsored academia. It is as close as any university gets to John Birch principles wrapped inside a scholarship form. The large gift to Florida State University came with strings attached. Choice of professors, curriculum, textbooks were all to be subject to approval by the Kochs until a ruckus went up, at which time they swore they wouldn't interfere.
For the especially gifted student, Koch Industries has opportunities within their think tanks, policy shops, and political operations for that "mentoring and networking" opportunity.
Charles Koch has a history here, going all the way back to the times where he funded the John Birch society's organized campaign against civil rights in the South. If he's funding African-American education, it's for the purpose of exploiting ambitious African-American students who will embrace his even-more-radical-than-the-John-Birch-Society political philosophy, furthering his goal of mainstreaming radical, destructive principles.
I repeat: it has everything to do with education, influences within educational opportunities and strings-attached funding.
To Charles and David Koch, educating African-American students drives a wedge into the entire community by recruiting talented young people within the community to perpetuate the Koch Markets Over People theory while simultaneously alienating traditional allies. Commentators like Keli Goff just accelerate that process.
In other words, it's not as simple as Goff would like to think it is.
Goff asks this:
If we start using politics as a litmus test in cases like this one, does that mean progressives should no longer stay in hospitals that Koch money helped fund? Ask MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, a frequent critic of the Koch brothers, who expressed gratitude for treatment he received in a medical facility they funded, saying, “You can be outraged by what the Koch brothers do with their money in politics and you can appreciate what they contribute to hospitals and medical research, and you can do that at the same time and still retain an ability to function.”
Medical research does not immerse patients in market-based principles, nor does it launch careers in global warming denial or libertarian utopian politics. Medical treatment does not encourage patients to go out and campaign against social safety nets in order to benefit corporate bottom lines.
Beneficiaries of Koch largesse will learn at universities with Koch-designed programs to teach them that unions are evil, workers are leeches, markets are king, and the welfare state is the cause of all of their suffering.
This is part of the Kochs' plan to advance their political objectives and has been for years. They've endowed chairs, they've funded universities, and they've poured money into their scholarship programs. If you are a Koch scholar, it doesn't begin and end with the scholarship. You've got a career ahead of you.
Ms. Goff should understand by now that the Kochs use their money to buy a wedge where none exists. If they truly cared about funding college education for African-Americans, they could have chosen to do so without hijacking the UNCF. They intentionally targeted one of the largest foundations funding African-American higher education in order to hammer the wedge in deep.
I'm sure the AFSCME will find other ways to fund education for African-American students. The UNCF is only one vehicle, but it's certainly not the only game in town. The cost of a college education is high for all students right now, so they'll scrounge and look for scholarships wherever they may find them -- a fact the Kochs are banking on.
It's disappointing to see Keli Goff simply jump into the fray with a kneejerk "why can't we all just tolerate each other" criticism of AFSCME's decision. Her arguments ignore the real and lasting damage the Kochs and their Teabirchers have done to the African-American community, Barack Obama, and the country as a whole.
Is recent history really that forgettable?
There are some people you can build a bridge to understanding with, and others who you cannot. The Kochs fall into the latter category. If Goff hasn't figured it out by now, I'm not sure what it will take to convince her.