Koch Brothers’ Grant to University Sparks Controversy

A $1 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation to the Catholic University of America that will support research on the role entrepreneurship should play in improving society has raised concerns among Catholic educators, the Washington Post reports.

A letter signed by fifty Catholic educators from across the United States — including alumni of and current professors at Catholic University — protested the university’s acceptance of the gift, citing Charles and David Koch's support for "organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues, from economic justice to environmental stewardship."

"We are concerned that by accepting such a donation," the authors of the letter wrote, "you send a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics that the Koch brothers' anti-government, Tea Party ideology has the blessing of a university sanctioned by Catholic bishops." The letter also pointed to "the troubling track record the foundation has in making gifts to universities that in some cases include unacceptable meddling in academic content and the hiring process of faculty."

In response, the university issued a statement saying that it "controls the search, recruitment, and selection process for all positions funded in the agreement" — three visiting scholars from academia and one from the business world, to be hosted by the School of Business and Economics — and that "[t]he aim of the Charles Koch Foundation grant — to support research into principled entrepreneurship — is fully consonant with Catholic social teaching." Noting that at least fifteen signatories of the letter are affiliated with institutions that also have received gifts from the Koch Foundation, the university called the letter "an unfortunate effort to manufacture controversy and score political points at the expense" of the university.

Andrew Abela, dean of the School of Business and Economics, told the Post that Catholic teaching on economics is general — "at the level of principle" — and is "neither left nor right."