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Koch family infiltrates university research center, watchdog group complains

The watchdog group Public Citizen is demanding George Washington University close its Regulatory Studies Center because of its financial reliance on the Koch family.

The GW center says it strives for ideological diversity and to "improve regulatory policy through research, education and outreach." The center says it does not accept funding that influences the content or conclusions of its work.

But too many researchers at the center are affiliated with Koch-funded entities, clouding the work done by the center, Public Citizen concludes in a report released Monday. Three-quarters of comments submitted to federal agencies by researchers at the center between 2013 and 2018 were from those with current or past connections to Koch-funded groups. And most of those comments were in favor of looser regulation.

While a complete picture of the funders is not available, Public Citizen did find the center has received more than $1 million from each of the following: the Charles Koch Foundation, the conservative Searle Freedom Trust Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation.

The conservative Koch family is well-known in the political reform world for its network of influential nonprofits that spend millions in so-called dark money — which means the source of the funding is not disclosed — to promote free-market conservative candidates.

In the past decade, the Koch family has upped its financial support for higher education institutions by quadrupling its funding to $60 million annually, spread across more than 50 university centers, Public Citizen said. Its report urges GWU to close the RSC or otherwise take action "to ensure that it is not serving merely as a cog in an industry-backed campaign to attack regulation."

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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.

Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez still discussing revolving door bill

Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?

To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."

The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.

The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.

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Adults of all ages agree: There's little confidence in elected leaders

But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders

Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.

While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."

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