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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.

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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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