Thursday, March 18, 2021

Koch Funding is Reshaping Washington's Think Tank Scene

While US government funding and foreign government funding of US think tanks continues to play an increasing role in think tank funding, corporate-tied funding is as influential as ever.  And there are few bigger names in think tank funding than Koch.

The recent kerfuffle at Atlantic Council exposed huge problems in the think tank world, highlighting how scholars are often beholden to their donors and will stop at nothing to defend their turf - even if it means axing their fellow think tank colleagues to keep that money flowing.

Here is more from The Washington Free Beacon about the influence of Koch money:

The controversial view that caused last week's kerfuffle—that the United States should look the other way on the human rights violations of its adversaries—is espoused by the scholars who sit atop virtually every Koch-funded program, the result of an aggressive and explicit push to undermine what remains of the country's foreign policy consensus and replace it with a different one. 

Over the past several years, Charles Koch Institute vice president William Ruger, President Donald Trump's failed nominee to be ambassador to Afghanistan, has approached virtually every major think tank in the city offering to fund proponents of "restraint," according to a dozen think-tank sources familiar with the situation.

Organizations from the Atlantic Council to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the International Crisis Group, the Center for the National Interest, and the Eurasia Group Foundation have taken Ruger and the Charles Koch Institute up on the offer. The list goes on: the Cato Institute, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and, as of last year, even the government-funded RAND Corporation.


While working for the Charles Koch Institute, Mr. Ruger is also a Research Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Cato Institute.  Charles Koch, the founder and primary financier of the Charles Koch Institute, is Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held American companies.

The article notes that a handful of DC think tanks, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), have turned down the Koch money, "pointing privately to the Kochs' insistence on approving the scholars who would be hired with the funds."  However, CSIS spokesman Andrew Schwartz admitted that the think tank has "on occasion performed some small project work" that has been funded by Koch. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about how Koch money helped fund the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Here is a Politico piece entitled "Koch Showers Millions on Think Tanks to Push a Restrained Foreign Policy."