Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists hold a protest near the Manhattan apartment of billionaire and Republican financier David Koch on June 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Report Shows How Koch Brothers Bankroll 'Fox News of the Regulatory Policy World' to Help Push Polluter-Friendly Agenda

"The Koch network's dark money manipulation of our nation's colleges and universities has been proven to harm communities of color, dismantle protections for workers, and obstruct environmental protections."

Jake Johnson

Providing yet another example of how the billionaire Koch brothers use their immense wealth to influence university research and spread their corporate-friendly ideology, a report released Monday detailed how George Washington University's ostensibly neutral Regulatory Studies Center is in fact a "key cog" in the Koch family's fight to slash government regulations designed to protect workers and the planet.

"The center is a microcosm of the strategy that Charles Koch has honed since the 1970s to finance deceptively named university centers to generate faux scholarship in support of Koch's anti-regulatory views."
—Taylor Lincoln, Public Citizen

Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen's Congress Watch division and author of the new report, said his findings show that the Regulatory Studies Center (RSC) "is the Fox News of the regulatory policy world, except it still clings to the fiction that it is fair and balanced."

"The center is a microcosm of the strategy that Charles Koch has honed since the 1970s to finance deceptively named university centers to generate faux scholarship in support of Koch's anti-regulatory views," Lincoln said in a statement.

According to the report (pdf), much of RSC's work revolves around providing "scholarly rationales against government regulation" of corporate America, with a particular focus on the fossil fuel industry—where Koch Industries makes much of its profits while financing campaigns to spread doubt about the reality and urgency of the climate crisis.

While the RSC is not well-known among the American public, Lincoln noted that the organization's influence can be seen in "planks of President Donald Trump's deregulatory agenda."

"These include dramatically reducing the cost that the government attributes to carbon emissions," Lincoln wrote.

As one of the "leading emitters of toxic waste and greenhouse gases in the United States," Lincoln pointed out, Koch Industries stands to benefit financially from RSC's anti-regulation work.

"The RSC's primary output consists of written materials, including analyses of discrete regulatory proposals that are submitted to government agencies under the rubric of 'public comments,'" Lincoln noted. "Although public comments submitted by RSC researchers carry a disclaimer that they represent the views of the individual researchers, not the RSC, they are remarkably consistent in the antiregulatory views they express."

Between 2013 and 2018, the Public Citizen report found, "96 percent of public comments submitted to government agencies by RSC writers who opined on the stringency of specific regulatory proposals recommended less regulation than the status quo or proposal."

"When characterizing broad regulatory trends, RSC researchers habitually cite studies—some of dubious credibility—that feed a narrative that regulations are excessive and burdensome," Lincoln wrote. "Meanwhile, these researchers typically ignore or downplay the benefits of regulations or dangers of under-regulating. These omissions are especially notable because the RSC was formed in 2009, just as the nation was crawling out of a catastrophic recession that was almost indisputably caused by gaps in the regulation of financial derivatives."

The report also found that:

  • 75 percent of public comments submitted by the RSC in this period were authored or co-authored by people with past or present ties to Koch-funded entities;
  • RSC researchers have been affiliated with at least 28 Koch-funded entities. Eight RSC researchers, including its director, Susan Dudley, have been affiliated with Koch-funded programs at George Mason University, the hub of the Koch university initiative;
  • Funders of the RSC, which are not fully disclosed, include the Charles Koch Foundation, the libertarian Searle Freedom Trust foundation, the far-right Sarah Scaife Foundation and ExxonMobil Foundation, along with anti-regulatory business trade associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the American Chemistry Council; and
  • Koch funding of university programs has roughly quadrupled in the past decade, to $60 million annually, and the family now helps fund more than 50 university centers.

"Public Citizen holds longstanding institutional positions on regulations. We generally favor rules to promote safer cars and workplaces, cleaner air, improved energy efficiency, as well as measures to prevent reckless gambling by Wall Street firms," Lincoln wrote. "We recognize—even celebrate—the rights of others to disagree with us. But it is not appropriate for George Washington University, or any university, to enable a corporate-funded, anti-regulatory group to masquerade as a neutral center of academic inquiry."

Lincoln concluded the report by calling on George Washington University to either shutter the GSC entirely or "take steps to ensure that it is not merely serving as a cog in an industry-backed campaign to attack regulation." Public Citizen also called on the university to fully disclose the GSC's funding sources.

Samantha Parsons, campaigns director for UnKoch My Campus—a group that works to expose and combat the Koch brothers' influence on colleges and universities nationwide—expressed agreement with the latter recommendation, saying in a statement that democracy advocates must hold "colleges and universities accountable by requiring them to disclose the terms and conditions attached to private sources of funding for research, courses, and faculty."

"The Koch network's dark money manipulation of our nation's colleges and universities," said Parsons, "has been proven to harm communities of color, dismantle protections for workers, and obstruct environmental protections."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

One Year In, Biden Fails to Boost C- Grade on Environment

The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund assessment indicates the administration's action to deliver on environmental promises "desperately needs improvement."

Jessica Corbett ·


'A No-Brainer': Lawmakers Urge Pelosi to Hold Vote on Stock Trading Ban

"Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities," said House members in a bipartisan letter. "We don't care."

Jessica Corbett ·


Virginia Schools Sue Youngkin Mandate Making Masks Optional

The Republican governor wants to allow parents to decide whether their children should wear masks to school to mitigate Covid-19 transmission—guidance at least 58 school districts have no plans to follow.

Julia Conley ·


US Puts Troops on Standby as War Tensions Over Ukraine Mount

The U.K. threatens "lightning war" as military forces mobilize in eastern Europe.

Andrea Germanos ·


Advocacy Group Urges Pfizer to Combat Paxlovid Inequality

"Help end the pandemic this year around the world," one advocate told Pfizer. "Not just in a handful of rich countries."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo