Charles Koch Foundation requests personal contact information of students at the College

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Recently, the Charles Koch Foundation requested College of Charleston student email addresses “preferably not ending in .edu” — of students who participated in a Koch-sponsored class, reading group, club or fellowship. Essentially the foundation asked for personal email addresses of students who have been involved in. (Photo by Samuel McCauley)

Recently, the Charles Koch Foundation requested College of Charleston student email addresses “preferably not ending in .edu” — of students who participated in a Koch-sponsored class, reading group, club or fellowship. Essentially the foundation asked for  personal email addresses of students who have been involved in activities sponsored by the Initiative for Public Choice and Market Processes (IPCMP) at the College.

What does this mean exactly? Read the article disclosing Charles Koch Foundation giving at the College here. In case you need a refresher, the Koch brothers, Charles 78, and David 74, (they have two other brothers who do not participate in these foundations) inherited their father’s Kansas based Koch Industries and transformed it into the second-largest privately held company in the U.S.  Koch Industries produces everything from Dixie Cups to jet fuel. The brothers are tied for fourth place on Forbes’ list of the richest Americans and place sixth on the world Billionaires list. They are ranked 24 on Forbes’ “Most Powerful List.”

But the Koch brothers’ power doesn’t just stem from their money, each with a fortune estimated at $41 billion, but rather how they use those funds. The Koch Foundation is divided into five separate charities dedicated to everything from the arts to medical research. The foundation that has constantly received the most attention, positive or negative depending on political leaning, is the Charles Koch Foundation. Virtually all initiatives funded by the foundation go toward promoting the brothers’ strong political and idealistic beliefs. Think hardcore libertarians (i.e., minimal social services for the needy, drastically lower personal and corporate taxes and far less regulation over industry, especially environmental regulations). The Charles Koch Foundation is the primary funding vehicle for colleges and universities – all of the donations from the Koch brothers to the College of Charleston have come from this account.

Between 2005 and 2013 the Charles Koch foundation donated $210,555 to the College according to 990 IRS tax filings provided by the foundation. Since 2008, the gifts have helped fund  IPCMP (along with other donors such as BB&T), which “advances the understanding of the economic, political, and moral foundations of a free market economy,” according to the program’s website. Peter Calcagno, founder and director of the IPCMP at the College, previously told CYN the idea behind the program is to “make people aware of economics and politics, what we call political economy, and how they fit together.” Calcagno said he helps allocate any and all of the funding the program receives.

The Charles Koch Foundation requested personal contact information, specifically email addresses not ending in .edu, for students who attended any event put on by IPCMP, which range from lectures to reading groups. The foundation’s stated reason for doing so is “to notify students of opportunities” through both the Charles Koch Foundation and the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.

According to an article published by the Center for Public Integrity by Dave Levinthal, Charles Koch Foundation officials, Charlie Ruger and Derek Johnson wrote to IPCMP director, Calcagno, “[I]f you intend to engage in press releases or other media outreach associated with programmatic activities, please notify us in advance,” continuing, “We consider media outreach a collaborative effort and would appreciate the opportunity to both assist and advise.”

When asked about the occurrence of the foundation requesting personal information of students Levinthal said, “The Charles Koch Foundation has, in a few instances we’ve seen, requested from colleges some kind of personal information about students participating in programs it funds. But most of the funding agreements between the Charles Koch Foundation and the universities its funding are private documents, so it’s impossible to say how common an arrangement this is.”

Calcagno defended the IPCMP’s sharing of email addresses at the College, saying, “Students volunteer their emails on surveys and provide their emails when they participate in the book colloquiums. The reason for asking for a non-edu email is that many colleges and universities will cut off these emails or students stop using them after graduation.” Calcagno also stated that he “always talks with reporters and [has] never asked for consent from CKF.  However, he “always inform them when a reporter has contacted [him] and let them know of the interview or discussion.”

Kalin Jordan, a cofounder of UnKoch My Campus, an organization dedicated helping students organize campaigns to rid their school from Koch influence, said, “Asking for private email addresses for students is one thing, but from what I understand the Charles Koch Foundation didn’t ask, they made it a stipulation of the contract’’ that the foundation holds with the College. Jordan stated that giving away private student information is a “gross violation of [student] privacy.” She said she believes the “Kochs are not concerned with the welfare of students, but of building their network to further their political and economic agenda.”

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