Money and Democracy

Published — October 30, 2015 Updated — November 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm ET

The Koch brothers’ foundation network explained

In all, six separate private foundations are tied to one or both Koch brothers


A still from a video by the Charles Koch Foundation entitled “Economic Freedom in 60 Seconds.” Screenshot/Charles Koch Foundation

Billionaire brothers Charles Koch and David Koch have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into various philanthropic efforts during recent years, including higher education. In all, six separate private foundations are tied to one or both Koch brothers:

Charles Koch Foundation

Reported net assets through Dec. 31, 2013: $415.2 million

Description: The primary private foundation through which Charles Koch funds higher education programs, most of which are focused on the study of free-market economics. During 2013, Charles Koch personally fueled his namesake foundation with more than $168.3 million. The Charles Koch Foundation spent more than $23 million during 2013, with most of the money going directly to colleges and universities or programs housed on college campuses.

Other major contributions during 2013 went to free market-oriented think tanks, research groups and educational organizations. Among them are the American Enterprise Institute ($910,000); Liberty Source, known now as Strata ($653,000); the Bill of Rights Institute ($350,000) and the Heritage Foundation ($300,000).

It funds journalism, too. One beneficiary is the nonprofit Reason Foundation, which operates Reason magazine and received $60,000. The Daily Caller News Foundation, the nonprofit sister entity of the Daily Caller that describes itself as producing “original investigative reporting from a team of professional reporters that operates for the public benefit,” received $50,000. The American Spectator Foundation, which publishes The American Spectator magazine, got $10,000.

The Charles Koch Foundation also reported in 2013 to the Internal Revenue Service that it pre-approved college grants for 2014. The largest of these went to The Catholic University of America ($860,000), Clemson University ($498,000), Baylor University ($444,000), Florida Southern College ($400,000), Southern Methodist University ($333,000), Florida State University ($310,594) and Ohio State University and its nonprofit foundation ($300,000).

Media reports also note that the Charles Koch Foundation made huge financial commitments in 2014 to the United Negro College Fund and University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. The foundation is slated to file its next federal tax return in November.

Fred C. & Mary R. Koch Foundation

Reported net assets through Dec. 31, 2013: $30.5 million

Description: Both Charles and David Koch are directors of this foundation that primarily funds scholarships and provides funding to select colleges and educational organizations. During 2013, the Fred C. & Mary R. Koch Foundation spent about $1.71 million, and Koch Industries Inc. was its largest single contributor, giving $410,000.

The foundation’s largest single contribution — $544,500 — went to Youth Entrepreneurs Kansas, the Wichita, Kan.-based office of Youth Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit group that “teaches business and entrepreneurial education in 41 high schools across Kansas and Missouri.”

It likewise funded dozens of scholarships — typically worth $2,000 — to students. “New scholarships are “limited to dependents of full-time employees of Koch Industries Inc. and its subsidiaries,” the foundation’s tax return states.

Other major recipients include the Bill of Rights Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit that “develops instructional materials and educational programs that engage students and teachers with America’s founding documents and principles.” Colleges receiving direct funding include several Kansas institutions: Friends University ($34,000), Kansas State University ($30,500), Newman University ($24,000), Wichita State University ($15,000) and Benedictine College ($7,500).

It also sent $137,000 to the Koch Cultural Trust, another Koch-led private foundation.

In 2014, the foundation reportedly contributed millions of dollars to a $11.25 million overall Koch gift to Wichita State University that will fund a variety of initiatives, including athletics, scholarships and entrepreneurship programming. The foundation is slated submit its 2014 tax return in November.

David H. Koch Charitable Foundation

Reported net assets through Dec. 31, 2013: $5.57 million

Description: Led by David Koch, who personally serves as his eponymous foundation’s president, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation made a $10 million grant to the City Center of Music and Drama Inc. for a renovation of Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater — in 2008, renamed the David H. Koch Theater. It’s part of a reported $100 million pledge David Koch has made to the facility. Indeed, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation told the IRS it has approved $45 million in future payments to City Center of Music and Drama Inc., which manages the theater.

Knowledge and Progress Fund

Reported net assets through Dec. 31, 2013: $18.1 million

Description: Charles Koch is a director of the Knowledge and Progress Fund, which in 2013 made a single contribution: $4.85 million to Donors Trust, a Virginia-based charity. Donors Trust is primarily used by conservative foundations and individuals to pass money to a vast network of think tanks and media outlets that push free-market ideology in the states.

Koch Cultural Trust

Reported net assets through Dec. 31, 2013: $16,278

Description: Led by Elizabeth Koch, Charles Koch’s wife, the Koch Cultural Trust received most of its funding in 2013 from the Fred C. & Mary R. Koch Foundation, which itself receives significant funding from Koch Industries.

During 2013, the Koch Cultural Trust provided more than 30 musicians and artists with grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each for musical instruments and studies in music, dance, vocals and other arts.

Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation

Reported net assets through Dec. 31, 2013: $0

Description: The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation terminated itself during 2013 and transferred most of its remaining assets, valued at nearly $2.3 million, to a Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, through which account holders may make “grant recommendations from their accounts to qualified 501(c) (3) public charities immediately or in the future.” Charles Koch was a director of the foundation.

Charles Koch is also a director of the Charles Koch Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that recently split from the Charles Koch Foundation and exists to promote “advancement of liberty and economic freedom by educating students in a classroom.” During 2013, the Charles Koch Institute helped fund internships, fellowships and similar programs that “prepare professionals for careers that improve well-being by advancing free societies.” It reported $270.96 million in net assets through Dec. 31, 2013. The Indiana University Foundation ($30,000) and University of North Carolina ($22,500) received direct Charles Koch Institute grants in 2013.

Sources: Internal Revenue Service tax filings, Center for Public Integrity research

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