It isn’t just Florida — the Koch Brothers control many universities, and may own the next Sec’y of Commerce

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos asks a very interesting question: “Should the next Commerce Secretary be part of the Koch machine?”

Let’s take that apart a little at a time, starting with the end — the Koch Brothers Machine. You see, it’s not just Florida State’s economics department they’ve bought. The Koch Brothers own a lot of university econ departments. From those departments come economists, and among those economists are political appointees.

So, let’s start with universities owned by the Koch Brothers. McCarter points us to this story from ThinkProgress about the Koch Brothers take-over of universities (my emphasis throughout):

Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted reports from the St. Petersburg Times and the Tallahassee Democrat regarding a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU). FSU had accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications. The simmering controversy sheds light on the vast influence of the Koch political machine, which spans from the top conservative think tanks, Republican politicians, a small army of contracted lobbyists, and Tea Party front groups in nearly every state.

As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previous known. Many of the Koch university grants [pdf] finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study[.]

The list of schools is shocking; read the ThinkProgress article for the details. Schools named include:

    Florida State University
    George Mason University
    Clemson University
    West Virginia University
    Brown University
    Troy University
    Utah State University

And that’s just the big guys. The article adds:

Charles Koch Foundation grants, along with direct Koch Industries grants, are distributed to dozens of other universities around the country every year, to both public and private institutions. Some of the programs, like the Charles Koch Student Research Colloquium at Beloit College, are funded by grants of little over $130,000 and simply support conservative speakers on campuses. We have reached out to several of the schools to learn more about the agreements, but none so far have returned our calls.

And then there’s this, the command-and-control mechanism:

Part of the effort is coordinated through operatives like Richard Fink, who doubles as a vice president at Koch’s corporate lobbying office. Through an organization called the Association of Private Enterprise Education, Koch organizes these corporate-funded university departments into a powerful intellectual movement.

This truly is a machine. It’s amazing what two determined, hubris-crazed guys can do with $43 billion dollars to throw around. These two guys, as an entity, control the fifth largest fortune in America. Every time they sit down to dinner, it’s a business meeting. If you like your government efficient, plutocracy beats democracy every single time.

So what about the next Secretary of Commerce? Back to McCarter:

One of the key candidates to replace Gary Locke as Commerce Secretary is none other than Tim Roemer, a former “distinguished scholar at the Mercatus Center.”

Way back when, in early 2005 when Roemer was being considered for DNC chair, Markos wrote about Roemer’s position with this key “part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, a Scaife funded right-wing think tank.” He wrote that, “[o]ne of the ways the Right ‘educates’ public officials, opinion leaders,etc., is to send them to expensive ‘retreats’ at exclusive resorts, nice hotels, etc. where they are wined and dined and treated to first-class amenities.”

(See above for the Mercatus Center; look for George Mason University.)

During the Bush II run at Social Security, Roemer was speaking at gatherings and “retreats” like the ones mentioned, to “fellow Democrats” no less, about “market-based solutions” to Social Security. A made man.

Roemer is a Movement Conservative operative, a retainer rather than a baron (that is, he does the work of the barons, as opposed to being one). He’s also Barack Obama’s Ambassador to India.

Barack, Barack — shades of soon-to-be-former FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker, whom you put in charge of the Comcast-NBC merger. You do mean business, don’t you. (I’ll be writing more about Baker shortly, just as soon as Google/Blogger restores our draft posts — hint.)

In the meantime, keep your eye on the next Commerce Secretary appointment. It will tell you a lot about where Obama is taking us. There’s not much spinning room in the decision to appoint a Koch-anointed op like Roemer.

GP


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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