The Koch Brothers’ War On State Colleges

February 20, 2015

A Huffington Post story last week shed light on the Koch brothers and their cronies’ newest frontier for attack: state colleges.

In North Carolina, Koch consigliere Art Pope’s well-documented influence cannot be overstated, Over the past decade, Pope, the wealthy owner of a chain of dollar stores, has poured $40 million into manipulating American politics and using his fortune to control the legislative agenda in North Carolina.  In 2010, Pope underwrote the Tea Party takeover of the North Carolina state legislature. According to an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies, of the twenty-two legislative races targeted by Pope in 2010, the Republicans won eighteen. Democrats in North Carolina were outspent and upended.  “It led to Republicans controlling both chambers of the legislature for the first time in more than 100 years.

Pope is at the center of Koch world and he has worked in lockstep with the billionaire brothers to push their shared agenda. In 2012, Pope was forced to resign his post as one of Americans for Prosperity’s national directors when he was appointed to be Governor Pat McCrory’s chief budget writer.

Pope and the GOP state legislators that he and the Kochs helped elect have been waging war on North Carolina’s publicly funded higher education system. Pope advised the University of North Carolina system to identify $15 million in budget cuts to university research centers. Moreover, their ideological agenda is evident in the final centers marked for cuts — for example, the list includes the Poverty Center which offers policy solutions to mitigate poverty in the school’s home state.  UNC-Chapel Hill, which has a $120,000 annual budget, none of which comes from the state. So why is it targeted? Well, the center is is led by Gene Nichol, who has criticized the Republican-controlled legislature for rejecting Medicaid expansion — another fight near to the Koch brothers’ hearts — so perhaps the fact that his Poverty Center is being targeted isn’t so surprising.

In just the last couple weeks, similar attacks have been launched on higher education. In Kansas and Wisconsin — unsurprisingly, the Kochs have close ties to Gov. Brownback and Gov. Walker, and have played crucial roles in electing ultra-conservative legislators in both states.

The Kochs have always loathed public education; now they’re making state colleges pay the price.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation