Using one of their most incredulous and absurd legal runarounds yet, the Kochs actually ended up undercutting their argument on academic freedom. After a Kansas University student organization filed a public records request for the emails of Art Hall, one of the Kochs’ handpicked business professors, Hall’s lawyers (who are being paid for by the Kochs) are arguing that he is not actually a public employee but a private citizen because the funding for his position comes from somewhere else (i.e. the Kochs).
Since this is without a doubt one of the most perplexing legal arguments ever, let’s back up for a moment.
At KU, just as they have done at many other schools, the Kochs have used their massive wealth to influence the college through grants that come with strings attached. Some of the grants give the billionaires leverage over the faculty hired to work in their program. This is likely the case at Kansas University where the Center for Applied Economics has been largely funded by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation. The professor in question also worked for “the lobbying arm of Koch Industries” prior to his teaching position.
In response, a network of student organizations that is committed to discovering more about the Koch brothers’ influence on universities has formed, including KU’s Students for a Sustainable Future. Suspecting foul play, president of the club, Schuyler Kraus, formally filed the public records request last year, hoping that Hall’s emails would reveal whether he was a shill for the Kochs.
Kraus’ public records request has now been denied by the judge because “more evidence is needed to resolve disputed facts” — the disputed facts being whether Hall is actually a KU employee. However, the argument that Hall isn’t a public employee is truly ridiculous.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports:
Hall teaches KU students, his office is at KU, his supervisor is a KU administrator, his paychecks are signed by KU, and he is executive director of the KU Center for Applied Economics, a public policy think-tank within KU’s School of Business.
So basically, the Kochs are preventing Kraus from finding out the truth — that Hall is their shill — by arguing he isn’t an employee of KU but actually works for the Kochs. Yeah, that happened.