Multibillionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are well-known for their political giving.
The Kochs also give money to colleges and universities, including Western Michigan University. But Western says the money doesn’t buy influence.
The university is one of about 250 schools the Charles Koch Foundation says it’s awarded grant money. Its contributions to Western amount to about $60,000 since 2010. The most recent grant, for $17,000, will help fund one of Professor Donald Alexander’s summer classes.
“It has nothing to do with a point of view,” he says. “The support is for innovations in course development that I started several years ago in our Principles of Microeconomics course.”
Charles and David Koch promote a libertarian model of economics. And they have big plans for the next national election cycle. The New York Times reports that Koch-sponsored groups expect to spend almost as much during the 2016 elections as each of the two major parties, in their "largest drive ever to influence legislation and campaigns across the country."
But Alexander says whatever the Kochs' views, the grant he applied for doesn’t come with strings attached. Department Chair Donald Meyer says it’s up to the instructor to decide how to present opposing theories.
“Depending on your political beliefs, you might emphasize one piece a little bit more than another, but I would hope that every professor or teacher would give out the information. And in part, it’s students’ decision to embrace one political view more than another to the extent that they think is important,” he says.
Meyer says the department is grateful for the gift, adding that the money makes a big difference in how many courses the department can offer in the summer.