How Koch Bros’ $25M gift to United Negro College Fund can hurt us

A mind is a terrible thing to waste (girl)A friend posted this on Facebook about the $25 Million gift given to the United Negro College Fund by the Koch Brothers:

If this money comes from sincerity (their heart) it is a blessing, but if it comes with “strings attached” the Koch brothers will have not surprised us. They will show us as usual their true colors! Win-win situation either way!

My thoughts are different:

Not necessarily, Maria. The insidious multi-level strategies that typically accompany gifts by the rich and powerful are designed to have subtle, but long-lasting and far reaching effect. First we should ask, what is being asked for as a direct trade for the gift? We may never know everything that was bargained away behind closed doors but we do know that two Koch Brothers designees will sit on a scholarship decision committee of three that will decide which students get that blood money. Right out of the gate, it’s clear that the money was not given with an open hand.

Second, the gift buys the public perception that Koch Bros are not that bad, after all because: Look! They gave millions to the United Negro College Fund. But that wouldn’t be true, because the Kochs are very bad.

Third. That large a gift is usually a solicited one, meaning it’s very likely that some board member or key administrator at UNCF is buddy enough with the Koch Bros organization to have solicited the donation. In the wake of this gift, it’s not inconceivable that in the future more board and key staff members with similar connections to Koch or other Big Money people might replace board and key staff members with community ties. Because, well. $25 MILLION.

Now let’s factor in the influence of the widely accepted adage, “You should never bite the hand that feeds you.” It’s pretty reasonable to assume that criticism of the Koch Bros will diminish at all of the institutions that benefit from UNCF funding – which now will also be Koch funding?

There’s also the issue of the scholarships this money funds and how they will affect families whose students receive them. Recipients and their families will be grateful and by extension their local and national communities will be too. And the public that learns of the scholarship awards will probably admire the brothers’ generosity without considering the insidious influencing strategy behind them.

Families may change their buying habits, buying Angel Soft toilet tissue and Brawny paper towels in the mistaken belief that supporting the Koch Bros will end up benefitting our communities’ children. But when you consider that Angel Soft is the leading US brand of toilet paper, bringing in 1.25 trillion dollars each year, you can see why it makes sense for the brothers to invest in public-relations stunts like this that are intentionally designed to keep the public buying Kochs.

So, buyers beware, America! Major influencers like the Kochs know better than most that the simple act of a well placed gift can topple a societal reform movement. As for the rest of us, we should not agree to be either bought or sold.

We should all boycott products made by the Koch brothers. Here’s a list of brands to stop buying.

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