Confidential Koch Brothers Document Details Takeover of Public Universities

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Phoenix, AZ- When the first drafts of the proposed state budget came out there was something odd. Someone had inserted $5 million into the budget for universities, but the money, which would automatically be appropriated every year, is earmarked only for “economic freedom schools.” That’s code for Koch Brothers University. Although no one at the Capitol will say who inserted the $5 million, it’s not hard to imagine. The Koch Brothers largely funded Governor Doug Ducey’s election campaign, and he continues to have strong ties to them.

Progress Now has received a confidential document from the Koch Brothers organization, Americans for Prosperity. Titled the Winter 2015 Partner Prospectus, the document details how the Koch Brother’s organization plans to infiltrate every aspect of our society, from school boards to public universities, with their small- government, anti-union, pro-corporation agenda. The document includes plans to infiltrate public universities, like Arizona State University and University of Arizona. The specific excerpt, titled, “Creating a Culture of Freedom,” outlines specific steps to pushing Koch Brothers ideology into higher education institutions.


The plan? Lawmakers first debate ideas and enact policy, then transform those complex policies into relatable educational materials and distribute for citizens and lawmakers to understand. After that, think tanks analyze and test academic findings to produce official policy papers for public consumption. Finally, get scholars and academia to devise and test these theories.

“Think tanks take amorphous ideas to conduct further research and analysis to produce policy white papers. Educational outreach groups transform white papers into relatable products and educations materials for everyday Americans to learn and understand,” it says on page 14 of the Partner Prospectus.

But the only theories Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers are interested in are the ones that bolster their pro-business, anti-worker, anti-public education policies. These are ideas the Koch Brothers want to push into the minds of Arizona’s university students. ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty was created in November 2014. Shortly after Governor Doug Ducey was elected. The Center was also funded with $3.5 million from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, the same brothers who bankrolled Ducey’s campaign.

The center claims it’s “committed to the study of the role economic liberty and the free enterprise system play in increasing opportunity and improving well-being…seeks to advance our understanding through independent thinking, scholarly debate, factual argument, and clear, honest communication of research and policy findings.”

But what does it say about a public university that allows the Koch Brothers to purchase its brand to legitimatize an anti-public education political agenda? In an Arizona Republic article Doug Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said, “The governor … believes it’s important that students in our university system are exposed to a broad range of viewpoints and academic views on a number of issues, including economics,” spokesman said. “So this fits in with that priority.

Josselyn Berry, Interim Executive Director of Progress Now Arizona said, “You would think that an economic freedom center that pushes Ayn Rand libertarianism could follow its own propaganda and survive without taxpayer-funded government assistance. But you’d be wrong. This appropriation discredits Arizona’s public universities while short changing our higher education system as a whole.”