It has become fashionable to vilify Kansas-based Koch Industries, Inc., a privately held multinational that earns its billions in energy, manufacturing and trading, and whose heads, brothers Charles and David H. Koch, are not shy about using their wealth to lobby for their favored politicians and causes, many of which are fairly labeled as conservative.
Some critics, including entertainer Harry Belafonte, have gone so far as to call the Koch brothers racists.
We don’t agree with the critics, but we mention them to explain why some might have been shocked when, on June 6, the Charles Koch Foundation donated $25 million to the United Negro College Fund for scholarships and support of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.
“We have tremendous respect for UNCF,” Charles Koch said, “and we are hopeful this investment will further its effectiveness in helping students pursue their dreams.”
Not everyone is happy. The president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, Lee Saunders, has announced that because UNCF accepted the money, AFSCME will end its support to UNCF, which was $50,000 to $60,000 annually.
We see no reason that Americans of all political persuasions cannot support educational programs that provide broader opportunity. Education, liberty, and building a better nation are not about agreeing on every issue. They are not about the size of the check. They are not about segregating our philanthropy.
UNCF has done tremendous work since its founding in 1944. Koch Industries has seen tremendous success since its founding in 1940. The brothers’ donation does not come with strings attached, or ideological litmus tests. It is a generous and welcome gift to promote education, training, and leadership.
Whatever their differences may be, we hope Americans of good will can agree on that much.
— The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester (Mass.)