With a Libertarian agenda and some troublesome baggage, the Smiling Cobra tries to buy goodwill

David Koch photo courtesy, Forbes
David Koch photo courtesy, Forbes

The following post contains information courtesy of ArtNews, where I first read this story; writer and ArtNews contributor, M.H. Miller; The Natural History Museum; and Democracy Now! By way of background, I have included additional information from The New York Times and NYT writers; Justin Gillis John Schwartz; Greenpeace; and Wikipedia.


The exploration of individuals who have, in the past, or who are now attempting to buy—with deep, seemingly bottomless pockets—positive opinion and goodwill in the age of social media, increasing transparency, and fast fact-checking is an especially fascinating subject.

I share just one, single, life-point with David H. Koch: We are both native Kansans. He was born in Wichita in 1940; I was born in Council Grove in 1950. When I go back to the midwest to visit family the topic of the Koch Brothers comes up in nearly every conversation. I wish it didn’t, but it does. The Koch Brothers and Koch Industries are as polarizing in Kansas as they are around the globe. With over 100,000 employees worldwide and nearly 4,000 in Kansas they are big news in the sunflower state. They are part of the conversation not because of their employee base really, but because of what they attempt to control—opinions, judgements, and, in some cases, general education.

Big business and many conservatives seem to adore and dote on the Koch Brothers; liberals faces often turn beet-red at the sound of their names—their blood pressure tends to rise also, and they often curse. I try to keep from getting so emotionally involved in the conversation that my bodily functions change, but I do loathe what the Koch Brothers and their business stand for.

The focus of this piece is on Koch brother, David H. As a bit of background he was the fourth richest person in America as of 2012, the wealthiest resident of New York City as of 2013, and he was the ninth-wealthiest person in the world, as of 2014. He also doesn’t give a thought to helping to destroying the world’s eco system. He’s also been pretty savvy at buying his way onto boards under the guise of being interested, an art patron, doing good, wanting to be a caring corporate and community citizen. He also seems to like to see his name in lights. His generous contributions to the arts and museums generally require naming rights.

  • American Museum of Natural History’s David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing
  • The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet is now The David H. Koch Theatre
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s David H. Koch Cancer Research Building
  • M. D. Anderson Cancer Center’s David Koch Center for Applied Research in Genitourinary Cancers


Oil mogul David Koch sits on the board of our nation’s
largest and most respected natural history museums,
while he bankrolls groups that deny climate science.

Scientists including climatologist James Hansen and ecologist George Woodwell have drafted an open letter to science museums across the country to reject money from David Koch, founder of Koch Industries and a major arts donor, and to remove him as a trustee from museum boards. The letter states that “the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.” The letter goes on to describe Koch Industries as “one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” and says that Koch himself has donated millions of dollars in the last 20 years to fund groups that deny climate change science. It continues:

When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.

Koch sits on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. (He is also a major donor and a trustee emeritus at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and funded the Met’s new public plaza, which is named for him.) A petition to “kick Koch off the board,” which has already gathered about 60,000 signatures, will be delivered to the American Museum of Natural History at its board meeting in April, and to the Smithsonian at its board meeting in June.

Here’s the full letter:

To Museums of Science and Natural History:

As members of the scientific community we devote our lives to understanding the world, and sharing this understanding with the public. We are deeply concerned by the links between museums of science and natural history with those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science.

Museums are trusted sources of scientific information, some of our most important resources for educating children and shaping public understanding.

The Code of Ethics for Museums, adopted in 1991 by the Board of Directors of the American Alliance of Museums, states:

“It is incumbent on museums to be resources for humankind and in all their activities to foster an informed appreciation of the rich and diverse world we have inherited. It is also incumbent upon them to preserve that inheritance for posterity.”

“Museums are grounded in the tradition of public service. They are organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve…Museums and those responsible for them must do more than avoid legal liability, they must take affirmative steps to maintain their integrity so as to warrant public confidence. They must act not only legally but also ethically.”

We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.

For example, David Koch is a major donor, exhibit sponsor and trustee on the Board of Directors at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and the American Museum of Natural History. David Koch’s oil and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Mr. Koch also funds a large network of climate-change-denying organizations, spending over $67 million since 1997 to fund groups denying climate change science.

When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge. This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.

Drawing on both our scientific expertise and personal care for our planet and people, we believe that the only ethical way forward for our museums is to cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation.

With concern,

1. James Hansen, Climatologist; former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

2. James Powell, Geochemist; former President of the Franklin Museum of Science and former President and Director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

3. Bob Corell, Climatologist; Head of US Office for the Global Energy Assessment; former Assistant Director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation.

4. Kevin E Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Lead Author 2001 and 2007 IPCC report which won a Nobel Prize.

5. Danny Harvey, Professor of Geography and Climatology, University of Toronto, IPCC Convening Lead Author and Lead Author; Deputy Editor of Climatic Change.

6. Eric Chivian, founder and Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. Co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

7. Henry Pollack, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics at the University of Michigan. Advisor to the National Science Foundation, IPCC member.

8. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology; Director, Earth System Science Center, The Pennsylvania State University.

9. Joseph J. Romm, Physicist, Climatologist; former Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy; founder and editor of Climate Progress.

10. George Woodwell, Ecologist; Founder and Director Emeritus, Woods Hole Research Center.

11. Calvin B. DeWitt, Environmental Scientist, Co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, President of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists, and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

12. Dr Stuart Parkinson, Climatologist; Executive Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility, UK

13. Jason Box, Climatologist, Professor of Glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Co-author of 2007 IPCC report which won a Nobel Prize.

14. Mike MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute.

15. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, University of Queensland, Australia

16. Robert R. Janes, Ph.D. , Archaleologist, Museologist, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Museum Management and Curatorship

17. Matt Lappe, Paleoclimatologist, Environmental Hydrologist, Executive Director, Alliance for Climate Education.

18. Greg Laden, Paleoanthropologist, Independent Scholar, Writer at National Geographic Scienceblogs.

19. Sarah Kornbluth, Biologist; Affiliate of Bee Database Project, American Museum of Natural History and Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University

20. Sergio Jarillo de la Torre, PhD, Anthropologist, American Museum of Natural History

21. Dr Simon L Lewis, Reader, Global Change Science, at University College London and University of Leeds.

22. Roger Fouquet, Principal Research Fellow, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

23. Brad Johnson, Science writer; MS geosciences, MIT

24. Emmanuel Vincent, Assistant Project Scientist at the University of California, Merced

25. Jonathan Oppenheim, Professor of Quantum Theory, University College London.  Royal Society Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

26. David Webb; Emeritus Professor; Previously Professor of Engineering, Leeds Metropolitan University

27. Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick, Physicist, University College London

28. Scott A. Mandia, Asst. Chair /Professor – Physical Sciences, Suffolk County Community College

29. Mona Mehdy, Molecular biologist, faculty at University of Texas at Austin

30. Judith S. Weis, Professor Emerita, Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University

31. Jonathan Tunik, Former Evaluation Studies Associate for the American Institute of Physics.

32. Aerin Jacob, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Applied Conservation Science Lab, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

33. Shaun Lovejoy, Professor of Physics, McGill University, Canada, formerly at the Climate Diagnostics Centre of NOAA

34. Lindy Weilgart, Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada

35. Dr. Sophie Levina, MD, PhD and Doctor of Medical Sciences.

36. Dr. Susan Spencer, Solar Scientist, Founder/President of ROCSPOT.org

37. Erika Crispo, PhD, Evolutionary Ecologist and Biologist, Pace University, NYC

38. Lucky Tran, PhD, Biologist, University of Cambridge

39. Damian Alexander Stanley, Ph.D., Neuroscientist, California Institute of Technology

40. Hanah Chapman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College, CUNY

41. Dr. John Abraham, University of St. Thomas, School of Engineering

42. Mark Mason PhD, former primate evolution researcher, UC Berkeley

43. Dr. Nicholas R. White, Independent Industrial Scientist, Albion Beams, Inc.

44. David Grinspoon, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute; Former Curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

45. Sandra Steingraber, PhD, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Department of Environmental Studies and Science, Ithica College, Ithica, New York

46. Steven R. Dickman, Professor of Geophysics, Department of Geological Sciences, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York

47. Daniel H. McIntosh, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Missouri-Kansas City

48. Harry Frank, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Social Psychology, Associate Professor Emeritus of Earth and Resource Science, University of Michigan-Flint

49. Lawrence Licklider, PhD Chemistry, University of California, Riverside

50. Andrew H. Maxwell, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Montclair State University

51. Luca Lombroso, Weather broadcaster, DIEF Geophysical Observatory, Italy

52. Richard H. Gammon, Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Oceanography, University of Washington; Former Head of CO2 Research Group, Global Monitoring for Climate Change (GMCC), NOAA, Boulder, Colorado

53. Dr. Julianne Heinlein, Aquatic Ecologist, Research Associate, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University

54. Andrew S. Johnson, PhD, Research Scientist, Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

To sign the letter please email info [at] thenaturalhistorymuseum.org with your full name, scientific credentials, and affiliation (past or present) as you’d like it listed.

You may not be able to sign the academic petition to #KickKochOffTheBoard, but you sure can sign a constituants’ petition right here.

Donations to our museums, art organizations, foundations, and schools are a wonderful thing. I just find it hard to consider the Koch’s generous donations—with their strings, codicils, agendas, naming rights, and contracts attached—honest philanthropy. I’ve always understood that gifts come without restrictions. Or board seats.

By Stephen Brockelman

As a Sr. Writer at T. Rowe Price, I work with a group of the best copywriters around. We belong to the broader creative team within Enterprise Creative, a part of Corporate Marketing Services. _____________________________________________ A long and winding road: My path to T. Rowe Price was more twisted than Fidelity’s green line. With scholarship in hand, I left Kansas at 18 to study theatre in New York. When my soap opera paychecks stopped coming from CBS and started coming from the show’s sponsor, Proctor & Gamble, I discovered the power of advertising and switched careers. Over the years I’ve owned an ad agency in San Francisco; worked for Norman Lear on All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and the rest of his hit shows; and as a member of Directors Guild of America, I directed Desi Arnaz in his last television appearance— we remained friends until his death. In 1988 I began freelancing full time didn’t look back. In January 2012 my rep at Boss Group called and said, “I know you don’t want to commute and writing for the financial industry isn’t high on your wish list, but I have a gig with T. Rowe Price in Owings Mills…” I was a contractor for eight months, drank the corporate Kool-Aid, became a TRP associate that August, and today I find myself smiling more often than not.

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