The Koch billionaires take page from Fanjul sugar billionaires

Money is truth

The Koch billionaires take page from Fanjul sugar billionaires

By Alan Farago (as Gimleteye)

From Eye on Miami

(Editor’s Note: This column and the one that follows directly below from the St. Petersburg Times has to do with a strange deal which gives billionaire donor Koch control over some faculty positions at Florida State University. As reported by the Times, most troubling “were terms that allowed the Koch [Foundation] to stop funding the program if faculty hired with its money were not complying with its goals.”)

Why did the Koch billionaire brothers believe that they could make a donation to FSU Department of Economics and have veto power over the economists hired by the university, FSU? This isn’t a riddle. The answer is in full view: the Kochs are simply following the path of Florida’s other billionaire polluters: the Fanjul sugar barons. The Fanjuls have exerted their influence through links to Florida’s universities for many years.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is virtually an extension service of the sugar industry and has been for decades. Try to find an IFAS scientist who will speak out against Big Sugar’s pollution of the Everglades. You won’t be able to find one. Not one. Alfie Fanjul is a trustee of the University of Miami. The Fanjuls are also closely tied to Florida International University, through FIU’s Applied Research Center and taxpayer funded research on ethanol production from sugar waste.

While university scientists are often hired by environmental plaintiffs in litigation brought against government agencies or private industry, non-profit groups like Friends of the Everglades or Sierra Club (in the interest of disclosure, I have been involved in litigation management for both non-profits) usually are forced to go out-of-state to hire expert witnesses. Finding a research scientist who will cross the interests and influence of billionaire contributors to university programs is rare as hen’s teeth. The pressure is not subtle, either. (The best example of throttling scientists involved in Everglades research in Florida’s universities is the 2003 case related to Dr. Larry Brand, at the University of Miami, reported by Miami New Times.)

On this corruption of Florida’s universities by the Kochs, Howard Troxler wrote an appropriately acerbic editorial recently in the St. Pete Times:

The new and improved FSU course catalog, brought to you by Charles G. Koch

By Howard Troxler, May 12, 2011


“Pecunia veritas est”*


ECON 201: FREE MARKET THEORY. Sponsored and faculty approved by: Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Evils of government regulation; wisdom of tax cuts for the rich; rehabilitation of trickle-down theory. 3 credit hours.

POLI SCI 400: ADVANCED SOROS. Sponsored and faculty approved by: Soros Fund Management. Topics include advancement of international socialist conspiracy; legalization of drugs. 3 credit hours.

GEOLOGY 145: OIL SPILLS REVISITED. Sponsored and faculty approved by:

British Petroleum. Beneficial effects of crude-oil application to wildlife,

ocean bottoms; positive effects on financial market speculation. 3 credit

hours; 1 lab hour observing ducks being cleaned by free market forces.

MATH 314: CONSERVATIVE CALCULUS. Sponsored and faculty approved by: TBA (bidding still in progress). Defense of the new “math-er” movement.

Refutation of prevailing liberal propaganda regarding value of pi and the

cultural relativism implied by “imaginary” numbers. 3 credit hours.

AGRI SCIENCE 200: OUR FRIEND FERTILIZER. Sponsored and faculty approved by: the Mosaic Co. Benefits of fertilizer application and why local regulations are unfair. Lecture topics include “At Least an Algae Bloom Has Pretty Colors.” 3 credit hours. (Taught in conjunction with the University of Florida.)

AGRI SCIENCE 202: OUR FRIEND CORN SYRUP. Sponsored and faculty approved by: American Corn Council and DiabTech Inc., makers of adult-onset diabetes pharmaceuticals. Why the entire U.S. food supply should be converted to high-fructose corn syrup. 3 credit hours.

PUBLIC ADMIN 305: MODERN PLANNING PRACTICE. Sponsored and faculty approved by: Florida Chamber of Commerce. Why communities do not need to consider the impacts of growth on traffic, schools and other services. 3 credit hours.

POLI SCI 400: JUST A RICH GUY WHO PAID US ENOUGH TO OFFER HIS OWN COURSE. Sponsor and faculty screener: Fred Z. Jernigan, age 56, who will explain how things really work. 1 credit hour.

POLI SCI 400: EXPLORATION OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP. Sponsored and faculty

approved by: Committee of Real Americans, If You Know What We Mean, and We Think You Do. Lecture topics include forensic examination of birth

certificates; deconstruction of constitutional citizenship; field trip to

Kenya; legal claims that Hawaii was never a valid state in the first place.

3 credit hours.

METEOROLOGY 300: CLIMATE ‘CHANGE.’ Sponsored and faculty approved by: National Council on Digging Up Fossil Fuels and Setting Them on Fire. Topics include, “It Snowed Last Winter Up North, Didn’t It?” 3 credit hours.

EDU 300: TRUTH AND CRITICAL THINKING. Sponsored and faculty approved by: No one outside the university. Description of traditional academic inquiry as

the search for knowledge and insight regardless of who pays for it. (May be canceled for lack of interest.)

* “Money is truth”

For the past 20 years Alan Farago has written, worked and volunteered to advance civic engagement and issues related to the environment and politics. He publishes the Eye on Miami blog and writes under the name, Gimleteye.