A Key Cog in Charles Koch’s Master Plan

How the Purportedly Unbiased George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center Advances an Agenda to Deregulate America

By Taylor Lincoln

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KEY FINDINGS

  • 96 percent of the comments relating to the stringency of specific regulations recommended less regulation than the proposal or status quo.
  • 100  percent of the comments relating to overarching regulatory policy recommended changes that would result in less regulation in the future.

Of 55 public comments submitted under the auspices of the RSC between 2013 and 2018:

  • 75 percent of the comments were authored or coauthored by individuals with past or present affiliations with Koch-funded organizations.
  • RSC authors with past or present ties to Koch-funded groups have been affiliated with a total of at least 28 Koch-funded entities. Eight of these authors have been affiliated with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University or other Koch-funded entities within George Mason, which is the hub of Koch’s university initiative.

Although the RSC does not disclose its sources of funding in a detailed or comprehensive way, information that is available from various sources shows that:

  • Key funders of the RSC include the Charles Koch Foundation, the libertarian Searle Freedom Trust Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation, each of which has given more than $1 million to the center.
  • The far-right Sarah Scaife Foundation contributed $323,000 in 2017, in what appears to be its first contribution to the RSC.
  • Other organizations contributing to the RSC include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council, the American Trucking Associations and the Business Roundtable.
  • Individuals who have contributed to the RSC include one of the key drivers of the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back automobile fuel economy standards; a lawyer in a seminal U.S. Supreme Court case challenging an EPA standard to combat air pollution; and former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and his wife Wendy Gramm, both of whom fought for anti-regulatory policies that reportedly contributed to the Enron scandal and the 2008 financial crisis.

Public Citizen recommends that:

  • George Washington University should either close the RSC or take steps to ensure that it is not merely serving as a cog in an industry-backed campaign to attack regulation.
  • The University should disclose the details of the RSC’s funding arrangements, including agreements it has signed with outside funders and promises it has made in funding proposals. These steps would help the public and policymakers evaluate whether there are any cases of the RSC acting in parochial interests of its funders and if the RSC’s true purposes match its stated purposes.
  • The University, as well as other universities that accept funding from special interests, should adopt robust policies on institutional conflicts of interest that would provide a reasonable assurance that researchers’ decisions are not influenced by their departments’ sources of funding.