The conservative Charles Koch Foundation has significantly increased its donations to higher education institutions, the Associated Press reported Monday.
The organization gave about $49 million to more than 250 colleges and universities in the U.S. in 2016, a 47 percent increase in giving from 2015, according to an AP review of the foundation’s most recent tax records.
John Hardin, the director of university relations for the foundation, told the AP that the bump in giving comes from more professors seeking funding and the group becoming more well-known.
He added that the foundation has established a better relationship with some institutions, so that colleges and universities that only got grants totaling a few thousand dollars a few years ago now receive significantly larger amounts, stretching into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
“We’ve had the opportunity with more and more folks hearing about us to have more and more scholars coming to us,” Hardin told the AP.
The increased giving is revealed after it was revealed last month that the Koch Foundation was allowed to influence hiring decisions at George Mason University in exchange for financial donations.
University President Angel Cabrera said in a letter to faculty at the time that the agreements “fall short of the standards of academic independence I expect any gift to meet.”
George Mason and the affiliated Institute for Humane Studies received more than $19 million of the nearly $49 million given by the foundation in 2016, significantly more than any other institution.
Hardin told the AP that while the foundation’s gifts are facing stricter scrutiny, the shift was really caused by “a handful of activists.” He claims those critics “find ways to harass and try to censor” foundation-funded academic work rather than question it on its merits, which the organization finds “deeply troubling, and deeply concerting.”