Despite pressure from scientists and activists, Koch says he’s leaving of his own accord.
Image by Ingfbruno via Wikimedia Commons
This week, David H. Koch, one half of the equally reviled and celebrated billionaire Koch brothers, resigned his seat on the board of New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Over the years, Koch donated $23 million to the museum, while simultaneously funding organizations and individuals involved in climate change denial to the tune of $79 million.
While The New York Times reports that Koch’s departure is unrelated to criticism, his resignation does come nearly nine months after 148 scientists signed an open letter to all “museums of science and natural history.” In it, they expressed their concern that the integrity of such 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 came shortly after news hit that Smithsonian-affiliated scientist Willie Soon accepted $1.25 million from the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and “other covert funders to publish junk science denying man-made climate change, and failed to disclose any funding-related conflicts of interest.” On the same day as the open letter was published, the Natural History Museum—a mobile museum launched in September 2014 not affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History—launched a petition to have Koch removed from the American Museum of Natural History board of directors.
“Museums are one of the most trusted sources for information in the country, and they are a top three recreational destination for families,” the Natural History Museum’s petition read. “They have a tremendous influence on our culture, defining values, transmitting information, conveying norms. Yet they are increasingly subject to self-censorship.”
David Koch. Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.
“Energy companies and the Koch brothers gain social license from their association with these scientific institutions,” the petition continued. “It gives them cultural capital and credibility as supporters of science, yet they fund scientists and lobby groups that spread climate science disinformation and block action on climate change.”
The Natural History Museum celebrated Koch’s resignation on its blog with the headline “Koch is off the board!”
“[Koch’s] departure is a victory for the scientists, climate activists, and museum professionals who have been calling for museums to break ties with Koch and other fossil fuel interests,” they write. “While the pressure generated by this effort may have been a factor, the museum’s official line is that he simply chose not to renew his seat on the board. According to Koch’s spokesperson, he elected to leave the post to prioritize other commitments.”
Koch spokeswoman Cristyne Nicholas told The New York Times that he was pulling back from 20 boards across the country to focus on cancer research. Sure, that and probably focusing his time, energy, and money on funneling money to the 2016 presidential, congressional, and state political candidates who support austerity measures and deregulation across industries.