Last month the seminary at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., canceled a talk from the popular author Rev. James Martin, SJ, after a fringe group on the Catholic right attacked the priest’s efforts to encourage dialogue with the LGBT community. But just a week ago the university’s business school rolled out the red carpet for Charles Koch. Along with his brother David, the billionaire industrialist played a key role in financing the Tea Party movement, and has long bankrolled a vast network of groups fighting against unions, living wages for workers, Medicaid expansion, and efforts to address climate change.
The Charles Koch Foundation has given nearly $13 million to the university’s business school in recent years, sparking challenges from some Catholic scholars who argue that the Koch brothers’ deep pockets have been used to advance policies that clash with Catholic social teaching when it comes to economic and environmental justice—and the priorities of Pope Francis. Despite this, Koch headlined the $2,500-a-ticket conference, “Good Profit: How Profitable Business Can be a Force for Good,” while Timothy Busch, a Catholic CEO from Orange County, California, who operates a chain of luxury hotels and founded the Napa-based winery Trinitas Cellars, warmly introduced him. Busch’s $15 million gift to Catholic University last spring was the largest in the school’s history.
“He shares our values,” Busch said while introducing Koch. “I tell Charles he's a Catholic, he just doesn’t know it.”
During an on-stage interview with Andreas Widmer, who directs the business school’s program in principled entrepreneurship, Koch spoke about characteristics he looks for in those who work for his companies. “We hire first on values and we promote on principles,” he said. Koch argued that economic freedom is stifled by government overreach and corporate subsidies. “The market is full of cronyism,” Koch said. “You look at all the rules and protectionism that are limiting opportunity for the disadvantaged and creating this two-tiered society where some of us make a lot of money and others can’t get started.”