Koch: Methodology

By Eric Holmberg , Lydia Beyoud

Over the course of two years, the Investigative Reporting Workshop studied the vast amount of publicly available information about Charles and David Koch. This included donations to political campaigns from the Koch brothers personally, donations to political campaigns from Koch Industries’ political action committee and the lobbying activities of Koch Companies Public Sector, among many other sources of data.

But, at the heart of the publicly available information we used for this project was the 990 form that every nonprofit organization is required to submit to the Internal Revenue Service. The Workshop collected the 990 forms from all five Koch family foundations for the five most recent years they were available, 2007-2011. These are the Charles G. Koch Foundation, David H. Koch Foundation, Claude R. Lambe Foundation, Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation and the Knowledge and Progress Fund. The Workshop attempted to collect 990 forms from of all 89 public policy-related nonprofit organizations that received money from the Koch family foundations between 2007 and 2011. In total, the Workshop published 416 of the possible 445 forms, or 94 percent.

Initially, Workshop researchers cast a wide net, using all data on the 990 forms. The Workshop looked at the key staff members listed on the 990s — executives and members of the board of directors — and combined that with the staff pages on each nonprofits website. That resulted in a database of more than 4,000 employees.

The Workshop created three categories for the organizations that received money from the five Koch family foundations between 2007 and 2011: Public policy-related organizations, colleges and universities, and traditional charitable giving. The Workshop did not look at individual student scholarships, such as those offered by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation.

The public policy-related organizations, many of them in the Washington D.C. metro area, are mainly think tanks and policy research institutions. In some instances, organizational types appear to overlap, such as student groups formed for the promotion of free market values, and they were included in this section. Others are environmental organizations that have a policy-making interest, and were included because of their relevance to Koch interests in environmental deregulation and climate change research.

Additionally, the Workshop did not include money designated for future payments from 990 forms in its calculations, only funds that were actually disbursed. For instance, in 2008 the David H. Koch Foundation pledged $100 million over ten years to renovate the New York State Theater, which is part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The Workshop only counted the $35 million given, as of the 2011 990 report, toward the $100 million pledge.

The public policy donations were separate from more traditional charitable giving, such as donations to the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Wichita Grand Opera, as well as David Koch’s $100 million theater pledge.

In the interest of full disclosure, American University, which the Investigative Reporting Workshop is affiliated with, received $17,500 from Koch family foundations during the five-year period.

Other data sources

The Workshop worked with the Center for Responsive Politics to verify many of the political donation statistics referenced in this project.

The Workshop collected lobbying reports for Koch Industries and its subsidiaries from the Office of the Clerk in the House of Representatives.

For data about advertising purchasing during political campaigns, the Workshop used the Federal Election Commission’s database of independent expenditures. The FEC also has a search tool for political action committees, from which the Workshop obtained its information about Koch Industries’ political action committee.

The Workshop used the Internet Wayback Machine to create historical data showing the growth of the No Climate Tax Pledge beginning on Dec. 4, 2008 when the pledge signers website was first crawled.

Also in the No Climate Tax Pledge story, the Workshop analyzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas reporting database by downloading the entire 2011 dataset and used the EPA’s greenhouse gas equivalency calculator to convert Koch Industries’ emissions to number of passenger vehicles. The Workshop wanted to verify the greenhouse gas data itself before quoting the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts.

Those who worked on the project include professional journalists and students or recent graduates from American University, the University of Missouri, Georgetown University and Stanford University:

• Reporters and researchers: Lydia Beyoud, Eric Holmberg, Alexia Campbell, Julia Broemmel, Kenya Downs

• Graphic/photo designers, researchers: Madeline Beard, Cristina Keane

• Interactive designers: Chris Amico, Haoyun Su

• Web developer, Document Cloud specialist: Jacob Fenton

• Copy editor: Marcia Kramer

• Proofreading: Rachel Estabrook, Aaron Gregg

American University students had a part in researching this project through Charles Lewis’s In-Depth Journalism classes between 2010 and 2012. Those include:

• Carol Cummings

• Kalynne Dakin

• Stefanie Dazio

• Kenya Downs

• Lisa Gabrielson

• Tamar Hallerman

• Stephanie Jarr

• Paige Jones

• Rachel Karas

• Rachael Marcus

• Amanda Muscavage

• Seth Rose

Additional support in design: Kelly Martin

Additional support in Document Cloud: Jackie Ho