Student group still awaiting Koch-related records from KU, turns focus to electioneering

Students for a Sustainable Future is still waiting for Kansas University to fulfill its $1,800 records request seeking documents about the financial relationship between the school and the Koch brothers.

Schuyler Kraus, president of the KU student organization, initially was optimistic her group would receive the records by the end of this month.

But the process has been slower-going.

Kraus said attorneys for the university are still reviewing the materials and it’s unclear how much longer the process will take.

The request covers a period of more than 10 years and requires multiple offices to locate the documents, KU told Kraus after the request was filed. Most of the price tag is for staff time to retrieve and review the documents, which also may be redacted.

“I’m kind of worried that we won’t get the type of information we were looking for, but hopefully that’s not the case,” Kraus said.

When KU told her the records request would cost nearly $1,800 to fulfill, Kraus outlined her quest in an opinion piece that appeared on the Journal-World’s editorial page and received donations to cover the cost.

Kraus and her organization are seeking information on the relationship between Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at KU’s School of Business, and conservative activists Charles and David Koch, billionaires who own Wichita-based Koch Industries. Hall formerly was chief economist of the company’s lobbying subsidiary.

Kraus said she believes the Kochs are influencing academia by donating money to universities, including KU, and that Hall may be continuing his lobbying under the guise of academia. KU officials have defended Hall’s credentials and noted all employees are required to present perspectives in different forums as their own and not the university’s.

Students for a Sustainable Future describes its mission as non-partisan sustainability activism, with a current focus on eliminating “undue corporate influence from academia.” Kraus said the group has about 10 members and has been active since this spring.

The organization helped bring together students from Haskell Indian Nations, Washburn, Kansas State and Emporia State universities to create the Kansas Student Power Network. The Network is circulating voter guides on the campuses that endorse candidates it says are “Koch-Free,” or have not received financial contributions from the Kochs. Endorsed candidates are all Democrats or Independents, while Republican candidates are labeled “Koch-Funded.”