Conference Details!

FRIDAY, April 28 (open to the public)

These events are in person and online. To attend Frida’s events virtually, please register at:

WORKSHOP (9-11am)

How to Research Donor Influence on Your Campus 

With Ralph Wilson, Connor Gibson, and Samantha Parsons 

Location: 1823 Room (Library)

From 2005 to 2021, foundations controlled by Charles Koch made $672 million in grants to over 500 colleges, universities, and university-adjacent nonprofits. However, little is known about the academic programs, centers, faculty lines, and student fellowships funded by Koch foundations and other donors in the larger Koch donor network. The few examples that are well known–such as academic centers funded at George Mason University, Florida State, University of Arizona, and elsewhere –reveal that political investments in higher education often serve to build up a “talent pipeline” and leverage policy change through the tightly integrated Koch-funded political infrastructure. However, following dark money on (and off) campus can be tricky. This workshop is designed to provide participants some concrete strategies for identifying dark money and donor influence on their own campuses.

KEYNOTE (Noon-1:30 pm)

What Dark Money Buys on Campus: Turning Point USA, Young Americans for Liberty, and the Political Power of the Right-wing Student Movement 

Keynote speaker: Kyle Spencer (New York Times contributor and author of Raising Them Right: The Untold Story of America’s Ultraconservative Youth Movement and Its Plot for Power)

Location: Life Sciences Center Auditorium [Lunch will be served]

The Radical Right has been organizing on American campuses since the 1950’s, working to normalize antidemocratic ideals, austere economic programs, guns and prejudice. Kyle Spencer’s book Raising Them Right, the Untold Story of America’s Ultraconservative Youth Movement and Its Plot for Power outlines the work and origins of today’s biggest right-wing stars, and reports on how they have partnered with billionaire donors to infiltrate campuses and the online world young people inhabit. This talk explores the widely used techniques and tactics of the young Right, the political education machine that regularly generates new blood and the increasingly hostile attitude these activists have towards democracy and the rule of law. Democracy can prevail; but only if those who believe in it get serious about organizing young people around its foundational tenets. 


Why Libertarian Billionaires Fund Right-Wing Populists, On and Off Campus 

Panelists: Nancy MacLean (Duke University), Lisa Graves (Truth North Research), and Anne Nelson (Columbia School of Journalism), moderated by Jordan Camp

Location: Life Sciences Center Auditorium

For many years researchers examining the influence of dark money in higher education have identified the ways in which the Charles Koch Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and other libertarian donors have worked to establish “beachheads” within the university. These donors created academic centers and programs, such as the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, as vectors for implanting their ideology within the academy and mainstreaming it within the broader society and recruiting students to their operations. However, in recent years, the same funders and organizations have become heavily involved in funding organizations that traffic in right-wing populism, MAGA political agendas, COVID denial, and more. Ideologically these groups appear at odds with the Koch-funded libertarian economic agenda. This panel, however, examines the nature and extent of the dark money funding the rise of the right-wing populist movements, whether this represents a break or a continuation of previous strategies among libertarian donors, and what it might mean for resisting externally funded right-wing culture war politics on campus.   

RECEPTION (4:00-5:00) 

Location: Life Sciences Center Atrium