Scientists to Smithsonian: Cut Koch ties

Getty Images

Dozens of scientists and environmental groups are urging various science museums, including the Smithsonian Institution, to stop accepting money from Charles and David Koch and fossil fuel interests.

Thirty-six scientists signed onto an open letter to the country’s science and natural history museums Tuesday asking that they cut ties with all fossil fuel companies and others they say bankroll climate change skepticism.

The scientists singled out David Koch, a billionaire conservative activist who has donated millions to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History and sits on boards of both organizations.

Green groups like Oil Change International and Credo sent a petition of their own Tuesday specifically targeting Koch’s involvement in natural history museums.

“When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions in museums of science and natural history, they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge,” the scientists wrote in their letter, organized by a group known as the Natural History Museum. “This corporate philanthropy comes at too high a cost.”

The environmental groups said their petition against Koch’s involvement in the Smithsonian came in part due to recent reports that Willie Soon, a climate skeptic scientist at a center run by the Smithsonian and Harvard University, had received more than $1 million from fossil fuel companies like Koch’s and did not properly disclose it.

“Oil mogul David Koch sits on the board of our nation’s largest and most respected natural history museums, while he bankrolls groups that deny climate science,” the petition says.

David Koch and his brother, Charles, through their conglomerate Koch Industries, own major oil refining and transportation interests, in addition to paper, agriculture and other businesses. They are major donors to conservative political causes, and came under heavy attack from Democrats in the 2014 election cycle.

In addition to their political giving, the Kochs have given tens of millions of dollars to the Smithsonian. The museum has recognized those contributions with a dinosaur wing at the American Museum of Natural History and a human origins exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.