Fraser Institute co-founder confirms 'years and years' of U.S. oil billionaires' funding

The Fraser Institute's former executive director Michael Walker. Photo credit: National Speakers Bureau.

Amidst revelations that the Fraser Institute accepted at least $500,000 from the Koch family between 2007 and 2010, the institute's co-founder acknowledged that the US oil billionaires have a long history of donating to the think tank.

Two foundations under the Koch family's auspices – the Charles G. Koch and the Claude R. Lambe Foundations – gave the Fraser Institute large grants to conduct “international work,” its former executive director Michael Walker told the Vancouver Observer.

“I know the grant from the Koch Foundation is for our international work, but I can't tell you which of the projects that it's funding,” Walker, who co-founded the institute in 1974 and remains a Senior Fellow, told the Vancouver Observer. “Before the Koch Foundation, we used to get funding from Koch Industries, when they had extensive holdings in Canada.

“Years and years” prior to receiving grants from the Koch family foundation, Walker said, a Canadian subsidiary of Koch Industries made regular donations to the organization as a corporate member.

“If your intent is to find out that the Fraser Institute, just like the (David) Suzuki Foundation, is funded by offshore money, the truth is that any money I'm aware of from that source – if we're even getting any anymore – is used for our international research. We do have an extensive international program, so we do have to raise money offshore from different sources.”

The institute's international work includes an "Economic Freedom Network,” and will expand this year to co-publishing a “Human Freedom Index” with the Koch-created Cato Institute, which was originally founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974, the same year as the Fraser Institute's inception.

Koch Industries is responsible for 25 per cent of Canadian oil sands imports, or roughly 250,000 barrels a year, to the United States.

With heated rhetoric in recent months about US funding for Canadian environmental groups – such as the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) and the Sierra Club of Canada – nearly 16 per cent of the Fraser Institute's own funding comes from “sources outside Canada,” according to the group's 2010 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) return.

Those foreign donations – totalling more than $1.7 million in 2010 – are significantly higher than both David Suzuki Foundation's and the Sierra Club of Canada's.

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"Koch Industries is responsible for 25 per cent of Canadian oil sands imports, or roughly 250,000 barrels a year, to the United States."

This is incorrect. It should read: "......250,000 barrels a DAY.....".

'Economic Freedom' over everything else

SFU communications professor Donald Gutstein provides a fascinating account of the key role the Fraser Institute has played in establishing a 'neo-liberal' story line, one where 'economic freedom' trumps political freedom.  The central premise is the need for a strong central government, dedicated to eliminating regulatory barriers that prevent the market from growing.  Fuelled by massive funding from a variety of trusts and corporations, a whole string of institutes sponsor various indices and studies, all predestined to condition the public toward that philosophy. Gutstein says the entire effort is aided by media, which loves surveys and indices, and sycophantic academics. 

I had a personal go-round with the Fraser Institute back in the early 1990's when it began publishing 'studies' out to prove that BC's motorists would be better off with a return to private auto insurance.  It was clear that they started with that conclusion and worked back to cook the research.  This was followed by a concerted push by the Insurance Bureau of Canada to convince Bill Bennett's Social Credit government to abandon ICBC. 

Unfortunately for them, the private sector insurers had too many skeletons in their closet and too many British Columbians remembered the stunts they used to pull off.  In the end, both the Fraser Institute and the IBC slunk back into the bushes.  But the Fraser Institute soldiers on, with items like their annual school rankings that appear to have the same trademark as their work against ICBC.  The story line is the same:  public bad, private good.  It comes as no surprise that the Koch Brothers have been feeding this effort.

It seems that, over time and through persistence, they have been successful in convincing most people that they are 'consumers' and 'taxpayers' above all, not citizens of a nation that also has social values centred around 'the common good'.  Mr. Gutstein's efforts to dig into the details may well give substance to a nagging feeling many have had that we've been royally snookered.