Republished with permission from

There are several cognitive cautions that may sensitize a reader’s appreciation of important information. Among these is the elegant French caution that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Another is the guide that instructs the reader on the behaviors of public figures to “watch what they do, not what they say.” VoxFairfax, on several occasions, has favored Rule #37 from the TV series NCIS, where investigative instincts are cautioned that “there are no coincidences.”

In a swift set of moves, Virginia’s new attorney general terminated the employment of two institutional lawyers in the state’s higher education system. One at George Mason University (GMU) served there for two decades. And that action is the moment when the bell of all three cautions rang.

The GMU vacancy was quickly filled by an experienced attorney from the institution’s legal staff. The individual is the spouse of a well-connected GOP fundraiser who also served as an executive with Koch organizations, a longtime and highly criticized donor to GMU. The Koch companies contributed $50,000 to Youngkin’s inauguration and $10,000 to his campaign.

“There are no coincidences.”

The Koch influence at GMU has swirled and roiled for several years, particularly energized by a grassroots student group UnKochmycampus ( in opposition to Koch influence in curricula and faculty appointments. Both elements are core to traditional academic freedom in higher education. A spokesman for GMU sought to comfort critics with a “more things change” press release that it’s common for incoming attorneys general to name counsel that fits their “philosophy and legal approach,” a theme initiated by the AG’s office.

The opposition to Koch influence at GMU had resulted in several minor procedural and policy changes regarding large gifts for academic purposes. Skeptics believe that this new appointment, friendly to the Kochs, is likely to stifle any further reforms. That reservation is tangentially inferred and reinforced by the $23 million donated by Koch in 2019. It is comforting that there are those who are watching what they do and not simply accepting what they say. Of course, such reservations contribute to exciting Rule #37 that there are no coincidences.

According to publicly available material, the VA AG has the authority to appoint all university counsels across the Commonwealth. No commentary could be identified questioning this authority, especially as a compromise of academic freedom.

Thus, the public is left with the words of the spokesman that such a practice is “common” to ensure these officers in higher education express views consistent with the “philosophy and legal approach” of state elected officials. It is the extent of that “fit” that rings the bell of Rule #37. For example, the AG concurrently had issued a legal opinion that no colleges or universities in Virginia have the authority to require vaccine mandates for in-person classroom settings.

Academic freedom, often related to the First Amendment, has enjoyed a long and hallowed regard within American culture. At times, it has encompassed unpopular freedoms such as governmental requirements of loyalty oaths. In 1957 (Sweezy v. New Hampshire), SCOTUS reversed the conviction of a Marxist economist who had refused to answer questions by the state attorney general concerning material he presented in a lecture. In a concurrence, Justice Felix Frankfurter further defined the protection as one covering who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study. In Virginia, however, Frankfurter’s broad reading is clearly contradicted by the state AG’s decision regarding vaccine mandates and whose philosophy and legal approach is expressed in behalf of the institutions.

It is generally, but not universally, accepted that, by extension, academic freedom applies to the institutions themselves as essential and indispensable to the functioning of the enterprise. The authority of the Commonwealth’s AG to appoint higher education counsel is, therefore, a questionable practice that structurally grafts political influence over its colleges and universities, opening the potential for mischief and agendas that may conflict with a transcendent educational value.

Although more things may have changed at GMU, it may be that political objectives require that they remain the same. The vigilance of watchers is vital to ensure that change and reforms in the public interest continue without blind reliance upon the words of elected officials. When those words are cloaked with “common” as rationale, the bell of skepticism chimes “no coincidence!”

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54 responses to “GMU Re-Koched”

  1. So what are you saying here?

    Jim Ryan getting law school chum and ideological soulmate Tim Heaphy appointed at UVa is OK but Miyares appointing the wife of Koch Brothers chum and ideological soulmate is bad?

    Please spell it out for us.

    1. the piece says the new counsel was an experienced, internal hire. that part is good right? I recall one of the criticisms of Heaphy’s hire was that there were suitable candidates internally?

      1. Well, let’s see what happens. Ann Gentry has been appointed as interim university counsel. Let’s see who the permanent occupant is before drawing any conclusions.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        who said that Heaphy’s hire was “unsuitable”. Was it then or now?

    2. James McCarthy Avatar
      James McCarthy

      The history of the influence of the Koch’s upon GMU and academic freedom is reasonably well known. The counter-Koch effort diminished some of that influence which was modestly confirmed by the past president.

      This renaissance portends a renewal of that influence. At the same time, the authority of state political leaders to appoint senior officers in higher education is, in itself, a suspicious intrusion into a cherished value. Too many dots in one place at one time is not coincidental.

      It’s not “bad” but the actions attract flies. Make of it what you will. Our task was to observe and raise the questions.

      1. At the same time, the authority of state political leaders to appoint senior officers in higher education is, in itself, a suspicious intrusion into a cherished value.

        Please explain why this long-standing practice only became a “suspicious intrusion into a cherished value” as of last month. Where were you when Mark Herring was appointing “senior officers in higher education”?

        By your own arguments in the above article it cannot be a coincidence that you only became so concerned about the practice when someone you do not like began making the appointments.

        1. James McCarthy Avatar
          James McCarthy

          Good try!! Our blog has only been in existence four years. As a former employee for 20 years in higher education, my concern for academic freedom has a long history, if you wish to know. Whenever VA determined that it ought to invade the ivory tower with political appointments, it was before my residency here. Oh my!! An admission that the article was coincidental with other factors!!!!!

          But….as long as you share my suspicion about the intrusion, then the tasks of connecting the dots is successful.

          1. Our blog has only been in existence four years.

            Good try! Mark Herring was the AG of Virginia for three years and eleven months of those four years.

          2. Matt Adams Avatar

            “But….as long as you share my suspicion about the intrusion, then the tasks of connecting the dots is successful.”

            I think it’s safe to say he was pointing out you’re a hypocrite.

          3. Cathis398 Avatar

            it is remarkable how many generalizations are being made about this issue here on BR, without the basic facts being made available anywhere.

            the basic fact in question is: how often do AG’s, especially when taking office, fire chief university counsels in the state of Virginia, for any reason other than cause? especially when a new governor takes office?

            anecdotally, from what I’ve been able to gather and my own personal knowledge, nobody has been able to come up with a single example. there is one example in the distant past at VCU, but there appears to be something more substantive there than merely the AG’s party affiliation. (ie, there is some hint of cause involved, but I don’t know the story first hand and may be wrong.)

            if it happens every time the governor’s office changes party, then it is business as usual. and as you say, raises real concerns about the independence of universities.

            if it happens almost never, which is what I think is the case, then there is the real appearance of a partisan purge here, and that is hair-on-fire stuff.

            it’s really a simple question: how often has the Virginia AG fired chief university counsels for reasons other than cause?

          4. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            The transactional event is important. But the intimate participation of government in academic governance is of paramount concern. The appointment of political allies to posts is only a manifestation of the problem.

  2. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    This piece makes no effort at objectivity. It uses the AG’s action to attack Koch and imply that the company and its leader are engaged in nefarious activities and the destruction of academic freedom at GMU. Where is the evidence? I worked with Koch people for well over a decade and am reasonably familiar with the organization. Charles, and his late brother David, believe in market based principles, conservative economics, laws based on the Constitution.
    The authors may hold different views which doesn’t make them evil or legitimate targets for smears.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      This is a classic example of why so many of us are tired of this BS. The new university counsel was a long time member of the staff, the deputy, so clearly has an understanding of the school and its issues. She served while Herring was AG. Yet it is her husband, Kevin Gentry (many of us have known him for years), who apparently makes her unqualified? She is a toady for HIS employers? If she is now, is that new? Why didn’t Herring’s office push her out? These are two nasty people Jim just gave an outlet to, displaying shameless cancel culture tactics.

      1. Just trying to inject a little intellectual diversity into Bacon’s Rebellion — just like I insist upon for UVa and other Virginia universities!

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          And I give you DUE CREDIT but listen to the caterwauling !!! LORD!

        2. It appears certain people here think those with whom they agree should be able to post anything they want without it being challenged or criticized by anyone in any way, shape or form.

          Certain people consistently take the position that every single comment they post is accurate, legitimate, honest discourse, and anyone who disagrees with them or fails to comport with their world view is engaging in “caterwauling” or “whining” or “misinformation”.

          The arrogance and hypocrisy of certain people here appears to have no limits.

          1. James McCarthy Avatar
            James McCarthy

            Geez!! Is this not what the clash of opinions is all about? Mine is superior to yours. JAB noted the article is in BR to provide a little intellectual diversity. You have the right to disagree.

          2. Matt Adams Avatar

            “James McCarthy Stephen Haner • 11 hours ago
            Though you seem deliberately to have deflected from the issue of academic freedom, your bias did prompt some of the questions raised in the article. BTW, it ain’t about cancel culture.”

            You don’t “clash” with opinions, you just accuse others of bias without reflecting upon your own.

        3. It appears certain people here think those with whom they agree should be able to post anything they want without it being challenged or criticized by anyone in any way, shape or form.

          Certain people consistently take the position that every single comment they post is accurate, legitimate, honest discourse, and anyone who disagrees with them or fails to comport with their world view is engaging in “caterwauling” or “whining” or “misinformation”.

          The arrogance and hypocrisy of certain people here appears to have no limits.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        As opposed to the Bader and related that post here? Geeze Haner… do you actually read the stuff?

      3. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Though you seem deliberately to have deflected from the issue of academic freedom, your bias did prompt some of the questions raised in the article. BTW, it ain’t about cancel culture.

      4. William O'Keefe Avatar
        William O’Keefe

        I don’t know Kevin Gentry or his wife but the accusation that she is a toady for Koch Industries comes across as sinister. What has Koch done at GMU that is illegal, unethical, or a violation of academic principles?

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    guilt by association! What’s the beef, this is fairly standard fare in BR!

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      For you, yes, all the damn time.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        it’s the main theme in BR these days. If Kendi does a talk or someone reads Kendi, it means they are teaching CRT!

        If there is DEI, it means they are teaching CRT!

        on an on…. every day…

        I can cite dozens of examples EASILY!

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Not even close to rational.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            dead on truth!

          2. When I first started posting comments here I think you were one of the first people to warn me not to expect rational arguments from a certain person.

            This might be a good time for me to return the favor. Your blood pressure and your brain cells will thank you.


          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            Actually the NAME of BR at times should be “Whataboutism and Guilt by Association”. And I’m quite confident we won’t have to wait long for the next example to post!

            The whole anti-science thing for climate and covid are good examples along with Kendi/CRT/DEI…

            ANYONE connected with any of the above in any way is GUILTY!

        2. walter smith Avatar
          walter smith

          Let me help you Larry.
          DEI = CRT = SEL = ESG = AGW = CCP = FFF…
          All out of the Man is God box of the Left (except the Left doesn’t believe in Big G God)

  4. I prefer Rule #9.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Was it le Carre where I first read that “no coincidences” was rule one in intelligence work? I’m more familiar with the Ferrengi rules of acquisition.,on%20%20…%20%2022%20more%20rows%20

      1. On NCIS, Gibbs’ Rule #9 is “Never go anywhere without a knife”.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Airports. The funniest thing I ever saw was a TSA agent’s reaction to my pen knife that I had left in the pocket of a pair of pants packed in my carry-on. Well, it wasn’t the knife so much as the $1000 in cash wrapped around it. And yes, I had forgotten about the money too.

          1. Ceramic blades do not show up on x-rays.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            But the fasteners and rivits do. Besides, a sharpened toothbrush will work.

          3. As will a sharpened wooden pencil if all you need to do is stab some… …thing.

            I have a fixed-blade ceramic knife with no metal parts. It’s just a single piece ceramic blade/tang with a synthetic rubber handle molded around the tang. It’s very sturdy and well balanced, and unbelievably sharp.

            The downside of ceramic blades is they are brittle so they are susceptible to chipping or breaking upon impact with hard surfaces/objects.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Like bon.. uh, …

            A sharp knife is a safe knife. I love my ceramic kitchen blades.

            I wouldn’t count onbthem not showing on the x-ray. They are low return, but the chips have matched filters and image enhancement.

          5. I’ll just say that it has not shown up so far.

            I also have “CIA letter opener” as back-up.

          6. They did not arrest you for the knife?

          7. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            The guy reached in the pocket and pull out that wad of bills, jumped backwards 3 feet, threw his hands up, and started shouting “Supervisor!”

            I got excited, jumped back 3 feet and threw my hands in the air. The line came to a complete stop.

            I reached down picked up the knife and handed it to him and asked, “Is this what you want?”

            Hated giving it up. It was a gift from my daughter.

          8. Hated giving it up. It was a gift from my daughter.

            I understand. I once had to surrender a rather nice cigar cutter[also a gift] which I had inadvertently left in my pocket when entering the TSA line.

            I suppose it was my own fault for not thinking like a hijacker. Of course, even thinking like a hijacker, there is no way anyone could ever take over a plane full of people with a cigar cutter – or a pen knife for that matter.

          9. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Don’t lament its loss. It’s well used in the TSA break room. Taking Something, Always

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Crack Koch.

    1. Slam Soros.

      I guess.

      For the most part I don’t give a crap about either of them. Or, rather, I give a crap about both the Kochs and Soros, not just the one with whom I disagree politically.

      They each have a lot of money. Crooked politicians can be bought with money. They both buy crooked politicians. We should identify and eliminate (politically) all the crooked politicians which both of them have bought.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Or, those who buy them. It’s cheaper. Kill the cockroaches or clean the kitchen.

        1. Why “or”?

          Can’t we adopt a two-pronged approach?

  6. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Would you like some cheese with your whine?

  7. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    So unkochmycampus… Professional leftist non-profit, largely funded by Essential Information…as in Ralph Nader. Has its own media kit, and opposition to bogus religion of “climate change” is disinformation. They (climate deniers like me) are the next domestic terrorists…
    Glad to see all the concern about academic freedom. So you of course agree that the forced DEI statements in peer review and job applications violates that at UVA, right?

  8. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    When your objective is to surreptitiously corrupt the election process, having a bullhorn in the room is not a good idea…

    “A recently appointed Virginia deputy attorney general resigned on Thursday after a report that she had praised the Jan. 6 rioters on Facebook and claimed that President Donald J. Trump had won the 2020 election.

    The departure of the official, Monique Miles, came about a month after she was sworn in as the deputy attorney general leading the Government Operations and Transactions Division. She was appointed by Attorney General Jason S. Miyares, a Republican who had upset a two-term Democratic incumbent in the November 2021 election.

    In a statement, Victoria LaCivita, a spokeswoman for Mr. Miyares, said that Ms. Miles turned in her state government ID and equipment on Thursday, and that it was the office’s ‘understanding that she resigned at that time.’”

  9. Matt Adams Avatar

    The Koch obsession like the Soros obsession is pointless. The use of guilt by association isn’t a logical argument and fails most tests thereof.

  10. Randy Huffman Avatar
    Randy Huffman

    If this whole issue is about academic freedom, why not address the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The entire Board of Visitors of GMU, UVA and other State institutions are appointed by the Governor. Accordingly, GMU, UVA and every State institution have always been affected by who wins political office.

    In reality, I bet the argument of academic freedom is just a convenient excuse to complain about this single situation.

    1. Cathis398 Avatar

      because Boards are exactly where state governments are supposed to have influence over public universities, and where they do have that influence in every state in the US I’m familiar with.

      This is not to say they are problem-free by any means–to the contrary–but it is appropriate for the state to have oversight over public institutions, and Boards are where that influence has always been located.

      Direct State hiring and firing of specific employees with significant power, who are part of the university administrative structure but essentially do not report to its top officer (the President) is very odd and does not seem consistent with ordinary oversight.

      1. Randy Huffman Avatar
        Randy Huffman

        In some respects I don’t disagree with what you are saying about who appoints the University Attorney. But I disagree intensely with the ruse that this somehow violates the concept of academic freedom, when the BOV, who hires the President and approves a number of other positions, are appointed by the Governor.

        In addition, it is of course factual that most corporate counsel are hired by the President. But it makes sense that at a public institution, the Counsel should not be appointed by the President, so that there can be a system of checks and balances. As the BOV is appointed by the Governor, having the Counsel appointed by the AG, who is separately elected, is reasonable. The authors made hay that the Koch’s contributed to the Governors campaign, but it was NOT the Governor who made the decision on University counsel. The AG was separately elected, and could have been from a different party than the Governor!

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