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Charles Koch, Papa John and Political Correctness at the University of Louisville

February 2, 2016

After "amnesty" and "protecting religious freedom for Muslim Americans," few terms provoke conservative fury like "political correctness." It's no surprise that so many Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans are turning to Donald Trump's brand of "testicular fortitude" in denouncing it.
What is even less surprising is a recent dust-up over supposed political correctness at the publicly-funded University of Louisville. There, a handful of professors at the Brandeis School of Law protested an overwhelming faculty vote in favor of "a resolution declaring the school a compassion institution, in partnership with the larger initiative to brand Louisville as a compassionate city." Yet even as they decried that the law school had "veered to a partisan agenda" and thus is "no longer neutral," the University of Louisville business school was putting the finishing touches on the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise. And behind its mission "to engage in teaching and research that explores the role of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing society" is a $6 million donation made possible by Republican donor "Papa John" Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation.

To better understand how political correctness is in the eye--and bank account--of the beholder, a little background is in order. In 2011, Louisville, Kentucky signed the "Compassion Charter," a project initiated by religion scholar Karen Armstrong in 2008 to "supply resources, information and communication platforms to help create and support compassionate communities, institutions, and networks of all types that are dedicated to becoming compassionate presences in the world." In 2014, Louisville was recognized as a Model Compassionate City for the third year in a row. Ultimately, the faculty board at U of L's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law voted 26-2 in favor of joining the dozens of businesses and organizations supporting Mayor Greg Fischer's civic initiative.
But not before professors Luke Milligan and Russell Weaver took to the op-ed pages to denounce the school's "partisan agenda." Milligan denounced the move as "divisive":

Unfortunately, this long run of institutional neutrality seems headed for an abrupt end. Promotional materials for the law school now proclaim its institutional commitment to "progressive values" and "social justice." Incoming students and faculty are told that, when it comes to the big issues of the day, the law school takes the "progressive" side.
The plan, in short, is to give the state-funded law school an "ideological brand." (The Interim dean says it will help fundraising and student recruitment.) In 2014, the law faculty voted -- over strong objection -- to commit the institution to "social justice." Now we're at it again, seeking to brand ourselves "the nation's first compassionate law school."

For his part, Student Bar Association president Rudy Ellis was surprised by "the amount of questions and ridiculous theories that people have thrown at me over the past week." Ellis, who described himself as "conservative-minded" lamented:

"I never would have imagined in a million years that us signing up for a citywide campaign on compassion would spark that."

Especially during a year when Charles Koch and John Schnatter just gave $18 million to the business schools at the Blue Grass State's University of Louisville and University of Kentucky. As the Courier-Ledger reported, the new John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise will be housed in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at Kentucky. That institute is being established just months after the opening of the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise in Louisville. Its director will be Stephen Gohmann, BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville and is a member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars. Gohmann, whose Bluegrass Institute seeks to "advance freedom and prosperity by promoting free‐market capitalism, smaller government, and the defense of personal liberties," promised that politics won't be one of the ingredients in Papa John's home for free enterprise:

Gohmann said the term "free enterprise" means engaging in business with "minimal" interference from the government.
"When you have government intervention, often times you might have incentives to get the government to give you certain favors. And so, free enterprise allows people to just trade value for value," said Gohmann, whose title is BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise. "It's not a conservative or liberal thing; it's just an examination of how markets work more effectively."

By now, the good people of Kentucky and all of America should be very familiar with how the Koch Brothers and Papa John Schnatter believe "markets work more effectively." The Kochs, after all, have already poured $400 million into the 2016 election. And between 2005 and 2014, the libertarian sugar daddies behind the Tea Party movement spent $109 million on 361 different campuses. Of that, $23.4 million came in 2014 alone. As Jane Mayer recently documented in her new book, Dark Money:

[Koch advisor George Pearson] suggested that libertarians needed to mobilize youthful cadres by influencing academia in new ways. Traditional gifts to universities, he warned, didn't guarantee enough ideological control. Instead, he advocated funding private institutes within prestigious universities, where influence over hiring decisions and other forms of control could be exerted by donors while hiding the radicalism of their aims.

As for Schnatter, the pizza magnate already known for threatening to raise prices over the Affordable Care Act and for franchisees engaged in wage theft among other illicit labor practices, has never made a secret about his politics. In 2012, Papa John held a closed-door fundraiser for Mitt Romney at his massive estate. Romney praised the lavish setting as a testament to free enterprise:

"What a home this is, what grounds these are, the pool, the golf course, you know if a Democrat were here he'd look around and say no one should live like this," said Romney, as the crowd began to laugh. "Republicans come here and say everyone should live like this, all right."

Now, no one needs a tour of John Schnatter's house to learn that lesson. All they need to do is pop over to his new center at the Louisville B-school campus the public already paid for. On April 14, the speaker at the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise was one John H. Schnatter. There, he will deliver a presentation titled, "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Better Business."

"Papa John's would not be here without my great grandfather's courage to come to a society where free markets and private enterprise give hard working people the chance to create successful businesses."
The other driving forces behind Papa John's success include a strong work ethic, focusing on what you do best, always striving to be better, and treating everyone in the workplace with dignity and respect.

God forbid he use the word "compassion." That would be politically incorrect.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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