George Pearson

George Pearson

Credentials

  • George Pearson graduated from Grove City College, where “he became a devotee of Austrian school economist Hans Sennholz.” [1]

Background

George H. Pearson was Charles Koch’s first chief aide in his political and policy agenda, starting in the 1960s. He was part of Robert LeFevre’s Freedom School movement along with Charles Koch and moved to Wichita to work along side Koch, operating within what became Koch Industries and through organizations Koch created or funded outside of the corporation.  Along with Charles, Pearson is a former member of the John Birch Society in Wichita, Kansas

Since the 1960s, Pearson has served as a “political lieutenant” under Charles Koch, Jane Mayer reported in Politico. [2] He has led several Koch created or Koch funded groups over the past five decades.

According to his profile at the Kansas Policy Institute, where he is chair of the board and co-founder, Pearson “worked for nearly three decades for the Koch family as manager of various Koch Foundations and for Koch Industries in various corporate positions including Director of Public Affairs.” [3], [4]

Pearson has worked either as an officer or director at several Koch-affiliated or funded think tanks including the Institute for Humane Studies and the Cato Institute. Pearson is also a former member of the board of directors of the Atlas Network[3]

Apart from his work with think tanks, Pearson’s profile at Kansas Policy Institute says he is a “principal at Industrial Development Investors, LLC and is an individual real estate investor.” [3] Pearson joined the Mont Pelerin Society in 1971, and was still listed as a member of the influential group in documents revealed by DeSmog in 2013.

John Birch Society

The JBS has been described as a radical right organization and has been criticized for racism and anti-Semitism by The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) among other groups. In 1961, Time Magazine described the John Birch Society as “the most formidable of the extremist groups.” [5], [6], [7], [8]

George Pearson and Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo, described as “the Koch brothers’ point man in the House,” appears to have shared a close relationship with George Pearson. In a 2016 tribute video, Pompeo personally thanked Pearson and said, “I learned an awful lot from you” during their time working together. [9]

For four years, Mike Pompeo was a trustee and board member of the Kansas Policy Institute. KPI changed its name to the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, then back to the Kansas Policy Institute in 2009. Pompeo, alongside Pearson, was listed as a trustee on the Flint Hills Center website in 200620072008, and 2009, while public tax forms list him in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. [10]

Cato Institute Shareholder

Pearson was one of the original shareholders of the Cato Institute. The others included the co-founders Charles Koch and Ed Crane, along with Roger MacBride, and Murray Rothbard. Koch later had a falling out with Rothbard. In the 1980s, William A. Niskanen left the Reagan Administration to joint Cato and then became a shareholder of Cato, too.

Koch “liked the idea of being in control of things even though he is not recognized as being in control,” said David Gordon, who worked at Cato in 1979 and 1980. “He picked the people as stockholders because he thought they would do what he wanted,” The Washingtonian reported

In 2012, Charles Koch and Ed Crane began a fight for control over Cato, which they had founded together more 35 years before. In the struggle for control of Cato, the public learned that the non-profit was owned by shareholders, which included shares inherited by Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn. That dispute led to the creation of the Niskanen Center, which is led by Jerry Taylor. Pearson gave up his shares in 2008. David Koch joined as a shareholder in 1991.  [11], [12]

Stance on Climate Change

George Pearson has not publicly voiced his views on climate change.

Key Quotes

October 13, 2016

The Kansas Policy Institute presented its “Spirit of Freedom” award to its chair, George Pearson. The award goes to “a Kansan who uniquely supports the principles of individual liberty and economic freedom.” [4]

“I’ve been involved with organizations promoting freedom for over 50 years,” Pearson said, accepting the award. “The last half of that time has been with policy, in the policy arena. Why policy? In the political process, ideas are the input and votes are the outcome. For better or worse, policy shapes the political outcomes. Simply put, good policies produce good outcomes and bad policies produce bad outcomes. As many of you have heard me say, I believe that we are overinvested in political outcomes and underinvested in getting good policy into the political process. Thank you for this award, and thank you all for being part of the effort.”

1976

In her book Dark Money, and in Politico magazine, Jane Mayer paraphrased George Pearson’s paper that was originally presented at a 1976 conference of the Center for Libertarian Studies (emphasis added):

“George Pearson, a former member of the John Birch Society in Wichita, who served as Charles Koch’s political lieutenant during those years, expanded on this strategy in his own eye-opening paper. He suggested that libertarians needed to mobilize youthful cadres 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 donors could exert influence over hiring decisions and other academic matters while hiding the radicalism of their aims,” Jane Mayer noted. [2]

Clayton A. Coppin, a researcher who taught history at George Mason University and had written the Koch company history, summarized Pearson’s arguments in 2003 and was also quoted by Mayer: [2]

It would be necessary to use ambiguous and misleading names, obscure the true agenda, and conceal the means of control. This is the method that Charles Koch would soon practice in his charitable giving, and later in his political actions.”

Key Deeds

January 2016

In her book Dark Money, Jane Mayer referenced George Pearson’s early relationship with the John Birch Society where Charles Koch was also deeply involved. While working with Koch, Pearson wrote a paper that suggested new ways to expand libertarian influence in universities. [13]

According to excerpts from an unpublished history of Charles Koch, cited in a 2018 report by UnKoch My Campus, Pearson presented his paper— titled Expenditures on Scholarship Aimed At Bringing About Social Change —at a 1976 conference of the Center for Libertarian Studies sponsored by $65,000 from Charles Koch. Several others in the Koch network also presented at the conference: [14]

“Papers described how donors can maintain control over the use of their campus donations, how the libertarian movement should learn from the Nazi Youth program and its success in capturing the state, and what lessons the movement should learn from Koch’s longtime membership in the industry-funded/farright group, the John Birch Society,” UnKoch noted. [14]

Clayton A. Coppin offered a detailed summary of Pearson’s paper in his report “Stealth: The History of Charles Koch’s Political Activities” (excerpted by UnKoch): [15]

“Expenditures on Scholarship Aimed At Bringing About Social Change.” This paper is a compendium of Charles Koch’s thinking about how he could invest in and control the libertarian movement.

“The paper begins by assuming that to advance libertarian thought it is necessary to have a group of advocates in major universities. Pearson considers a number of ways that funds can be used in academia to advance the libertarian ideology, but all of them contain problems of control. Pearson points out that when a chair is endowed the donor gives the endowment to the institution and has no control beyond the appointment of the chair’s first occupant. After that, the institution is in control of the endowment. The lack of control of future endowments is a significant drawback from Pearson’s perspective. Pearson explores a number of other possibilities: partial endowments, annuities, and independent support. Each has its shortcomings. Some are ineffectual; others provide the donor with no control.

“Pearson suggested that programs such as the Foundation for Economic and Education at UCLA offer a better option for the donor. Pearson describes how the Foundation receives funds from the donor and then uses these funds to make research grants and other awards to faculty members in the economics department at UCLA. This procedure allows the department to offer a more attractive financial package and attract better scholars. From the donor’s perspective, says Pearson, ‘this in turn allows the foundation to influence the hiring decisions of the department… It has additional advantages in that it can be controlled to supplement salary without any displacement of department funds allowing for the leveraging of state funds while still giving the donor some control.’”

June 1974

Pearson, described by Mont Pelerin Society member Peter J. Boettke at the Foundation for Economic Education, was reportedly influential in the “modern resurgence of Austrian economics.” Having graduated from Grove City College, and then working for the Institute for Humane Studies, Pearson “initiated the idea to bring together the three leading active scholars in Austrian economics–Israel Kirzner, Ludwig Lachmann, and Murray Rothbard—to present a series of lectures to young faculty and graduate students who had expressed an interest in Austrian economics to the Institute.” [16]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

George Pearson does not appear to have recently written op-eds, books, or other literature.

Resources

  1. Robert Leeson. Hayek: A Collaborative Biograhy. Springer, March 10, 2015.

  2. The Secrets of Charles Koch’s Political Ascent,” Politico Magazine, January 18, 2016. Archived May 18, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/78b0c

  3. Board of Trustees & Officers,” Kansas Policy Institute. Archived May 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/kPyJV

  4. KANSAS POLICY INSTITUTE PRESENTS SPIRIT OF FREEDOM AWARD TO ITS CHAIR AND ATLAS NETWORK BOARD MEMBER,” Atlas Network, October 13, 2016. Archived May 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/VnxYG

  5. Don Terry. “Bringing Back Birch,” Intelligence Report, Spring 2013 Issue (March 1, 2013). Archived August 4, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/RE7ny

  6. Western Democracies and The New Extreme Right challenge (2004), Routledge, p. 43.

  7. Thomas Mallon. “A View from the Fringe,” The New Yorker, January 11, 2016. Archived August 4, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/SsXxL

  8. PART 2: Koch’s Roots,” Unkoch My Campus.

  9. KPI 20th Anniversary Tribute to George Pearson,” YouTube video uploaded by user “KansasPolicyInst,” October 21, 2016. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  10. Our History,” Kansas Policy Institute. Archived September 9, 2011. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/mTEkQ

  11. Luke Mullins. “The Battle for the Cato Institute,” Washingtonian, May 30, 2012. Archived May 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/XemXC

  12. Dan Rivoli. “Koch Brothers Sue for More Control of Cato Institute,” International Business Times, March 1, 2012. Archived May 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/u0YIH

  13. Jane Mayer. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Doubleday, January 19, 2016. See pages excerpted on Twitter by @SeanMcElwee.

  14. “Donor Intent of the Koch network” (PDF), UnKoch My Campus, December 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  15. Clayton A. Coppin. “Stealth: The History of Charles Koch’s Political Activities Part One” (PDF), 2003. Retrieved from UnKoch My Campus.

  16. Peter J. Boettke. “The Story of a Movement,” Foundation for Economic Education, May 1, 1995. Archived May 22, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/CA6rr

  17. Our People,” Atlas Network. Archived January 14, 2017. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/OuryZ

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