The billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, known best for shepherding big money to conservative causes and candidates, have given a $25 million grant to the United Negro College Fund, the organization announced Friday.
The money will come from Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation, which are headed by the brothers. Most of the money ($18.5 million) will go toward a scholarship program. The other $6.5 million is provided for general support to historically black colleges and universities and the UNCF, $4 million of which will be set aside for loan assistance.
The UNCF is the nation's largest minority education group.
Such a highly-publicized gift is unusual for Charles Koch. His foundation routinely gives away lots of money, but typically with little fanfare.
"Increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus," Charles Koch said in a statement.
UNCF president and chief executive Michael Lomax said, "UNCF is proud to announce this new scholarship program that will help motivated and deserving students not just get to and through school, but to become our next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs We are enormously grateful to Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation for their long-standing support of UNCF and for helping to create new opportunities for earned success and a better future for our students."
The donation comes as Democrats have been actively seeking to vilify Charles and David Koch's influence within the Republican Party in hopes of turning them into midterm electoral bogeymen. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has lambasted them on the Senate floor, while Democratic groups have been running ads casting them in a negative light.
But polling shows most of the public is not very familiar with the brothers, raising questions about whether Democrats can successfully make them into a ballot-box issue in the fall.
As of last week, the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity had spent at least $44 million on 2014 congressional races since August, according to a person familiar with the total.
Matea Gold contributed