Seminar Network

Seminar Network (Stand Together)

  • See DeSmog's profile for Stand Together, the 2019 rebranding of The Seminar Network

Background

The Seminar Network describes itself as a “growing network of social entrepreneurs” founded by Charles Koch in 2003. In 2019, the Kochs announced the Network would reorganize and operate under a new name: Stand Together. Rather than a “network,” the terminology would also change to a “philanthropic community.” [1], [9]

Among issues the Seminar Network focuses on is education, including K-12, an area that has been a target of the Koch network for the promotion libertarian economic views in classrooms across the country. [2], [3]

In 2018, The Intercept and Documented obtained documents outlining some of the key objectives of the Seminar Network, which included withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and repealing the EPA Waters of the United States. [4]

“More and more, Americans are turning to government to solve problems,” the memo begins. “As a result, government grows bigger and more powerful-even if not successful. What's worse is that the least fortunate are among the hardest hit by government overreach.” [4]

Tackling these challenges at the state and federal level is no easy feat—progressive groups, unions, and crony special interests are well-funded and well-organized to defend (or expand) big government. However, Seminar Network supporters have made it possible to build a permanent grassroots force that has been able to overcome the opposition.  And with continued support, we will be able to sustain and reinforce this grassroots capability for the long term.” [4]

The Network started meeting twice a year since 2003, The Washington Post reported, initially “when Charles Koch ­convened a small group of like-minded business leaders to oppose increasing federal spending and steel tariffs under the George W. Bush administration.” [5]

According to public 990 forms, The Seminar Network originally operated as Concerned Veterans for America, Inc.—a 501(c)(3)—until CVA changed its name to The Seminar Network, Inc. on January 9, 2017. A 501(c)(4) variation of Concerned Veterans for America, which continues to file its tax returns as Vets For Economic Freedom Trust (doing business as “Concerned Veterans for America”), appears to operate an independent website, and describes itself as a “a project of Americans for Prosperity.” [10]

Stance on Climate Change

Documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented in 2018 outlined some of the key objectives of the Seminar Network. One “key focus of the Network's overall strategy” was to “Continue to remove the burden caused by unnecessary and harmful regulations imposed during the Obama Administration.” Among those key regulatory priorities was “Withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.” [4]

Funding

According to its website, the Seminar Network receives the support of Koch Industries: “Koch Industries is committed to the long-term success of this Network. The board of Koch Industries continues to vote to provide substantial financial support to the Seminar Network. Koch Industries also has a number of officers, executives, and employees who spend significant amounts of their time working with the various Network organizations to help them be more effective.” [6]

Review of public 990 forms also reveals two donors for the Seminar Network in 2017.

Donor Total (2017) 
Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation $250,000
DonorsTrust $100,000
Grand Total $350,000

990 Forms

Key People

Directors

The following directors were listed on the Seminar Network's 2016/2017 990 form:

  • Jae Pak — President.
  • Joe Gecan — Vice President.
  • Dan Caldwell — Secretary/Treasurer.
  • Dale Gibbens — Director.
  • Charles Koch — Director.
  • Mark Lucas — Director.
  • Brian Menkes — President/Treasurer/Secretary.

Key Staff

Other Staff

The Seminar Network does not list staff on its website. The following people were listed with affiliations to the Network on LinkedIn as of May 2019:

Actions

May 2019

The Kochs announced the Network would reorganize and operate under a new name: Stand Together. [9]

“Officials will no longer call it a 'network,'” The Washington Post reported. “Now it’s a 'philanthropic community.'”  [9]

“Members of the Koch 'community' have always referred to one another as 'investors.' The idea was that they were investing money with a specific outcome in mind, and that the return on their investments — whether in politics or philanthropy — could be measured. Now, they will be referred to as 'partners' because 'investors' has too transactional of a ring. These 'investors' have gathered twice a year — California in the winter, Colorado in the summer — for 'seminars' to discuss strategy. Starting next month, 'partners' will attend these gatherings, and they’ll be known as 'summits.'”

A new website, standtogether.org, went live May 20, 2019.  [9]

February 25, 2018

The Intercept and Documented obtained documents showing the Seminar Network's list of reported policy achievements.  Among items listed are environmental issues such as the EPA Clean Power Plan, and Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. [4]

According to the memo, “This year, thanks in part to research and outreach efforts across institutions, we have seen progress on many regulatory priorities this Network has championed for years.”

The memo listed the following “Notable developments at the federal level”:

  • CFPB Arbitration Rule - Repealed by Congressional Review Act

  • EPA Waters of the U.S. Regulations - In Process of Being Formally Repealed

  • Keystone XL Pipeline, Dakota Access Pipeline - Permits Approved

  • BLM Stream Protection Rule - Overturned

  • EPA Clean Power Plan - In Process of Being Formally Repealed

  • Infrastructure Project Permit Streamlining - Executive Order Issued

  • Review Antiquities Act Abuse - Executive Order Issued

  • BLM Rule Preventing Fracking on Federal and Indian Lands - Rescinded

  • Withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement - Withdrawn

  • EPA “sue and settle” practices - Ended

  • Treasury Department estate-tax rules - Eight Rules Repealed

  • Expanded joint employer/independent contractor standards - DOL Rescinded, Amendment Passed in House

  • Repealed Obamacare limits on short-term insurance plans - Executive Order Issued

The Intercept noted: “The network’s political operation includes a polling and research outfit, Capitol Hill lobbyists, several hundred field staff, groups designed to air campaign ads, and an assortment of grassroots groups set up to appeal to certain constituencies. The LIBRE Initiative is a network group geared toward selling Koch policy ideas to Latino communities. Generation Opportunity works to reach out to millennials and college students; Veterans For America for veterans and military-minded voters.” [4]

Among the other initiatives revealed in those documents is the Seminar Network's “judicial confirmation strategy” in which “grassroots groups supported by the Seminar Network are engaging their activists to support the confirmation of principled, constructionist jurists” from federal to the Supreme Court.  [4]

“Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Concerned Veterans for America, and Americans for Prosperity have also been engaging in direct, under-the-dome tactics, working with allies like the Federalist Society,” the document notes. In 2017, groups supported by the Seminar Network contacted nearly 400,000 Americans in efforts to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. [4]

Related Organizations

Concerned Veterans for America

According to public 990 forms, Concerned Veterans for America changed its name to The Seminar Network, Inc. on January 9, 2017.

Network Organizations

The Seminar Network lists a small sample of “Network Organizations” on its website including the following: [8]

Contact & Address

According to its 2016/2017 990 tax form, the Seminar Network is located at :

1320 N. Courthouse Road, Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22201

According to publicly available 990 records, that address appears to be shared with several other affiliated groups including Concerned Veterans for America, Americans for Prosperity, and The Libre Initiative. The Seminar Network and Concerned Veterans for America also appear to share the same EIN (46-3508366).

Social Media

Resources

  1. The Seminar Network,” homepage, archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RTuIX

  2. Education That Predicts the Future,” The Seminar Network. Archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/CBt1f

  3. Professor: A disturbing story about the influence of the Koch network in higher education,” The Washington Post, April 11, 2018. Archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/IfZWH

  4. Lee Fang and Nick Surgey. “KOCH DOCUMENT REVEALS LAUNDRY LIST OF POLICY VICTORIES EXTRACTED FROM THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION,” The Intercept, February 25, 2018. Archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/pAN4K

  5. At Koch gathering, a turn away from partisan politics,” The Washington Post, January 28, 2019. Archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/89Nju

  6. Support Our Mission,” The Seminar Network. Archived May 17, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/61DrC

  7. The Daily 202: The Koch network donor retreat turns touchy-feely,” The Washington Post, January 28, 2019. Archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/CE2Hg

  8. A SAMPLING OF THE NETWORK ORGANIZATIONS WE SERVE,” The Seminar Network. Archived May 16, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/955xv

  9. James Hohmann. “The Daily 202: The Koch network is reorganizing under a new name and with new priorities,” The Washington Post, May 20, 2019. Archived May 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/f5gw4

  10. Terms of Use,” Concerned Veterans for America. Archived June 6, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/PO2Nw

Other Resources