Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

24. Because David Koch Couldn’t Buy the Election But Could Buy the Met Its New Fountains, Lincoln Center Its New Theater, and the City a Whole New Medical Infrastructure.

ShareThis

David H. Koch has hurled barrels of money at two goals that many consider mutually exclusive: turning the country libertarian and making the city a more civilized place to live. For now, he has failed in the first, freeing liberals to appreciate his accomplishments on the second front.

You could spend a deluxe day in Manhattan bouncing from an orthopedist’s appointment at the Hospital for Special Surgery (to which Koch has donated $25 million) to the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing ($20 million) at the American Museum of Natural History, passing by the soon-to-be-restored plaza of the Metropolitan Museum of Art ($60 million), winding up at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater ($100 million).

For New York’s cultural elite, the price of enjoying these amenities is implied gratitude to a union-­hating, regulation-scorning tea-party booster. During an intemperate election season, that gave urgency to the question: When is it moral to accept gifts from a donor with loathsome views and nefarious goals? An offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement staged a takeover of the Dinosaur Wing, and the art blogger Charlie Finch called for a Met boycott to protest Koch’s “cultural bribe.”

Those attacks assumed that philanthropy is a way for robber barons to launder their reputations through nonprofit organizations. But if every time we checked into a hospital or attended a concert we had to check the donor’s belief system against our own, this would be a purer, but poorer, world. The election has temporarily mooted this moral quandary. The people have spoken: We’ll pass on your candidate, but thanks for the hospitals and museums. Feel free to keep them coming.


Related:

Advertising
Current Issue
Subscribe to New York
Subscribe

Give a Gift

Advertising