WASHINGTON — The National Action Network will side with one of the nation's largest public sector unions in its recent decision to break ties with the United Negro College Fund because of donations the group received from the Kochs.
National Action Network, whose president is MSNBC host and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, said in a statement to BuzzFeed that while it recognizes the "funding landscape has changed," the Koch brothers "have not only worked on initiatives that have a disenfranchising effect on the same students UNCF supported institutions work to educate, the Koch brothers have also led efforts to end union organizing."
The Kochs are major donors to conservative political causes but also donate a large amount to other philanthropic efforts, and this conflict is the latest in a long line of public battles over civil rights' groups accepting donations from corporations and wealthy individuals' looking to improve their images with minority communities.
Earlier this month, AFSCME President Lee Saunders — whose membership includes many black public workers — wrote a letter to UNCF President Michael Lomax informing him that because the group accepted donations from the Kochs, the union would end its partnership with them.
"To practice what we preach, to fight for social justice, and to stand up for what we believe. I cannot in good conscience face these students or AFSCME's members if I looked the other way and ignored your actions," Saunders wrote.
Jacob Fischler is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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