Sanders Foreign Policy Adviser Departs To Join Koch-Funded Think Tank

Matt Duss headed to Carnegie Endowment's American Statecraft Program

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
October 4, 2022

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I., Vt.) senior foreign policy adviser, Matt Duss, is leaving his office to join a think tank bankrolled by Charles Koch, a longtime nemesis-cum-ally of the progressive left.

Duss, who since 2017 has served as a top adviser to Sanders, is headed to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s American Statecraft Program, which received a $4.5 million grant last year from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Sanders and Duss have—at least until recently—been vocal critics of Charles Koch and his late brother, David, accusing the billionaires of using their political and philanthropic donations to "buy elections," install an "oligarchy," and push a "right-wing Koch brothers ideology." But Duss, a longtime Israel critic who has defended me economic boycotts of the Jewish state, appears to have found common ground with Koch's vision for American retrenchment.

"The Koch Brothers are preparing to try to buy the Democratic Party and buy the 2020 election," Sanders tweeted in June 2019. "We cannot let them. The only way we will stop them is to build a grassroots progressive campaign that rejects their right-wing ideology." Sanders also said in 2016, during his presidential run, "There is nobody in the United States Congress who has taken on the Koch Brothers more than Bernie Sanders." He added later that year: "Our great nation can no longer be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers."

Duss has at times struck the same notes, casting his soon-to-be-patron in an unflattering light. In response to a May 2018 article about purported Koch brothers influence at the Federal Communications Commission, Duss wrote, "Today in oligarchy."

Although Duss has spent years promoting the Koch brothers as the nation’s top Republican boogeymen, his foreign policy views have become more closely aligned in recent years with those of Charles Koch, who has attempted to unite the a left hostile to American military power with the isolationist right.

Koch teamed up with liberal billionaire George Soros in 2019 to launch the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank staffed with Israel critics and Iran apologists. Quincy Institute experts routinely push for increased diplomacy with concessions to Tehran’s hardline regime, Communist China, and Russian president Vladimir Putin; the Koch-Soros think tank is opposed to U.S. intervention around the globe—views that are shared by far-left foreign policy hands like Duss.

Koch money has also benefited groups like the RAND Corporation and International Crisis Group, a liberal advocacy organization that is funded by Qatar and known for pushing anti-Semitic boycotts of Israel.

At other institutions, however, Koch funding has brought controversy. The Atlantic Council in July announced that it would shutter its New American Engagement Initiative, just two years into a five-year grant. That move came less than a year after two scholars working in the Koch-funded program argued that the United States should ignore Russia’s gross human rights violations in order to foster a closer relationship with Putin.

That analysis, written by Emma Ashford and Mathew Burrows, ignited outrage within the Atlantic Council, where nearly two dozen scholars publicly disassociated themselves with Ashford and Burrows.

At the Quincy Institute, there also has been internal strife over Russia policy. Joseph Cirincione, a veteran left-wing foreign policy analyst, parted ways with the organization for what he said were its efforts to justify Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Duss, like many of the groups funded by Koch, is a longtime Israel critic who backs engagement with Iran. Duss’s writings have been described by watchdog group the Simon Wiesenthal Center as "infected with Jew-hatred." And when Duss became an adviser to Sanders's 2020 presidential campaign, the pro-Israel community expressed disgust, with one accusing the senator of "building a campaign team filled with people who have devoted their careers to running anti-Semitic campaigns and calling them anti-Israel."

A Carnegie Endowment spokesman did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment. Duss did not respond to a request for comment.