The growing feud between President Donald Trump and brothers Charles and David Koch has escalated to the point that some Republicans are publicly expressing their concerns over how it is going to impact the midterm elections. For many years, the Koch brothers have been major players in politics, using their vast wealth and network of supporters to help shape and push their agenda as well as candidates, according to NBC News. Their support for Republicans, particularly those running for congressional seats, was for many years nearly unanimous, sometimes excluding donations to as few as five Republican candidates in a cycle. With changes to campaign finance regulations over the past two decades, the Kochs became even more powerful, running the biggest dark money machine in U.S. politics. Now that may change, and that change is frightening some Republicans.
The crux of the problem is that the Koch brothers do not support the Trump agenda, according to Politico. They are against his shift to making he GOP a protectionist nationalist party. They are against the Trump immigration policy, they have referred to his tariffs as dangerous and unwise, and they have said his trade policy is no policy at all. As a result of this split in core beliefs, Charles Koch said that the $400 million he had slated for Republican candidates this midterm is not going to happen if there is not a major change in ideology. Right now, he has four candidates he feels are worth of the financial backing of his network, as reported by NBC News.
Many Republicans up for election are remaining mum on the topic, afraid of alienating Trump on one hand, whose popularity among his base is solid enough that his endorsement could potentially help a candidate pick up a enough votes to sway a close race. On the other hand, the Koch brothers can outspend everyone in politics right now whenever they want to, including Trump. With their combined net worth estimated by Forbes to be around $107 billion with an estimated $20 billion or so of it regarded as highly liquid. That doesn’t count the better than $100 billion in annual revenue they have coming in through their companies, and they do not disclose how much money their network of political donors raises or who it comes from.
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), said he’s “very concerned” to hear the Koch’s are threatening to withhold funding Republican campaigns. He told NBC News “We need all the help we can get right now because the left is very clear because the presidential candidate they’re going to put up in 2020 is going to be very liberal.”
U.S. Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS), told the Wichita Eagle he supports the Koch’s “in promoting free and fair trade, limited government and personal liberties.”
U.S. Rep. (R-KS) tried to toe the line between Trump and the Koch’s when the Wichita Eagle pressed him to take stand up for what, and who he supports.
“As a Wichitan, I think it’s unfortunate whenever anybody picks on one of our largest employers. Regardless of their politics, that company is a phenomenal company and they contribute a heck of a lot to our economy and I hate to see anybody denigrate them, regardless of their politics.”
While many believe the Koch’s will fall in line and throw the support of their vast money-machine behind anyone that is a Republican up for election, as posited by a Washington Post op-ed, others are less sure of that. It is worth noting that the Koch’s didn’t donate any money to Trump’s presidential campaign, or run ads for him through their network, Americans For Prosperity. They also recently ran an ad thanking Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) for voting in line with their position on a bank deregulation bill. In her re-election race, the Koch’s are not supporting her, however they also are not endorsing her opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who is a Trump ally as reported by the Washington Post.
In an interview with NBC’s Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity stated the position of their network so that there would be no misunderstanding regarding what kind of people they are looking to support.
“I know this is uncomfortable, but If you are a Democrat and stand up to [Senator] Elizabeth Warren to corral enough votes for financial reform that breaks barriers for community banks and families, you’re darn right we will work with you. But if you are a Republican who sits on the committee that wrote the worst spending bill in our country’s history and you voted for it, you’re darn right we will hold you accountable.”
Between the Koch’s currently only supporting four Republicans up for re-election, and their stated willingness to work with and support Democrats with whom they feel ideologically aligned, there is reason for the GOP to have some concerns. Whether Trump thinks they are a “total joke,” as reported by USA Today, there are some Republicans willing to publicly express their worry, with their name attached to the statements, and that begs the question of how many more are remaining silent but harboring the same feelings.