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The Koch network threatens to hold GOP to account

Frustrated with Republican lawmakers and recent policy developments out of Washington, the juggernaut Koch network ap...

Posted: Jul 30, 2018 11:02 PM
Updated: Jul 30, 2018 11:02 PM

Frustrated with Republican lawmakers and recent policy developments out of Washington, the juggernaut Koch network appears poised to rethink or scale back its involvement in GOP politics in what would be a surprising shift as the midterm elections near.

In a rare question-and-answer session with reporters Sunday, the network's billionaire founder Charles Koch expressed "regret" over his network's past support for some candidates, who he believes have not done enough in office to defend its libertarian principles and policy priorities.

"So, we're going to be much stricter," Koch said, adding that the network would "hold people responsible for their commitments."

The shift would seem to confirm the worst fears of some Republicans, who have quietly worried about becoming too reliant on the Koch network, which is not a partisan group, but an ideological one. Politics and government are just one of several areas to which the Koch network commits its resources and collective energy, in addition to business, education and community programs.

Still, the network has loomed large in elections as a powerful and deep-pocketed ally of Republican candidates and interests, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their behalf. But the tone of Koch network leaders this weekend suggested a possible retrenchment.

"Where we invest is where we find an opportunity where our capabilities can make a difference, and so we'll engage in politics to the degree in which it's really moving our overall agenda," said Charles Koch. He added, "If we don't see that, then we'll go into these other areas."

The Koch network has pledged to invest more money in this midterm election cycle than any before, as much as $400 million, to support its policy objectives and help defend Republican majorities. Network leaders said this weekend that that overall budget has not changed.

However, the network might now be less invested in the outcome of this election cycle. When asked Sunday whether the network would be comfortable with a Democratic majority in the House, Charles Koch suggested it would not matter to him what party controls Congress.

"What I'm OK with are policies that will move us toward a society of mutual benefit, equal rights, where everybody has the opportunity to realize their potential," said Koch. "So, I don't care what initials are in front or after somebody's name."

Meanwhile, Koch suggested he would be "happy" to work with and support Democrats, "and we would love for there to be more Democrats who support these issues" that are central to the group's work.

Americans For Prosperity, the nonprofit political and policy arm of the Koch network, alarmed some Republicans earlier this summer with a digital ad cheering Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp after she supported rolling back regulations on some banks. According to Facebook's publicly available data, the group spent less than $100 promoting the ad on the site, and it was online for just four days. But Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats running for reelection this year, and her race could help decide the balance of power in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Americans For Prosperity also promoted a digital ad this year taking on Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican running for Senate in Pennsylvania, over his support for a budget package that increased federal spending.

"If you're a Democrat and you stand up to Elizabeth Warren..., you're darn right we'll work with you," the group's CEO, Emily Seidel, told the network's backers Sunday. She added, "And if you're a Republican who sits on committee that wrote the worst spending bill in country's history and voted for it, you're darn right we'll hold you accountable."

Seidel conceded that the decisions to run the ads were "uncomfortable." But, she added, "The fact that we're willing to do this during an election year shows we're dead serious."

The tone of the Koch network's summer meeting has contrasted sharply with that of their previous confab in January, when network leaders were still basking in the warm afterglow of new tax laws championed by Republican lawmakers.

At the time, the network's leaders pointed to the midterm elections and protecting Republican majorities in Congress as a priority moving forward. Now, however, the emphasis has shifted to policy areas, like criminal justice reform, that could attract bipartisan support.

In part, guiding the network's pivot is its angst over the direction of Republicans in Congress, who earlier this year approved a $1.3 trillion spending agreement that increased federal government funding for defense spending and domestic programs. Brian Hooks, the network's co-chair, panned that legislation Sunday as the "most irresponsible budget in history," expressing disappointment that "we supported the elections of these guys" in the Republican Party who backed it.

"People are taking us for granted," Hooks added. "And so, if we want things to change, we have to do things differently. No more waiting for others to set the agenda. This network has got to lead."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115407

Reported Deaths: 3566
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21196765
Lake10493323
Elkhart6528110
St. Joseph6392106
Allen6178202
Hamilton4848109
Vanderburgh360930
Hendricks2715123
Monroe256036
Tippecanoe239113
Johnson2305123
Clark221457
Porter213647
Delaware194262
Cass19419
Vigo182526
Madison164375
LaPorte142340
Floyd135862
Howard130563
Warrick128038
Kosciusko121617
Bartholomew116457
Marshall100824
Dubois96919
Boone96846
Hancock92143
Grant91934
Noble90832
Henry79826
Wayne75414
Jackson7499
Morgan71638
Shelby67229
Daviess66328
Dearborn66028
LaGrange63411
Clinton59914
Harrison57624
Putnam56412
Knox5159
Gibson5114
Lawrence51129
Montgomery50821
White48514
DeKalb47611
Decatur45839
Miami4353
Greene42435
Fayette42113
Jasper3942
Steuben3807
Scott37311
Sullivan33712
Posey3240
Jennings31312
Franklin30725
Clay3005
Ripley2968
Orange28824
Carroll27413
Whitley2707
Washington2651
Wabash2648
Starke2637
Adams2613
Wells2614
Jefferson2483
Spencer2413
Fulton2382
Huntington2363
Tipton22622
Perry22113
Randolph2167
Jay1800
Newton17311
Owen1681
Martin1640
Rush1554
Pike1471
Vermillion1280
Fountain1232
Blackford1193
Pulaski1131
Crawford1050
Brown1043
Parke962
Benton880
Ohio787
Union780
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 148894

Reported Deaths: 4734
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26704607
Cuyahoga17375656
Hamilton13036315
Montgomery7755162
Lucas7280364
Butler5933111
Summit5265252
Marion308847
Mahoning3053281
Warren302349
Stark2838175
Pickaway264344
Lorain230786
Delaware223120
Fairfield208753
Columbiana192980
Licking191063
Trumbull1883132
Wood184172
Clark179440
Clermont170723
Lake161951
Medina146039
Greene144432
Allen143069
Miami142851
Portage113266
Mercer111918
Erie93546
Tuscarawas93020
Wayne92767
Ross87924
Richland86119
Madison81512
Darke79942
Belmont71827
Geauga71349
Hancock69510
Athens6692
Ashtabula65748
Lawrence65322
Shelby62510
Auglaize5979
Putnam58523
Sandusky56320
Huron5427
Union5292
Scioto4986
Seneca47014
Ottawa46830
Preble43315
Muskingum4012
Holmes3859
Jefferson3364
Henry31213
Logan3093
Champaign3043
Perry2969
Clinton29413
Defiance28911
Brown2882
Knox28415
Washington26023
Morrow2572
Hardin25213
Jackson2506
Fulton2411
Ashland2374
Crawford2366
Coshocton23411
Fayette2306
Highland2273
Wyandot21012
Williams2073
Gallia18913
Pike1840
Meigs17410
Guernsey1698
Hocking1639
Carroll1527
Adams1294
Van Wert1173
Monroe11018
Paulding1080
Harrison633
Morgan470
Vinton473
Noble280
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