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Koch network begins to envision a future beyond its founder

At the Koch network's summer meeting, top officials repeatedly underscored that their work is part of a movement far ...

Posted: Aug 1, 2018 4:43 AM
Updated: Aug 1, 2018 4:44 AM

At the Koch network's summer meeting, top officials repeatedly underscored that their work is part of a movement far bigger than their founder and figurehead.

The subtext: The network established 15 years ago by billionaire Charles Koch is beginning to envision a future without him.

The idea of a Koch-less Koch network is becoming increasingly tangible and, for the network's leaders, undeniable. The moment comes as the Koch network begins to rethink its approach to GOP politics and also finds itself at odds with the head of the Republican Party, President Donald Trump.

The network was until recently colloquially known simply as the "Koch brothers," a reference to brothers Charles and David Koch. But David Koch, 78, stepped down from his role with the network earlier this year due to declining health, and network leaders this weekend counseled reporters to avoid using the term "Koch brothers" in regard to the network.

"It's unfair to (David) and his family to say he had anything to do with it since he's been in declining health," said network co-chair Mark Holden.

David Koch was a later addition to the network founded by his older brother and focused his energies more narrowly on Americans For Prosperity, the network's political arm. Charles Koch has also been the more visible Koch brother as the public face and voice of the network, and the network's leaders played up his vigor and continued commitment.

"There's only one Charles Koch," said James Davis, a spokesperson for the network, "but fortunately he's going really strong."

Nevertheless, David Koch's departure has added some urgency to the question of continuity for the network, which has grown to become a powerful force in politics and policymaking. Meanwhile, the network's leaders recognize that Charles Koch, now 82, will not lead the network indefinitely, and have been gradually laying the groundwork for the network's next phase and priming their backers for it.

Network co-chair Brian Hooks, a key Koch deputy, has become a visible and vocal presence at the network's meetings. At a welcome reception Saturday evening on a lawn at the luxe Broadmoor Hotel, Hooks drew laughs from donors when he recounted a recent hike with Charles Koch, who "beat me up the mountain by a long shot."

Meanwhile, Charles Koch's son, Chase Koch, is being groomed behind the scenes to take on a bigger role and is now heading up the network's New Leaders program, which seeks to recruit a younger generation of business leaders to the network. Roughly 80 donors from the New Leaders program attended the network's summer meeting, organizers said. Meanwhile, Chase's wife, Annie Koch, addressed the network's backers Monday concerning her work launching a private school in Wichita.

That emerging next generation, coupled with Charles Koch's efforts to cement the guiding principles of the network, have given confidence to the network's backers that it will endure beyond its founder.

"Charles has been a great leader, inspiring leader, innovative leader, and helped coalesce this as an organized group," said Art Pope, a donor who hails from North Carolina, "... but as a great leader, it's going to continue beyond him."

Koch "believes in empowering people, he believes in encouraging people to be innovative on their own," Pope added. "So that is a very good operational philosophy. It's not going to rise or fall with one individual or two individuals."

John DeBlasio, a Chicago-based donor, said the network has not taken steps to explicitly reassure donors about its post-Koch direction. But Charles Koch "has given very clear guidance on what he believes and the framework to stay within," DeBlasio said.

Taking questions from reporters on Sunday, Charles Koch didn't directly respond when he was asked about the future of his network and his role in it. "We're going to continue to innovate, learn, correct our mistakes," he said. "All humans are fallible, and we're certainly right there in the lead."

But, speaking to donors Saturday evening, Koch also trumpeted his network's progress over the past five years, which he said was "more progress ... than I've made in the previous 50 (years)."

"We're just getting started," Koch added, "because we have more opportunities in front of us than I ever imagined."

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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