How the Kochs created Joni Ernst

12 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Billionaire Charles Koch not planning to donate in US presidential primary: USA Today.

In what could be interpreted as a signal to the Republican field to step up their game, Charles Koch, the billionaire businessman infamous for his hefty contributions to conservative candidates, will not be officially backing a candidate during the 2016 presidential primary, according to a new interview in USA Today. Billionaire Charles Koch said he is unlikely to support a candidate in the U.S. presidential primary race but is likely to help a Republican in the November 2016 general election, USA Today reported on Wednesday. “If they start saying things we think are beneficial overall and will change the trajectory of the country, then that would be good, but we have to believe also they’ll follow through on it, and by and large, candidates don’t do that,” he told the paper.

Several Republican presidential candidates have invested time and energy trying to court Koch in the hopes of gaining the substantial financial backing that could come with an endorsement. In recent weeks, the Kansas-based executive has downplayed what his organization might spend before the end of 2016, saying his network of about 450 donors might raise $750 million, down from an earlier estimate of $889 million over two years. Wednesday, he said it’s “possible” that the network could hit its original target and says the network’s fundraising team disagrees with his lower assessment. “They say, ‘We still think we can do that,’ ” he said of the fundraisers. “We’ve had a debate on that.” He said he lowered the estimate because he’s generally a skeptical person. Koch has consistently said that only a share of the total two-year budget — $250 million if the network raises less money or roughly $300 million if it collects more — would go to electoral politics at the federal and state levels.

In 2012, the operation established by the Koch brothers, as they are known in political parlance, spent millions trying to influence the race, much of it on advertising opposing Democratic President Barack Obama. In April, Koch told USA TODAY that his political network could enter the Republican primary for the first time and was weighing supporting one or more contenders from a list of five candidates — former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. In pledging to help Republicans in the general election in 2016, the Kochs set out to build an operation that could provide on-the-ground assistances to the eventual nominee.

Even though they won’t be endorsing a candidate anytime soon, in this election cycle they hope to raise at least $750 million largely through super PACs to support Republican candidates. “I expect something in return,” he said on MSNBC. “I would love to have the government stop this corporate welfare. Within that network is Americans for Prosperity, an organization credited by many as building the Tea Party movement in 2010 that boasts grassroots organizations in each state.

Koch, who insists he’s not focused on politics, said he has not spoken to any presidential contenders since August when Bush, Walker, Rubio, Cruz and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina appeared at a donors’ seminar in Southern California staged by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the network’s umbrella organization. “My brother talks to them a lot more,” Koch said Wednesday. “Being in New York, it’s easier for everybody to come and see him. He’s more interested in the political side.” Although Koch insists he is not engaged in politics, the 80-year-old business mogul occupies a unique place on the American political and business landscape. As CEO of Koch Industries, he runs an industrial conglomerate that is the second-largest privately held company in the nation, making everything from Lycra to Dixie paper cups.

He and his brother, David, preside over an expanding political and policy network that invests heavily in think-tanks, universities, grass-roots groups and charitable organizations to advance their free-market agenda. Koch said “it’s not assured” that he will repeat his $5 million political donation in the 2016 races. “I want to see whether somebody is going to make a difference,” he said. The book, which mixes bits of personal stories and family history with his management theories, offers a look at the underlying beliefs that drive Koch’s business practices and political activism.

He said a goal in writing the book, his second, was to share “the principles and values” that have transformed his life — ranging from the ways he’s sought to apply free-market ideas to the operation of the company he’s run since 1967 to his father and company founder Fred Koch’s insistence on hard work. (Despite his family’s wealth, Koch says his youth was spent digging post holes, shoveling wheat into grain elevators and other manual labor.) As Koch seeks more publicity for himself and his company, his detractors have stepped up their criticism, arguing that his free-market approach is self-serving, aimed at installing Republicans in office who are less inclined to regulate industrial concerns such as his. American Bridge, a Democratic group devoted to uncovering politically damaging information about Republicans, has 10 staffers dedicated to researching the Kochs. Every month, American Bridge shares anti-Koch talking points with other liberal groups. “Despite their PR campaign to soften their image from the greedy, power-hungry billionaires they really are, the Koch brothers’ actions and agenda will be on the center stage,” said American Bridge spokeswoman Regan Page. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a longtime foe of the brothers, took to the Senate floor to mock a recent interview Charles and David Koch conducted with MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Reid accused media outlets of being “too intimidated” by the wealthy brothers to hold them “accountable for their nefarious actions.” Asked about the criticism, Koch said Democrats seek to “shut us down and intimidate us” and likened their actions to what he called attempts to limit free speech on college campuses. A recent Center for Public Integrity review of IRS filings found that two charitable foundations Koch bankrolls sent more than $19.3 million to 210 college campuses as his organizations have sought to fund economic research, offer scholarships and underwrite courses that support his libertarian economic policies.

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