Brandishing an old favorite invective, Trump slammed the “globalist” brothers as having become “a total joke” among the Republican Party, due in part, Trump said, to their opposition to “Strong Borders and Powerful Trade.”
The beat down continued:
I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas. They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more. I made…..
….them richer. Their network is highly overrated, I have beaten them at every turn. They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker – a puppet for no one. Two nice guys with bad ideas.
Trump triumphantly ended his presidential roasting with the familiar battle cry, “Make America Great Again!”
So how did the hapless Koch brothers end up in the President’s social media crosshairs in the first place? The answer can be summed up in one word: disloyalty.
The Koch network has traditionally been a top supporter of Republicans, spending untold millions advocating for various conservative causes and candidates. And while the libertarian-leaning Koch brothers did not support Trump’s bid for President in 2016, opting to focus on down-ballot races and House and Senate contests instead, the “Kochtopus” kicked into gear following Trump’s election to work alongside his administration on issues it deemed important, most notably the Trump tax cuts:
The Koch network was instrumental in helping Republicans score their biggest legislative victory last year. The group spent $20 million last year to encourage passage of the tax bill, running TV and digital campaigns, holding 100 town halls across 36 states and attending high-profile meetings at the White House to shape the final legislation.
The group also has applauded the White House over its immigration framework for providing a pathway to citizenship for nearly 1.8 million immigrants brought into the country as children (thought it argued against a provision that would limit family sponsorship).
More recently, the Koch network announced plans to invest $400 million into the 2018 midterm cycle, including a further $20 million to sell the tax cut’s benefits to American voters.
However, the recent trends in the GOP, particularly on the issues of trade, immigration, and spending, have given the Koch brothers some cause to hesitate. In the interest of building Republican majorities, the Kochs have generally supported Republican candidates in spite of some ideological differences, but given the attitude shift in party values, they have begun to feel taken for granted.
Emily Seidel, the chief executive of Americans for Prosperity, the network’s main political arm, recounted a story to donors on Monday describing this impression:
Word got back to billionaire industrialist Charles Koch that the [unnamed] lawmaker, who had received support from the groups he funds, told a meeting of the Republican conference that they could disregard the opposition of the Koch network to a piece of legislation that was coming up for a vote. “Don’t worry about the Kochs,” this senator purportedly said. “They’re going to support Republicans regardless.”
As one can imagine, this sentiment was not appreciated by the increasingly alienated Koch brothers, who, as of Monday, have announced plans to withhold their support for Republican representative Kevin Cramer in his effort to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Speaking to over 500 Koch-linked donors and citing Cramer’s co-sponsorship of the Export-Import Bank, the $847 billion farm bill, and the $1.3 trillion omnibus, Tim Phillips, president of AFP, called Cramer an “adversary.”
“Look, if this were 2016 or 2014, we would likely just have gone ahead and endorsed him, but we’re raising the bar,” Phillips said, according to The Washington Post. “We established that he’s an adversary on corporate welfare, actively leading in the wrong direction. … He’s inconsistent across the board on these issues … And he’s not leading on issues where this country needs leadership the most right now.”
The lack of support for Cramer means that the North Dakota race will join the races in both Nevada and Indiana as being pick-up opportunities for Republicans that will receive no backing from the network this fall.
Further highlighting the divide between the billionaires and the Trumpist GOP were remarks made a day earlier, in which top officials in the network lamented the “tremendous lack of leadership” from Washington and the “deterioration of the core institutions of society,” also adding that “the divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage.”
The Kochs have obviously been cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
Why It Matters
This clearly is not simply another drama-laden Twitter fight between people with more time than their hand size allows. The feud between Trump and the Kochs underscores the growing rift between the nationalist populists in the GOP and those who conform to more traditional limited-government values.
It also presents a danger to the Republican majorities as lawmakers in key states may be faced with the choice between staying on Trump’s good side and receiving financial backing.
And in this writer’s humble opinion, it’s about time.