Charles Koch told the bi-annual meeting of his donor base that corporations should be encouraged to “start opposing rather than promoting corporate welfare.”
“Will you stand with us to help save our country?” Koch implored, standing on a riser as he addressed the attentive crowd. “It can’t be done without you and many, many others. So I pray that you will help us in this, I think, long-term, life-or-death struggle for our country.”
That cause, Koch told them, was eliminating obstacles to create a “truly free society.” He ticked off several pressing goals, such as reducing irresponsible government spending and doing away with corporate welfare, and lambasted big banks for their reliance on government bailouts.
Left unmentioned was the role the network will play in shaping the 2016 elections through its deeply funded political nonprofit groups, which do not have to disclose their donors. But the operation’s might was clear in the array of prominent GOP figures who flocked to Dana Point for the network’s summer conference, including five presidential candidates and a group of U.S. senators and governors.
“Your help over the last election cycle produced the numbers that we have today,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told attendees Saturday night during an alfresco dinner held on one of the resort’s palm-tree-fringed lawns. “The major contributions and investments that you have made have played a major role.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a freshman who benefited from significant investment by Koch-backed groups in his race, said that “the group you helped us elect — and I’ll speak for my class — it’s a great group.”
Twelve years after Koch hosted a gathering of like-minded libertarians frustrated by the growth of government, the political and policy network he and his brother David Koch helped set in motion is entering its most ambitious phase yet, with plans to spend $889 million by the end of 2016.
Some of Koch’s remarks were a long way from his brother’s Libertarian Party positions, where he ran as vice presidential candidate on a ticket with Ed Clark.
In his own remarks, Charles Koch focused on wealth inequality, lamenting what he views as the country’s drift to a “two-tiered society” that is “destroying opportunities for the disadvantaged and creating welfare for the rich.” The comments represent something of a contrast to Mr. Koch’s public image as the head of a vast donor network that consistently fights to reduce regulations and federal spending, including on programs that benefit the poor.
“Misguided policies are creating a permanent underclass, crippling our economy and corrupting the business community,” he said.
But his comments about big banks are right out of the economic populist playbook and will be echoed by many conservative candidates in this election cycle:
The press-shy 79-year-old chief executive of Koch Industries took the nation’s biggest banks to task for accepting “massive bailouts” and cheap loans from the Federal Reserve in return for the federal government wielding increased influence over how they run their businesses.
The comments came at a cocktail reception kicking off the latest gathering of wealthy conservatives assembled by Mr. Koch and his brother David. In brief remarks welcoming donors to the event at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort, Charles Koch challenged the assembled business leaders to encourage other corporate chieftains to “start opposing rather than promoting corporate welfare.”
Several GOP candidates will appear at the confab, and why not? The collective net worth of the 450 donors probably exceeds that of dozens of countries around the globe.
The event is referred to as a the “Koch Primary,” but it’s more than a candidate dog and pony show. There are real policy discussions and a feeling out process between donor and politician that is important to candidates looking for a leg up over the competition. And the networking that goes on between donor organizations and individuals will prove valuable going forward.
Of course, Democrats are having knipshits seeing all these rich Republicans together. Too bad they don’t throw a similar tantrum when their own billionaire donors meet. Then they might thought a little less hypocritical.