What the Koch Network’s Relaunch Tells Us About Their Battle Against Trumpism

Koch Industries Chairman Charles Koch.

Koch Industries Chairman Charles Koch. Patrick T. Fallon for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Koch Brothers are giving their vast political network a major makeover ahead of the 2020 election, with an emphasis on bipartisanship.

Americans for Prosperity, the main political juggernaut of the Koch infrastructure, plans to defend incumbent lawmakers in primaries who stand behind issues the Koch brothers support. In an email obtained by POLITICO, the organization’s CEO, Emily Seidel, announced the creation of four new PACs: Uniting for Economic Opportunity, Uniting for Free Expression, Uniting for Free Trade and Uniting for Immigration.

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“We expect policymakers to unite people and build coalitions. We’re committed to forging a new way forward with political discourse,” Seidel told the publication in an interview. “We’re excited for how this new approach will help policymakers work together.”

Here is how these PACs offer insight into the Koch’s longterm vision for reclaiming the political arena from Trumpism.

Where the Kochs See Eye to Eye With Trump

Billionaires Charles and David Koch have worked with the Trump administration on a number of initiatives, including the rewrite of the United States tax system—which Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips lauded as “a transformative event.”

In her email, Seidel referenced continued work on criminal justice reform, which would likely piggyback off the First Step Act signed into effect by the president late last year.

Where the Kochs Diverge With Trump

Despite funneling billions of dollars to imprint their own libertarian vision on government, the Koch Brothers have a complicated relationship with the White House. They did not donate to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and told a gathering of donors earlier this year that they would be making another pass in 2020.

One of the main points of contention is over immigration, which is a central component of the Koch Brothers’ free market platform. Last spring, the Koch-backed Libre Initiative and Freedom Partners dropped seven-figures on an ad campaign promoting immigration talks before the president rolled back Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Given how one of the PACs Seidel announced in her email is called “Uniting for Immigration,” it is likely the Koch network will seek a bipartisan compromise to combat the Trump administration’s migrant crackdowns.

The Koch Brothers are likewise opposed to the president’s trade policies. In a Washington Post op-ed last year, Charles Koch called on corporate leaders to stand against the administration’s tariffs on imported products. With an influx of Republican lawmakers breaking with Trump over his tit-for-tat trade tariff retaliation against China, including Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), “Uniting for Free Trade” could further the pressure.

A Safety Net for Conservatives? 

One of the main problems facing moderate conservative lawmakers is a primary challenge from a Trumpist candidate. Judging by Americans for Prosperity’s new vision, it’s evident the organization wants to assuage some of these concerns, while keeping lawmakers in office who will promote immigration and free trade.

The support could also extend to Democrats willing to champion their economic policies. During the 2018 midterms, the Koch network boosted North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp after the lawmaker voted in favor of legislation stripping financial regulations in the Dodd-Frank law.

What the Koch Network’s Relaunch Tells Us About Their Battle Against Trumpism