Surprise is no stranger to politics. But even that understanding does not sufficiently explain the decision by the Koch brothers to abandon the Republican Party – as well as their long-held principles – to shift sides across the political fault line.
Not long ago, they announced that they would not put money behind the re-election of President Trump. That was surprising, but not earth shattering. It was believed that they would simply stay out of the presidential race – but continue their support of conservative candidates and causes. But, not so.
Their main public education vehicle has been Americans for Prosperity (AFP). It is a non-partisan operation dedicated to encouraging libertarian free-market principles. While they did not support partisan candidates, the AFP phone banks were used to encourage voters to vote for issues – and by extension, that meant the more conservative Republican candidates.
I know because I went through their activist training and attended their events in Florida and Washington. In dealing with scores of AFP volunteers, I never ran into a Democrat – or even a liberal Republican. AFP rightfully claimed credit for pushing issues that indirectly benefited Republican candidates across the country.
If the reports are to be believed, the Koch brothers are not only abandoning Trump and the Republican Party but their long-held libertarian principles. It is difficult to understand how supporting the currently radical left-wing Democratic Party serves to advance what many of us believed the Koch brothers believed in.
According to AFP spokespersons, the new emphasis will be on opposition to tariffs – which is understandable from a conservative viewpoint – a push for a general amnesty for illegal aliens and an acceptance of open borders. One can understand the Democrats backhanded support for open borders for crass political reasons – the belief that the millions of border crossers will be their future voters. But the only seeming explanation for the support of open borders by the Koch brothers is a supply of workers for their massive industrial complex.
AFP’s CEO Emily Seidel express excitement “for this new approach” that is supposedly designed to “help policymakers work together.” Rather than support Republicans, Seidel said the new AFP will help “elevate civil discourse.” Really? How well did election of Democrats to the House elevate civil discourse? I would say, quite the opposite.
“One of the biggest challenges to this approach is that those who work to lead nonpartisan coalitions are threatened by people in both parties who prize partisanship over policy outcomes. This makes it difficult for policymakers who want to do what’s best for the country to stick their necks out.”
The Koch brothers are going beyond the nonpartisan AFP education operation into hardcore political advocacy with the creation of a series of Political Action Committees (PACs) called the Uniting for Economic Opportunity, Uniting for Free Expression, Uniting for Free Trade, and Uniting for Immigration Reform.
The recent announcement by the Kochs is not entirely new and comes as no surprise to Trump, who sent off a pair of tweets a year ago that said:
“The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. 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. Make America Great Again!”
In the 2018 midterm election, the Koch brothers threatened Republican control of the Senate by backing North Dakota Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp over her GOP opponent, Kevin Cramer – who went on to win the seat despite the Koch’s opposition.
Ironically, the Koch brothers have been constantly demonized by many in Democrat leadership – most notably Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has made them the poster children for the one-percenters Sanders reviles.
We have yet to see how far the Koch brothers have drifted to the left. Will that change their longstanding opposition to climate change legislation? Will the continue to fund such libertarian organizations as the CATO Institute? Time will tell.
I can only say, as a FORMER AFP activist and supporter, I am deeply disappointed. I wonder how many of my conservative AFP colleagues will also put “former” in front of their title.
So, there ‘tis.