Five Republican candidates to vie for Koch brothers backing at posh donor retreat — but Trump has been snubbed
The competition among Republican presidential candidates for the support of the political and fundraising network of Charles and David Koch will heat up this weekend.
Five Republican candidates will attend a retreat held by Freedom Partners, a key cog in the political network of the Koch brothers. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Texas senator Ted Cruz, former CEO Carly Fiorina, Florida senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker will all attend a gathering of well-heeled GOP donors at a luxury resort in Orange County, California. Kentucky senator Rand Paul was invited but declined to attend, citing previous commitments to campaign in Iowa.
The event is designed to boost those who the Koch brothers consider to be in “a top tier of candidates” who, in the words of one person familiar with the efforts of the Koch network, “are most likely to elevate a serious debate on the principles of freedom”. All five candidates will participate in a moderated policy discussion with Politico reporter Mike Allen and will be able to mix and mingle with the approximately 450 high-powered donors expected to attend. However, the current frontrunner will not be in that top tier of GOP candidates.
Donald Trump is not considered among the candidates who are most capable of elevating that debate and Politico has reported that the Koch network is “freezing him out”. Trump’s signature policy, his hostility to immigration from Mexico and Latin America, runs counter to the Kochs’ support for immigration reform and efforts to sell Hispanic Americans on conservative ideas. The Koch network has long funded the Libre Initiative, a group dedicated to “advanc[ing] the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the US Hispanic community”. The Trump campaign declined to comment.
Even if Trump were welcome at the event, it would counteract the increasingly populist message of the bellicose billionaire. The former reality television star has flaunted his wealth to demonstrate his independence from special interests in politics. At a campaign event in Iowa earlier in July, Trump said of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush: “Those people are controlled by whoever gave them their money, and I will tell you they are totally controlled.” He boasted of buying influence with politicians himself in the past: “I give to everybody and they do whatever I say.”
Trump hasn’t quite gone as far as to criticize the Koch network by name. His only mention so far came in a tweet on Wednesday: “I really like the Koch Brothers (members of my P.B. Club), but I don’t want their money or anything else from them. Cannot influence Trump!”
The real estate mogul isn’t being singled out, though. A number of other candidates have also not been invited, including Ohio governor John Kasich, whose support for expanding Medicaid in the Buckeye State has made him anathema to many in the Koch network. Like Trump, not only will Kasich not be attending this weekend’s event in California, but he will be absent from another Koch-affiliated event in Ohio’s state capital of Columbus in September. The Ohio governor reportedly alienated attendees at the Koch-affiliated conference in 2014 by giving a fiery defense of his decision to expand Medicaid. “I don’t know about you, lady,” Kasich told one prominent Republican donor. “But when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.” According to Politico, roughly 20 attendees walked out of the room in protest at the Ohio governor’s answer.
The event, which lasts through the weekend, will be the last significant milestone on the Republican primary calendar before the first debate, sponsored by Fox News, is held in Cleveland on 6 August.
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