If anyone was wondering why the GOP has so far this cycle seemed to unable to stop Trump, there might be a more obvious answer than you think: their biggest donors and cheerleaders don’t want them to. News broke this morning that the Koch brothers won’t be using their money or influence to try and stop Trump’s nomination.
On Wednesday, they told Reuters through their umbrella group Freedom Partners, “We have no plans to get involved in the primary.” The Kochs complained about the GOP field this cycle, with brother Charles criticizing Trump and Cruz in an exclusive interview earlier this year. Charles told the Financial Times:
It is hard for me to get a high level of enthusiasm because the things I’m passionate about, and I think this country urgently needs, aren’t being addressed.
This is a reversal in course for the reclusive pair of billionaires, who gave Ted Cruz a couple dozen large for his Senate campaign in 2012. And in 2010 the Koch Brothers’ network gave more than $65,000 to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank Ted Cruz was writing a report for at the time, arguing that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. The Kochs donated $32,200 to Rubio’s campaign in 2010 and Rubio was a guest at the Kochs’ secretive donor retreat in 2014.
Now those candidates find themselves in a catch-22: they can’t stop Trump without the influence of the Koch brothers and the Koch brothers aren’t going to help them because they think the candidates can’t stop Trump anyhow.
The other explanation has less to do with the weakness of the GOP field and more to do with the Koch brothers failing to pick a winning horse. Under this theory, the pair of would-be queenmakers are still far too embarrassed by their failed backing of Carly Fiorina (among others) to weigh into the race again and throw away even more money. Fiorina was one of the candidates to earn a surprise invitation to a Koch brothers summit in California. And a lot of other failed candidates received the Kochs’ blessing (that’s actually the word CNN used) as well. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, who were both crushed before their campaigns even started. Under this alternate theory, the vacuum power caused by the Kochs being so embarrassed by their choices as to sit the rest of the primary out led to the unexpected rise of Donald Trump.
But the main problem with the alternate theory is that Cruz and Rubio, both originally Koch favorites, are still in the race and have now been scorned by the pair of billionaires, or worse yet, ignored entirely. The Kochs are still working behind the scenes, though. For instance, Koch enforcer Marc Short of Freedom Brothers was recently embedded into the Rubio campaign’s senior staff. And the Kochs have been regularly briefing their supporters that Trump is entirely unacceptable as the GOP nominee. However, it’s not the same as public support and it almost feels forced compared to their normal influence.
Despite what’s going on behind closed doors, the public laying off of hands is telling. The Koch brothers are sending a Soprano-esque message to their candidates that they’re disappointed, and until they see better performance they’re cutting everybody off. And they can afford to do so; the Koch network will survive regardless of what happens to Trump.
Perhaps the Kochs aren’t getting involved because they just don’t care who wins the nomination, as long as they do what the head of the family says.
Featured image via kochwatch.org