The memo follows a weekend retreat in Colorado at which Koch network officials criticized the Trump administration, hinted they would work with Democrats, and announced they would not help a Republican candidate in a key 2018 Senate race. | The Seminar Network
The Republican National Committee is sending a warning shot to major GOP donors not to play ball with the powerful Koch political network, escalating a fight between President Donald Trump’s allies and the Kochs.
The move follows a weekend retreat in Colorado at which Koch network officials criticized the Trump administration, hinted they would work with Democrats, and announced they would not help a Republican candidate in a key 2018 Senate race.
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“Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote in a memo to party contributors on Thursday afternoon. “This is unacceptable.”
In the memo, McDaniel notes that the RNC has long expressed concerns about the Koch network, which has developed its own data program for Republican candidates to use. The Koch data program rivaled the one that had been created by the RNC.
McDaniel also warns Republican candidates to steer clear of the Kochs. While some GOP contenders have chosen to use the Koch data program over the years, McDaniel argues that decision could come at a cost. If the Kochs decide to help Democrats going forward, she argues, that could include a future opponent.
“From the beginning, the RNC had concerns about any outside entity building a data operation to compete with ours because we knew they could potentially weaponize that data against Republicans if their business interests conflicted with electing Republicans,” McDaniel writes. “Sadly, our concerns were recently proven true.”
McDaniel writes that the RNC, which stores and provides information for party contenders seeking a range of offices, “is the only entity which can be trusted with the data Republicans candidates need to win up and down the ballot.”
The rift between the Trump White House and the Kochs, a donor network that typically spends heavily on behalf of GOP candidates, comes at a perilous moment for the party. Three months out from the midterms, the GOP is facing the prospect of a Democratic wave that wipes out its House majority.
James Davis, a Koch spokesman, did not respond directly to the RNC’s move. But he suggested the network stood by its pledge to work across party lines.
“We have a long-term commitment to unite around issues that will help people improve their lives. Just as we have in the past, we will work together with the President, elected officials and others where we agree. And, where we disagree, we will do so in a civil way,” he said. “This is what it will take to make progress on the issues and ultimately create a society of mutual benefit — where people succeed by helping others.”
Michael Palmer, the president of the Koch data program i360, sought to reassure Republican candidates it works with. “We will continue to drive innovation to create superior value for our customers now and in the future,” he said.
The Kochs have long expressed unease with Trump, choosing to sit out the 2016 election rather than back him. But their anger at the president bubbled over at the Colorado summit.
Network officials blasted Trump for his protectionist trade policies, which they argued were taking a toll on the economy. They also described the White House as toxic and said it was causing long-term damage to the country.
The network pledged to spend $400 million on the midterms. But the Kochs announced they would not support North Dakota Republican Senate hopeful Kevin Cramer, saying that he’d broken with the network on key policies. The Kochs, who have spent freely in past races, also said they would hold Republican candidates to higher standards when determining whom to support.
In the days since, the Kochs have come under fire from the president.
“Charles Koch of Koch Brothers, who claims to be giving away millions of dollars to politicians even though I know very few who have seen this (?), now makes the ridiculous statement that what President Trump is doing is unfair to ‘foreign workers,’” Trump, who effectively controls the RNC, wrote in a Thursday morning tweet. “He is correct, AMERICA FIRST!”
Earlier in the week, Trump tweeted, “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,” he added. “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!”
As part of its offensive, a senior party official said, the RNC would be reaching out to donors to make the case “that if you give to Koch you could be supporting a Democrat and risking GOP majorities.”