Koch Brothers Endorse Scott Walker For President
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has won the biggest prize in the GOP's 2016 wealth primary.
Walker walked into a posh New York City fundraiser on Monday and emerged with the the backing of David and Charles Koch, the billionaire oil-and-gas industry magnates whose ultra-conservative political network said it would spend upwards of $900 million in 2016 to elect right wingers to statehouses, Congress and the presidency.
“We will support whoever the [presidential] candidate is,” Mr. Koch said, according to a New York Times report quoting two attendees at the New York State Republican Party event. “But it should be Scott Walker.”
“In his remarks, made after Mr. Walker had addressed the group, Mr. Koch suggested that the political organizations they oversee — which include Americans for Prosperity, a grass-roots organization, and Freedom Partners, a donor trade group with an affiliated super PAC — would not intervene in the Republican primary process on behalf of a single candidate,” the Times reported.
This is not the first time that a Republican billionaire has declared his personal support for a 2016 candidate. Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund owner who made his fortune by pioneering computerized stock trades, commited $30 million to several super PACS supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Meanwhile, Norman Braman, the 82-year-old Florida entrepreneur who made a fortune selling cars and art and apparently dislikes ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has said that he will be backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
But these billionaires have not built the political network that the Kochs have. The industrialists routinely invite hundreds of the wealthiest libertarian-leaning executives to their political retreats where they mingle with top Republican leaders in Congress and hear about strategies and electoral agendas intended to shrink federal regulatory power and undermine social insurance programs.
The Kochs have developed and funded a veritable right-wing party within the GOP. It has its own fundraising operations, political consultants, national voter file, and underwrites front groups pretending to represent various grassroots constituencies to promote right-wing causes and candidates. This Washington Post graphic that details the network’s $400 million in spending in 2012 shows their unrivaled reach and complexity.
Winning the personal support of the Kochs arguably means much more than winning the Iowa Caucuses or New Hampshire primary for Walker. Their likely multi-million-dollar backing means that Walker will be able to build campaigns in many early primary states. In past presidential elections, candidates often threw everthing they had into winning Iowa or New Hampshire, but then scrambled as the nominating contest moved on. That often caused candidates who only had the support of hardcore ideologues to falter, because the Party’s mainstream factions typically coalesced around a consensus choice.
Now those old assumptions are vanishing. The advent of super PACS—created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ongoing deregulation of campaign finance laws—means that there are no limits on what billionaires may spend to boost their hand-picked candidates.
In some respects, the Kochs' selection of Walker isn’t a surprise. He is best-known for starting a political war with Wisconsin’s public employee unions, where Walker succeeded in ripping up collective bargaining rights for employees long associated with Democratic Party causes: primarily the state’s teachers and other state agency employees. Walker didn’t go after police and firefighter unions, as they supported his candidacy.
Walker’s allies also have a track record of operating like the Koch network, where they flout election laws to win. The bottom line of the Koch endorsement is that Walker’s 2016 ambitions may last longer than his extremist views otherwise would have warranted, because two wealthy men want it that way.