Continued stiff-arming by the powerful Koch network could limit Trump’s ability to build a professional campaign operation.
The Koch brothers are freezing out Donald Trump from their influential political operation — denying him access to their state-of-the-art data and refusing to let him speak to their gatherings of grass-roots activists or major donors.
Despite a long and cordial relationship between the real estate showman and David Koch, as well as a raft of former Koch operatives who are now running Trump’s presidential campaign, the Koch political operation appears to have concluded that Trump is the wrong standard-bearer for the GOP. And the network of Koch-backed policy and political outfits is using behind-the-scenes influence to challenge Trump more forcefully than the Republican Party establishment — by limiting his access to the support and data that would help him translate his lead in the polls into a sustainable White House campaign.
The Koch operation has spurned entreaties from the Trump campaign to purchase state-of-the-art data and analytics services from a Koch-backed political tech firm called i360, and also turned down a request to allow Trump to speak at an annual grass-roots summit next month in Columbus, Ohio, sponsored by the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, POLITICO has learned.
In addition, Trump was not invited to the annual summer gathering of the network of hundreds of conservative mega-donors and operatives helmed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. That’s despite the Trump campaign filling out a questionnaire detailing the candidate’s policy positions and submitting it to Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch umbrella group organizing the summit. The three-day meeting in Orange County, California, will feature appearances from a handful of candidates whose politics reflect more closely the Kochs’ fiscally conservative worldview — including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker — and even long-shot Carly Fiorina. Rand Paul, who is also fondly regarded by some in the Koch operation, was invited, but he has not accepted and is unlikely to attend.
Continued stiff-arming by the powerful Koch network could limit Trump’s ability to build a professional campaign operation to mobilize supporters ahead of primaries and caucuses.
Trump’s surprising traction has prompted hand-wringing by the Republican Party elite, who fear that his bombastic rhetoric could damage the GOP’s prospects in the general election. But their ability to halt his momentum is limited by rules and traditions requiring them to stay neutral in open party primaries, as well as a fear of alienating the significant portion of the party base to which Trump appeals.
The Koch network — a coalition of individual donors and independent groupsand companies — intends to spend a whopping $889 million in the run-up to 2016, and is not obliged to stay neutral. While it appears increasingly unlikely that it will officially endorse a GOP primary candidate, it has nonetheless shaped the process by determining which candidates are granted access to i360’s data and the grass-roots activists convened regularly by groups including AFP and Concerned Veterans for America.