Fighting For Free Trade, Koch Brothers Declare War on Trump Tariffs

Charles and David Koch have been the largest and most powerful financial backers of Republican candidates, but they will no longer support any candidate who supports President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs.

If the Koch network pulls its financial support from Republicans and starts giving money to Democrats it could have a major impact on future elections, including the 2018 midterms.

In April, the Washington Post said:

“For now, the network led by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch still plans to spend between $300 million to $400 million on politics and policy during the 2018 cycle. But they’re growing impatient, rethinking their approach and signaling a willingness to work more closely with Democrats on areas of common ground.”

And yesterday the Post reported that Republicans in Congress may be willing to fight Trump over the trade tariffs (which they don’t believe in) if they know they will receive financial support from the Koch network for doing so.

According to the Post:

The push by the deep-pocketed conservative powerhouse threatens, for one, to reorder the debate around the president’s trade agenda. Republican lawmakers seeking reelection in a perilous environment have been largely loath to challenge the president. The Koch network is offering an incentive, demanding candidates fight for free trade to win its potentially make-or-break backing.”

According to the Koch network’s James Davis their group is evaluating candidates on other issues such as tax and regulatory policy, immigration and sentencing reform. “We’ll be supporting those folks who will be champions, not just passive supporters,” Davis said.

Davis also said there would be significant spending on “paid media, activist education and grassroots mobilization, lobbying and policy analysis.”  With the Koch’s deep pockets, these kinds of activities can make a real difference in the political landscape.

According to Davis one of their primary goals is to go outside Washington, D.C. and reach average Americans.  “We recognize that there has been a rise in protectionist rhetoric and sentiment from both the Republican and Democratic parties, and we want to make sure we’re connecting Americans to the benefits of free trade over the long term,” he said. 

In a press statement announcing their new initiatives on trade, the Koch network said they want Trump to lift steel and aluminum tariffs, the recent tariffs on solar panels and washing machines and the proposed tariffs for imports from China.

‘The Trump administration has taken some incredibly positive steps for the American economy, but tariffs will undercut that progress and needlessly hamstring our full economic potential,’ said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch network advocacy group.

Phillips also said they want Trump to reduce or eliminate trade barriers and update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) while also returning to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Government leaders from Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico have also criticized the Trump’s tariff moves and have threatened to retaliate in ways that would hurt both American businesses and consumers.

As owners of an industrial conglomerate with over $115 billion in annual revenues the Kochs have a vested interest in supporting free global trade in order to increase prosperity.  It benefits them, and they believe it benefits most people in the world also by fostering international peace and raising living standards in less developed countries.

In their most recent announcements the Kochs have made clear they will no longer protect politicians who support protectionism.  They have clearly decided to do battle with Donald Trump on this issue and there is an excellent chance they will succeed.  The impact on elections this year and in the future could be dramatic.