The Koch Brothers political network has announced it will not support the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia, in another indication of the group’s growing independence from the GOP.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political arm of the Koch network, will not endorse either party’s candidate or contribute money to either side in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia after immigration hard-liner Corey Stewart’s victory in the Republican primary Tuesday. Stewart has also been accused of being a racist and a white supremacist.
AFP’s decision to withhold support from Stewart is the latest sign that the powerful network of wealthy donors and conservatives is becoming more independent this year as we approach the midterm elections. For many years they have been closely connected to Republican campaigns but recently have grown frustrated with the GOP‘s positions on several key issues.
AFP and the Koch network have been seeking action from Congress on its key policy priorities and have said they will work with people in either party who support their positions on those issues.
“Americans for Prosperity, a member of the powerful Koch network supported by conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has launched a digital advertising campaign supporting Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota for her co-sponsorship of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protect Act.”
“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.”
The Kochs have sent a message that Republicans cannot take their support — or their money — for granted. Heitkamp’s Republican opponent in North Dakota has been shocked and dismayed that the Kochs seem to be helping the Democrat in that key senate race.
Despite Republicans being in charge of Congress, some of the Koch’s most important legislative goals have not been achieved, including free trade, immigration reform, and reduced government spending. This has led to growing frustration with the GOP and as a result the libertarian power brokers are now searching for support in both parties.
In Virginia, Stewart campaigned as a Trump supporter, and this seems to have served him well in the primary. He has been very vocal about his anti-immigration views and his support for the president’s policies. But the Koch network and AFP have been seeking permanent protection for the 700,000 “dreamers,” who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
AFP in Virginia said they will not be involved in any way in the Senate campaign in the state this November. “We will continue to stand with those who support policies that will enable people to improve their lives and communities,” the group said in a statement.
Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is expected to win reelection, and his odds of winning went up after Stewart’s primary victory. Without support from the Kochs, as well as from many moderate Republicans, Stewart is looking more and more like a long-shot.
AFP’s announcement about remaining neutral in Virginia could have repercussions throughout the country and could affect GOP efforts to remain in control of Congress. Since most Republicans now support President Trump‘s positions on immigration reform, DACA, and tariffs they are increasing at odds with the Koch Brothers. These Republican candidates may find that by staying loyal to the president they have given up money and support from AFP and the Koch network. And in close elections, even small amounts of money and support can make a big difference.