In his piece, Can the Koch Brothers Stop Trump?, published on the Vanity Fair website, Daniel Schulman, author of “Sons of Wichita,” a book about the Koch family, and an editor at Mother Jones magazine, explains Charles Koch’s response to Donald Trump’s success during the presidential campaign. Despite being one of the wealthiest people in the U.S., Koch recently expressed regret that he has not been able to exert more influence in American politics.
Both Charles Koch and his brother David Koch have been working to bring their libertarian views to the political process for decades. Earlier on, they tried to influence politics as outsiders, and in the 1980 election, David was the vice presidential candidate for the libertarian party. More recently, the Kochs have tried to make the Republican party more hospitable to libertarian views. To accomplish this, the Kochs built a network of donors who can be tapped to support appealing candidates.
After former Gov. Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid in 2012, the Kochs and their associates began planning their strategy for the 2016 election. The Kochs decided to withhold support until the general election because none of the hopefuls in the race shared all of the brothers’ views, and because none appeared to be a clear winner when the contest began last year. The Koch brothers invited several candidates to a meeting with their network, but they did not include Trump.
The positions that Trump has espoused on issues such as taxes, immigration and trade are opposite to those held by Charles Koch and he has been surprised by Trump’s popularity. If Trump wins in New Hampshire, Koch-funded groups may decide to come out against him, perhaps by emphasizing the tactics he has used to build his businesses. The Kochs are reluctant to do this because he has already suggested they have undue influence over the Republican party, and he is expected to repeat his claims if attacked.
The outcome of the Democratic primary race will also impact how the Koch brothers proceed. If Sen. Bernie Sanders is the nominee, the Kochs will support any Republican. Should former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton win the primary, the two have indicated that they many not back any candidate for the presidency.
Their efforts have helped give prominence to libertarian ideas, and they have inspired others to emulate their methods, but the Koch’s wealth may not be enough to secure a favorable outcome in November.