Charles Koch: Koch Brothers May Back Several GOP Candidates In Primaries

Charles Koch in 2012 (Photo: Bo Rader, AP)
Charles Koch in 2012
(Photo: Bo Rader, AP)

Charles Koch said he is considering throwing his political might into the Republican presidential primary for the first time and is likely to provide financial help to several contenders before settling on a single candidate.

Koch, his brother David and their team have identified five candidates who have the right message and “a good chance of getting elected,” he told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview at Koch Industries’ headquarters. They are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

“Those are the ones we have talked to the most and who seem to be the possible leaders,” he said.

“What we’ve told them all is that right now, we’re not supporting anyone,” Koch said. “We’re telling them that if they want our support, one way to get it is articulating a good message to help Americans get a better understanding and a better appreciation of how certain policies … will benefit them and will benefit all America.”

The Kochs run Koch Industries, a multibillion-dollar privately held conglomerate with interests in the energy industry, as well as building supplies and other products. They have been active donors to Republican candidates, which has led to numerous attacks from Democratic politicians, such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and their supporters.

For the first time, Charles Koch also outlined what share of his network’s staggering $900 million, two-year budget would be devoted to politics. He said only a third of that amount — roughly $300 million — would be spent directly on electoral politics in 2016, including federal and state elections. He said there’s no breakdown of exactly how the political portion of the budget will be divided.

The $300 million would rival the almost $400 million the Republican National Committee raised and spent in the 2012 election cycle.

“A good part of the rest is education and research,” Koch said, ticking off university grants and other projects he is supporting, including an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

Koch repeatedly emphasized the importance of a candidate with a positive message.

“Only if somebody really stands out from the standpoint of their message and what they would actually do to benefit America and has a chance, a decent chance, of being elected, only then would we select one over the others,” Koch said.

Even then, Koch said there was no guarantee his network would back one candidate ahead of the 2016 general election.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Fredreka Schouten

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