‘Kochtopus’ Coachella 2015 this weekend for billionaires looking to buy a GOP candidate

There are many reasons to despise POLITICO Tiger Beat on the Potomac, and this is yet another one. Politico’s Mike Allen To Emcee Koch Bros. Q&A With 2016 GOPers:

Politico’s chief White House correspondent Mike Allen has been booked to emcee part of an event set up by a group funded by the Koch brothers designed to connect Republican presidential candidates with wealthy donors, according to Politico.

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At the annual Freedom Partners conference, the candidates will appear in individual Q&A sessions, which will be moderated by Allen and streamed online to media outlets, according to Politico.

So what does Tiger Beat on the Potomac have to say about its exclusive gig, “Coachella 2015” for “Kochtopus” candidates, GOP Presidential Hopefuls Coming to Private Coachella Valley Event, themed “Unleashing A Free Society: Expanding Opportunity for All Americans,” moderated by Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen? Koch brothers summon Bush, Cruz, Walker, Rubio to SoCal confab:

KochClownsFour leading GOP presidential candidates – Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – are traveling to a Southern California luxury hotel in coming days to make their cases directly to the Koch brothers and hundreds of other wealthy conservatives planning to spend close to $1 billion in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The gathering – which also will include former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, but notably not Sen. Rand Paul — is hosted by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the umbrella group in the Kochs’ increasingly influential network of political and public policy outfits. It represents a major opportunity for the candidates at a pivotal moment in the presidential primary.

The crowded field of GOP “Kochtopus” contenders is competing aggressively for the support of uncommitted mega-donors as the campaign hurtles towards its first debates in what’s expected to be a long and costly battle for the Republican nomination.

coachellaFreedom Partners’ annual summer conference is set for August 1 through August 3, and is expected to draw 450 of the biggest financiers of the right for sessions about the fiscally conservative policies and politics that animate the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and many of the donors in their network. Most have the capability to write seven- or even eight-figure checks to the super PACs fueling the GOP presidential primary, and a significant proportion have yet to settle on a 2016 choice, or are considering supporting multiple candidates. That includes Charles and David Koch, as well as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and hedge fund billionaires Paul Singer, both of whom will be represented at the conference by advisers, and a number of other attendees of past conferences whose 2016 leanings are being closely watched.

The Koch operation is not expected to formally back any candidate in the GOP primary. But the Koch brothers and many of their donors can still play kingmaker roles. In addition to the massive checks many are expected to write to the super PACs aligned with specific candidates, they also serve as bellwethers for other donors.

The confirmed candidate attendees will get plenty of chances to win over donors, and also to lay the groundwork for the first GOP debate on August 6.

In addition to meetings with donors on the conference sidelines, the candidates will appear separately on-stage in individual question-and-answer sessions moderated by POLITICO’s Mike Allen.

The sessions are the second installment this year of Freedom Partners’ Policy Leader Forum series. Like the first forum – which took place in January and featured Sens. Cruz of Texas, Paul of Kentucky and Rubio of Florida – next month’s session will be streamed online to media outlets. And, in another dramatic step towards transparency for a network that has had a reputation for secrecy, Freedom Partners plans to invite some reporters into next month’s gathering to cover the forum and other sessions.

I’m guessing this will be the fawning reporters from Tiger Beat on the Potomac and likely FAUX News.

Freedom Partners extended an invitation to Rand Paul for its upcoming conference. He did not commit, surprising some in the Koch network and even some of his own supporters.

Paul has not ruled out an appearance, said his campaign spokesman Sergio Gor. But he added “it will be difficult due to trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first GOP debate in Cleveland and the U.S. Senate being in session all during the same week.”

Gor suggested that Paul’s relationship with the Kochs and some of their top donors transcends the seminars. Paul “regularly works with both Charles and David Koch directly,” Gor said. He cited his boss’s support from active Koch network donors, including New Jersey businesswoman Frayda Levin, and he pointed out that Paul participates in events with Koch-backed groups, including Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America, which is hosting an event featuring Paul in South Carolina this week.

Levin, who has donated to a pro-Paul super PAC called Concerned American Voters, said Paul has cultivated relationships with non-traditional Republican donors, including in Silicon Valley, but also has plenty of support among the network’s donors.

“He’s definitely still courting the network,” she said, adding many of its donors “haven’t even made a decision.” If donors at the seminar ask about Paul, Levin, who is the chair of AFP, said she would happily make the case about how he could win the nomination and the White House. But she added “I am not going to proselytize because I feel I have to maintain neutrality as the chair of AFP.”

And another Paul supporter suggested skipping the seminar would be a mistake. “I don’t understand their reasoning here.”

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Freedom Partners extended an invitation to Paul for its upcoming conference. He did not commit, surprising some in the Koch network and even some of his own supporters.

Paul has not ruled out an appearance, said his campaign spokesman Sergio Gor. But he added “it will be difficult due to trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first GOP debate in Cleveland and the U.S. Senate being in session all during the same week.”

Gor suggested that Paul’s relationship with the Kochs and some of their top donors transcends the seminars. Paul “regularly works with both Charles and David Koch directly,” Gor said. He cited his boss’s support from active Koch network donors, including New Jersey businesswoman Frayda Levin, and he pointed out that Paul participates in events with Koch-backed groups, including Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America, which is hosting an event featuring Paul in South Carolina this week.

Levin, who has donated to a pro-Paul super PAC called Concerned American Voters, said Paul has cultivated relationships with non-traditional Republican donors, including in Silicon Valley, but also has plenty of support among the network’s donors.

“He’s definitely still courting the network,” she said, adding many of its donors “haven’t even made a decision.” If donors at the seminar ask about Paul, Levin, who is the chair of AFP, said she would happily make the case about how he could win the nomination and the White House. But she added “I am not going to proselytize because I feel I have to maintain neutrality as the chair of AFP.”

And another Paul supporter suggested skipping the seminar would be a mistake. “I don’t understand their reasoning here.”

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By all accounts, the Koch brothers are still considering providing financial support to Paul, as well as the four rivals attending the seminar. There’s a possibility that the brothers might donate to more than one of those candidates, Charles Koch suggested in April.

But, while the Koch operation intends to spend nearly $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 election, it’s considered increasingly unlikely that it will formally align behind a GOP presidential contender in the primary, owing partly to the divided loyalties of its member donors.

“The Kochs are really careful not to impose their preferences on the seminar, except when it comes to free markets,” said Levin. “So, when it comes to the specific presidential choices, our role is more about giving people exposure to the candidates. We know we can come together when there is a nominee.”

To be sure, certain candidates who have constituencies in the GOP base are nonetheless seen as fundamentally bad fits with the brothers’ brand of free-enterprise conservatism, which focuses on reducing government spending and regulation, while mostly avoiding fights over social and foreign policy issues. It’s notable, for instance, that invitations did not go to current field leader Donald Trump, or the winners of the past two Iowa caucuses – former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Yet even some of the candidates who were not invited to Freedom Partners’ seminar have support among Koch network donors.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in particular, clashed bitterly with a donor at a 2013 seminar over his support for a Medicaid expansion for hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans, which he’s suggested was driven partly by his Christian faith.

Kasich has complained to associates about his exclusion from the upcoming seminar and other network events, according to sources familiar with his gripes. They say he’s argued that he has a long record of fiscally conservative governance aside from the Medicaid decision, which was opposed bitterly by Koch-backed groups.

While Freedom Partners and other Koch-backed groups have moved increasingly into electoral politics, the network still focuses primarily on policy advocacy and research.

Of the $889 million in planned spending, Charles Koch has indicated that only about one third will go to direct spending in state and federal elections ? a sum that comes nonetheless comes close to rivaling the $404 million spent by the Republican National Committee during the 2012 cycle.

Much of the remainder will go toward a variety of groups not engaged in electoral politics — from universities to think tanks to public policy advocacy outfits. It’s all part of a long-term plan to fundamentally shift American politics and government to the right on fiscal issues.

My apologies to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — you guys rock!

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