War of the Roses: the ‘Kochtopus’ vs. the Party of Trump

Hopefully this family feud will end as badly for them as it did for Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner) in The War of The Roses (1989), with both sides destroying one another in the bitter end.

Maybe they can use one of the chandeliers at Mar-a-Lago, or the Trump Hotel in D.C.

The “Kochtopus” network and the Party of Trump fka the Republican Party apparently are feuding with one another after having enabled one another in 2016 in order to achieve their mutual goal of trickle down tax cuts for corporations and wealthy plutocrats. Now that they got what they both wanted, their annoyances with their differences are now coming to the fore.

Top officials with the “Kochtopus” donor network affiliated with billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch last weekend sought to distance the network from the Republican Party and President Trump, citing tariff and immigration policies and “divisive” rhetoric out of Washington. Koch group condemns ‘divisiveness’ and ‘lack of leadership’ in Washington:

At a gathering of hundreds of donors at the Broadmoor resort here, officials reiterated their plans to spend as much as $400 million on policy issues and political campaigns during the 2018 cycle. Earlier this year, they announced heavy spending aimed at helping Republicans to hold the Senate. But in a warning shot at Trump and the GOP, network co-chair Brian Hooks lamented “tremendous lack of leadership” in Trump’s Washington and the “deterioration of the core institutions of society.”

He called out the White House and Trump-allied GOP lawmakers, particularly over trade policy and increased federal spending, and added that “the divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage.”

[S]ome of Trump’s most controversial actions break sharply with the priorities of the libertarian-leaning network, which opposes Trump’s tariffs on foreign goods and his hard line on immigration, including the now-suspended zero-tolerance policy that saw hundreds of migrant families separated at the border.

And the criticism, coming just months before midterm elections in which the control of Congress hangs in the balance, was significant considering the enormous sway the Koch network has had over the years in helping the GOP gain and hold on to power.

At the three-day gathering, network leaders pointed to their recent ad campaigns thanking Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) for co-sponsoring legislation that rolled back Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and attacking Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) — the Trump-backed candidate for Senate against incumbent Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D) — for a vote to increase federal spending.

* * *

“I know this is uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable for me, too,” Emily Seidel, chief executive of the network’s political arm Americans for Prosperity, said in her Sunday briefing to donors. “The fact that we’re willing to do this during an election year shows everyone that we’re dead serious.”

“This network will no longer follow anyone’s lead or be taken for granted,” Seidel said, as donors applauded.

Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch extended an olive branch to Democrats during a weekend donor confab, saying Sunday that he wants to work with lawmakers regardless of party — so long as they work on issues he cares about — and admitting he has regrets about politicians his powerful network supported in the past. Charles Koch says he’d work with Democrats who share his values:

“I don’t care what initials are in front or after somebody’s name — I’d like there to be many more politicians who would embrace and have the courage to run on a platform” that embraces the values he espouses, Koch told reporters when asked how he would feel about Democrats flipping the House of Representatives.

* * *

Charles Koch said he has sometimes regretted his network’s financial support for Republican lawmakers in the past and will be more careful with how he spends money going forward.

As you might imagine, this did not sit well with our egomaniacal “Dear Leader” who does not accept any criticism. ‘A total joke’: Trump lashes out at Koch brothers after political network slams White House:

President Trump lashed out at the Koch brothers Tuesday, saying their conservative political funding and policy network has “become a total joke in real Republican circles” and is “highly overrated.”

“The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas.”

Trump asserted that the Kochs “love” some of his policies, including tax cuts and conservative picks for federal courts. But he said the Kochs were being driven by a desire to “protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed.”

“I’m for America First & the American Worker — a puppet for no one,” Trump said – except for Vladimir Putin. “Two nice guys with bad ideas. Make America Great Again!

Trump’s comments mark the first aggressive attack on the Koch network since the 2016 presidential campaign, when he criticized Koch-backed politicians as “puppets” and when the network pointedly declined to endorse him as the GOP presidential candidate.

Trump’s white nationalist Rasputin, Stephen Bannon, also attacked the “Kochtopus” network. Bannon to Kochs: ‘Shut up and get with the program’:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon tore into the powerful Koch political network Sunday, accusing it of undermining President Donald Trump ahead of a midterm election that threatens to derail his presidency.

“What they have to do is shut up and get with the program, OK?” Bannon said in an interview with POLITICO. “And here’s the program: Ground game to support Trump’s presidency and program, [and] victory on Nov. 6.”

An unquestioning cult of personality? Got it, you fascist.

“Charles Koch is a good man, but 100 days before an election that will determine the direction of the country is not the time to tell us that you are prepared to work with Democrats that support parts of your progressive agenda,” Bannon said.

Better yet, The RNC warns donors to steer clear of Kochs:

The Republican National Committee is sending a warning shot to major GOP donors not to play ball with the powerful Koch political network, escalating a fight between President Donald Trump’s allies and the Kochs.

“Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote in a memo to party contributors on Thursday afternoon. “This is unacceptable.”

In the memo, McDaniel notes that the RNC has long expressed concerns about the Koch network, which has developed its own data program for Republican candidates to use. The Koch data program rivaled the one that had been created by the RNC.

McDaniel also warns Republican candidates to steer clear of the Kochs. While some GOP contenders have chosen to use the Koch data program over the years, McDaniel argues that decision could come at a cost. If the Kochs decide to help Democrats going forward, she argues, that could include a future opponent.

Oh Noes! What is Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona to do? The RNC is telling him to forgo the “Kochtopus” dark money that he used to buy his way into office in 2014.

“From the beginning, the RNC had concerns about any outside entity building a data operation to compete with ours because we knew they could potentially weaponize that data against Republicans if their business interests conflicted with electing Republicans,” McDaniel writes. “Sadly, our concerns were recently proven true.”

McDaniel writes that the RNC, which stores and provides information for party contenders seeking a range of offices, “is the only entity which can be trusted with the data Republicans candidates need to win up and down the ballot.”

* * *

Michael Palmer, the president of the Koch data program i360, sought to reassure Republican candidates it works with. “We will continue to drive innovation to create superior value for our customers now and in the future,” he said.

The candidate from Koch, Doug Ducey, breathes a sigh of relief. Whew!

As part of its offensive, a senior party official said, the RNC would be reaching out to donors to make the case “that if you give to Koch you could be supporting a Democrat and risking GOP majorities.”

Sorry, but I’m not buying it. As much as I would love to see these evil organizations destroy one another in an epic final battle, I have to agree with Paul Waldman of The Post.  Don’t be fooled. The Koch brothers will stick by Trump.:

The Koch brothers (Charles’ brother David recently stepped down from their company and political work because of declining health) and the other mega-rich Republicans in their network do have a couple of sincere disagreements with the president. They advocate more open immigration policies and free trade, and, like many genteel Republicans, they plainly recoil at Trump’s combination of hate-mongering and buffoonishness. But they’re still going to put $400 million into helping Republicans hold on to Congress this year, which is the greatest favor they could do the president. And you can bet that come 2020, they’ll get over their reservations about Trump to amply fund his reelection effort as well.

They’ll do this not through the Trump campaign but through their own organizations, particularly Americans for Prosperity, which operates as the de facto political arm of the Kochs. According to the group’s tax returns (compiled by Guidestar), it spent a whopping $58 million in 2016 (that’s in addition to the $23 million spent by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation). Much of that went to grass-roots organizing, whose ostensible purpose is to convince Americans of the wisdom of free-market policies, but which in practice comes down mostly to convincing Americans to vote Republican.

You can bet they love the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda, but more than anything else, they love the tax cuts Republicans passed last year. While Koch Industries is a private company — so we don’t know very much about its particulars — one analysis estimated that Charles and David Koch, whose combined wealth is $120 billion, will gain between $1 billion and $1.4 billion every year from the tax cut. The Koch network says it spent $20 million promoting the bill, which turned out to be a pretty spectacular investment.

So why should they complain? One reason is that they’d like to make sure that all this stuff about tariffs doesn’t go to too many Republicans’ heads. In order to keep everyone in line, they’ve decided to make some mostly symbolic gestures toward supporting a Democrat here or there, like taking out a web ad thanking Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp for voting for a bill to deregulate banks.

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I’m sure that Charles Koch regards Trump as a vulgar halfwit, no matter how much money the president is shoveling into Koch’s pocket. But there may be something else going on as well. The Kochs became the most influential donors in America not only because they have more money than almost anyone, but also because they’re extremely shrewd about how they spend it.

* * *

Since they’re smart enough to worry about the long term, they may also look at Trump and see a strong possibility for a backlash that could threaten their interests. It’s entirely possible that two and a half years from now, there will be a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, ready and willing to aim their sights on the Kochs and other plutocrats. So they’ll do everything they can to forestall that possibility, even if they have some stern words for Trump along the way.

Greed for money and power are the ties that bind these plutocrats.

6 responses to “War of the Roses: the ‘Kochtopus’ vs. the Party of Trump

  1. Concerned Citizen

    Then there’s “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. Outstanding investigative journalism. http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-fob-jane-mayer-20170412-story.html

  2. Concerned Citizen

    Then there’s “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. She’s not fooled by the Koch bros. http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-fob-jane-mayer-20170412-story.html

  3. Michael Bryan

    I’m looking forward to reading MacLean’s book “Democracy in Chains” about the influence of Kochs and their pet philosopher/economist Buchanan.

  4. For Sure Not Tom

    I’m not a huge fan of Bill Maher, he’s smarmy and smarmy is annoying, and if there isn’t a female on Real Time the show becomes unwatchable for some weird reason.

    But last night he had Nancy MacLean on, an American historian from Duke University, and she was sounding the alarm about the Koch’s, saying they are far more dangerous to America than Trump.

    She’s been studying them for 10 years, and her main concern was that they play the long game, and the goal is to radically change the US Constitution.

    Including eliminating the 17th Amendment, making it easy to buy a Senator, and adding a balanced budget amendment, which is one of the stupidest ideas if you enjoy a robust economy and are looking forward to getting Social Security someday, but it’s great if you’re already a billionaire and want to become an American oligarch.

    Whatever comes from the Trumpihadis/Kochbots feud, never think the Koch’s are doing anything in anyone’s best interest, no matter what they say.

    The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy in this case.

  5. Great insight. Glad to find this oasis of blue in the waters of Arizona.