WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2016 – The decision by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch not to donate to Donald Trump shows the continued battle Trump faces in winning over key donors. Although Trump has succeeded in mending at least some of the internal strife in the GOP, the financing deficit remains a serious issue for the Republican nominee.
Conservative donors Charles and David Koch announced during their annual weekend retreat with top donors and supporters that they will not donate to the Trump campaign and encouraged their donors to follow their lead. Their attorney, Tim Busch, released a statement explaining the decision, saying “They (Koch Brothers) have been at this for 50 years. It’s a crisis today and it’s going to be a crisis in four years. If they did (contribute to Trump) they would compromise their values and they would never be able to hold any politician accountable.”
Charles and David Koch have made large financial contributions to libertarian and conservative think-tanks and campaigns in the past. Through 2010, the have donated more than $100 million to free-market organizations, and they spent $400 million on the 2012 election. The Koch donor network includes more than a thousand employees in 38 states. Moreover, the Koch brothers are often seen as thought leaders in the libertarian and conservative world, whose aggressive support for candidates has won both positive and negative press coverage.
The decision was lauded by some, but criticized by others. Many say that failure to back Trump essentially favors Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom they see as an unpalatable choice.
Instead of helping conservatives win the White House, the Koch brothers have decided to help the GOP win Senate races in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Several top Republicans will receive money, including Paul Ryan, Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Mike Coffman. The Koch brothers’ network has a budget of nearly $750 million for 2016.
In response to the Koch’s decision, Donald Trump fired back, claiming he turned them down.
I turned down a meeting with Charles and David Koch. Much better for them to meet with the puppets of politics, they will do much better!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2016
The decision appears to stem from differences between Trump and the Koch brothers on several issues. For example, the Koch brothers support expanded immigration and cuts in federal spending. Charles Koch compared Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from entering the country to something Nazi Germany would do.
Despite the differences, Trump would have benefited from a cash influx from the Koch’s. Donald Trump loaned more than $1 million to his presidential campaign and raised another $100,000, keeping his promise of self-financing his campaign during the primaries. However, with the shift to the general election, Trump has looked for help. He so far has raised $91.4 million through June, according to OpenSecrets, with 97 percent coming from donations and only 3 percent coming from PACs or other groups. In comparison, Hillary Clinton raised $374.4 million in the same period, with 71 percent coming from donations and 29 percent from PACs and other groups.
While Trump continues to attempt to mend differences in the party, moves like the non-endorsement from the Koch brothers raise questions about whether the GOP can unify before November. Without significant financial backing, Trump faces an uphill battle in a divisive — and expensive — general election campaign.
A divided party risks handing the election to Hillary Clinton, an outcome neither Trump nor the Kochs would embrace.