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The political machine of Koch Brothers prepares for change



Mark Holden gave a short, three-word answer in a brief conversation between meetings with super-rich donors in the Rocky Mountains, describing how the network of interest groups founded by the Koch Brothers is changing.

More. Better. Faster, "said former Worcester, Massachusetts, who declared Charles Koch to be Chief Enforcer for Charles Koch, businesslike.

Holden, 55, discussed an internal audit of the operations of the groups involving his 40-year-old The Old Retreat Co Chair, in a more technocratic language, is described as part of a "continuous transformation," but his words also refer to the general direction in which leaders hope to direct donors' ambitious networks over the coming months and years Libertarian lobbying and philanthropy created by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch prepares for a future in which they will play less of a central role and perhaps also target their brand of reliable republican-friendly politics, if not the exits, David Koch, 78, is weak and ready s retired, while the 82-year-old Charles fights rumors about his own output.

The emerging change was subtly apparent during the three-day conference. In one session, the slides were rewritten on four gigantic broadcast screens in a ballroom with the "Koch Brothers" to say "The Koch Network." Charles Koch started the weekend with a glittering denial, to "just calm down" looked like I was getting weaker, I'm not getting weak in my knees. "Annie Koch, the wife of potential heir, Chase Koch, informed the donors about her work at a private, out-of-the-box school in Wichita, Kansas, and helpers insisted that the machine the older cook put together The discussion is driven by several major shifts: the more liberal attitude of the new generation of voters, the continued rise of unrestrained voters, and the break with the Trump administration on issues such as immigration and trade policy To win battles on their libertarian agenda, some think that the group may now have to go beyond working with the Republican Party.

Charles Koch told a group of reporters that he could work with Democrats in Congress should they prevail The Autumn Elections

"I do not care what initials are before or after someone's name," he said The approach would have been hereditary two years ago when this group had accepted Republican candidates for auditions.

However, doubts remain about how much the groups can and will change. After 1

5 years as the biggest enemy of the Democrats and as one of the best attacking dogs of the GOP, the reputation of the cooking network is set in stone. In a polarized political environment, it can be difficult to restore that image.

But there was a temptation that was enforced at a high level.

"The divisions in our country are rapidly becoming conflicts and conflicts in the destructive factionalism," said Brian Hooks, co-chair of the seminar network that brought these twice-yearly confabs together, in a ballroom on Sunday.

A day earlier, Hooks had been trialing with Holden to reporters about the group's thinking. Hooks is a partner, part-policy strategist and sub-management consultant, and shares Charles Koch's obsession with auditing even things that are working to see if they can be improved, even if they're watching the White House with caution.

which people involve public policy matters. It is far beyond sound, far beyond tactics. The splitting up of this White House causes long-term damage, if you have to win on one topic, someone else has to lose, "said Hooks." It makes it very difficult to unite people to solve the country's problems. … It is necessary for someone to stand up and show people that it is possible to achieve things by bringing people together and bringing people together instead of sharing them.

Around 500 contributors to the Cook War chest crowded around the Broadmoor Resort for three days of brave discussions on higher education, immigration, social innovation, and economic policies, each spending a minimum of $ 100,000 apiece, many giving much more Federal suffrage does not have to disclose the identities of these donors, and as a condition of participation, TIME has agreed not to identify donors who do not want their names to be used.

Among the participants were 135 newcomers and 85 were part of their pipeline Nothing changes the dynamics of a group as much as the infusion of fresh blood.

The new lens, especially a deliberate rapprochement with the Republican Party, could be more than the first generation of these patrons, which Charles Koch tacitly acknowledges

"We are seeing an increase in protectionism, involving countries, organizations and individuals ersonen try to protect themselves from these changes, "Koch said. "They do everything they can to isolate themselves from the new, to hold on to the past and prevent change, which is a natural tendency, but it is a destructive one."

For years it has been easy: this cohort handing over literally hundreds of millions of dollars to make American elections like-minded politicians who will do their will. (And, to put it bluntly, there's a lot of evidence to trace this case.) The cookbook tab for 2018 could cost $ 400 million, including a $ 20 million campaign to reduce tax cuts But the deep network of donors was unenthusiastic of the Republican-controlled Washington that they had co-founded.

But the deep-rooted donors were not thrilled with the Republican-controlled Washington ,

Hooks acknowledged the contradiction and deep disappointment over the outcome. "We support the election of some of those people who have just voted for a $ 1.3 trillion state spending bill," said Hooks. "It drives you crazy … People take us for granted."

That's why politics may be irreversibly linked to the cooking network, but that's not the bulk of spending. So far, the groups are barely a blip on the screens. They work on the Senate races in Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee and Florida; the races for Governor in Michigan, Nevada and Florida. It is a remarkable retreat from the cards of previous election cycles in which they wanted to help the Republican candidate.

Then consider the education programs of the network. This year, donors working with Koch have sent $ 90 million to colleges and universities to fund research, professors, centers, and lecture series.

Donors also provide seed money for a recovery program that cooperates with CrossFit workouts (a surprise success that is growing rapidly), supporting anti-gang efforts in Texas led by former gang members and NFL stars (Slow Progress ) and follows the needs of the ex-cons in Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas (academic research is hard to judge)

"When we help another person, it not only helps them, it helps us and our self-worth," said Charles Koch.

On a small scale, the project that captured the imagination of many donors was a pop-up restaurant on the west side of a lake sharing this resort. This temporary outpost of the Dallas office was embodied as Café Momentum and embodies the apolitical efforts many see in the cooking network as its future and which reform the criminal justice system as its primary task.

The core of the staff of this non-profit restaurant? Young people recruited from the juvenile prison. 62% of employees were homeless at some point in their lives. For many of these young people, the trip to Broadmoor was the first time they were on a plane. Most of the staff serving reporters a smoked and roast chicken lunch on a bed of cabbage and mashed potatoes were minorities.

The project, funded by Koch Network donors, goes to the Texas youth population, offers internships and internships on mentoring and, as an additional tax bonus, reduces the relapse rate from 48% to 15%.

"History sells itself," said Terry Smith, former director of youth justice in Dallas, who approved the pilot project.

For Smith, the numbers do not hurt either. For example, their juvenile offenders cost $ 13 a day to manage in halfway programs like Café Momentum; Accommodation in physical prisons costs at least $ 125 per day and may cost up to $ 350 per day for inmates with special needs. Chef Chad Houser, founder of Café Momentum and Koch retreater, estimates that the program has saved $ 26 million in prison budgets, preventing young people, including others, from returning to prison.

and they did not feel that they were being used as political props.

"If I had not been in this program, I would have been very far from the track," said AB, a 16-year-old who asked that he is identified only by his initials. He was arrested at the age of 14 in a car raid and now spends his free time tossing crockery at Cafe Momentum. He plans to go to college and start a fashion line. He calls Houser "a father figure for me". He continues, "What's in the streets does not help us, the roads are doing nothing but taking from us."

So far, 86 groups like Café Momentum have been pulled into the Koch orbit. (Officials say 1,500 groups have applied.) Representatives of 16, who hummed along with Koch investments, were for recreational reasons to get more support. Officials say they have to start in advance about the source of support, the checks for as little as a few thousand dollars and management training. Groups, some of which are affiliated to churches, work in 45 states and officials estimate that the footprint hits 1 million people attending programs at various stages of intensity.

This stand-alone joint initiative had a budget of $ 8 million first year, 2016. The year later increased to $ 21 million. This year? It's $ 40 million, mostly donated by donors whose surnames are not cooks, such an official. His boss, Evan Feinberg, is one of the hardest coffee dates to land on these weekends.

This does not mean that politics or politics are well below the surface or that the cooking network is ready to withdraw completely from this front. After all, it's pretty good in this area and political spending could still have a 10: 1 advantage over groups like the Feinberg Fund. It's just less fun to watch Republicans turn their backs on you and waste an All-GOP Washington in an era of Trump. In terms of trade, protectionist tariffs and tone of voice, most of these donors are violent against what Trump offers.

"By the time Trump is gone, it will be hard to normalize the country again, and then it will come to an end, while he has actually damaged many of our institutions and just insulted everything, and there is much distrust," said Paul Jost A real estate manager sharing his time between Miami Beach and Washington, DC

Michael Shaughnessy, a business from the Cleveland area, noted the collapse of courtesy in front of Trump, but notes, "The whole division starts at the top and runs I do not know that he has done something to reduce that, people confuse him with a politician who can say nice things, even if he does not want to say nice things. "

While the big gains are tax cuts Make headlines – and give more money to network funds – the political machine has been quiet You fiddled with lesser-known initiatives.

Consider a measure called Right to Try, a suggestion that allows terminally ill patients to take unproven medicines. The measure was largely blocked in Congress, but in January, the Koch network reverted to the topic, working with patients and families to force lawmakers to relocate.

Matt Bellina, a naval officer with ALS, and his wife worked with the cooking team to hone the profile of the legislation. When the parliament decided to pass the legislation, two of the children of Bellinas, aged four and six, were in the house with their deputy, MP Brian Fitzpatrick.

"I have a real chance," says Bellina. "Now I can at least decide how I want to live."

(Critics say that the experiments would give patients false hopes and undermine the role of the Food and Drug Administration.) Like Caitlin Bellina, the term "false hope" is manifestly offensive. "Before the bill was passed, we had hope and now we have reality, it is concrete, "she says," when you are faced with a final diagnosis there is "hope" and there is "no hope." "false hope" does not sound true. ")

Bellina , who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, will begin an experimental treatment over the next few days and is received by a hero when the officials showed a mini-documentary about his story. The donors rose from their seats to recognize him – and many wanted to know immediately how they can find other victories.

But the big deeds – like a presidential campaign, namely – are not in prospect for many. Gone are the doubts that 2012 was a mistake to make Mitt Romney all-in. (It was with regard to this amount.) Questions about whether Donald Trump would prove to be an unreliable partner when it comes to speeding up regulatory policies are also largely conquered. (For every victory at the Environmental Protection Agency, there were a dozen stories about the dubious behavior of the out-of-favor director.) While these donors celebrate the tax-reduced package that sparked Congress, and the amount of private planes that came into town – disproportionately benefited are appalled by how Trump's administration is approaching immigration. (Last week, officials briefed Congress to warn that the games are getting thin and spending millions on it.)

That does not mean that Trump does not have his defenders in the ranks of those donors. Doug Deason, a Texas businessman whose family gave $ 1 million to pro-Trump groups in 2016 and regularly attends these cooking meetings, said the cooking network needs to reconsider its criticism of the president.

"You did not support him and he won," Deason said. "Everything you asked him was good and he won, and he will win, is there a lesson learned?"

Nevertheless, the party's tastes are declining. The most open political group under the Koch banner, Americans for Prosperity, has campaigned against Republicans who voted for Trump's spending bill, and for the lonely democrat who helped rewrite the Dodd-Frank bill. It caused some of the network's longtime patrons to relocate, but newcomers liked the moxie.

"If you're a Republican sitting in the committee that wrote the worst spending bill in our history and voted in favor," Damn right, we'll hold you to account, "said Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity, on Sunday, the donors who were greeted by applause in the room and some had guessed the hallways. "The fact that we are doing this in an election year shows that we are deadly serious. This network will no longer follow anyone or be taken for granted. A day later, Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, explained why his group had decided not to fight Social Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp to place a low-cost digital ad in which she thanked her for her vote Her rival, Rep. Kevin Cramer, is bad at core issues of cooking ideology, especially his support for the Export Import Bank. "If that were 2016 or 14, we would probably have easily gone ahead and got him [Phillips]

To put it bluntly, this crowd is still mostly conservative.The Wall Street Journal editorial site is their town square. Perhaps a handful of these donors have in protest against Hillary Clinton voted, but few have liked it.A frequent theme of her contempt is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one probable candidacy for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

Yet many of these donors have the same reaction to Fox's Sean Hannity as to Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Too shrill. Too partisan. Too extreme. Many of these wealthy industrial captains are exhausted by the political environment and desperate for a paradigm that rewards ideas about volume. "You can not mention the president's name without expecting a rebound, and I'm trying hard not to trigger these discourse issues," said John DeBlasio, a Chicago private equity manager. "The rhetoric has risen to a level that does not match the effect."

But even as these donors excited their interest in work on the other hand, it is impossible to ignore that they are still financing political ads that attack Democrats. In Wisconsin, Koch-backed groups have turned nearly $ 3 million into TV commercials to drive out Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Senator Claire McCaskill has cost nearly $ 2 million. In search of pressure on other Democrats this year, activists have knocked down nearly 3,500 doors in Indiana and called 171,000 Hoosiers to ask them to contact Senator Joe Donnelly to elect Trump's candidate for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh] While If these donors demonize politics, insist that the partisan obstacles can crumble and the country change, it is difficult to deny their power. After all, Americans for Prosperity cracked nearly 1 million doors in the first 20 days of Kavanaugh's nomination, running more than 2 million digital ads and making 20,000 calls. How they use their influence – and whether they can sustain it – remains the unknown. However, cooking officials announce the potential. "What Charles created 15 years ago has become a movement," Hooks said. "And like the moves ahead, it can motivate millions of people and help move our country forward."

Art Pope, a major donor and influential voice of North Carolina in this circle, had a slightly different idea about movements. "Movement does not mean that everyone is united on each topic," said Pope. "It means that they are going in the same direction on the horizon, they may vary different paths and their paths from time to time, but they are all still going in the same direction."

Disclosure: Time Inc., TIME's parent company, was founded by Meredith Corp. accepted. in a deal partially funded by Koch Equity Development, a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc.


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