The conservative Koch network is planning to spend between 300 million and 400 million dollars to influence politics and public policy over the next two years.
The spending level marks an increase from the network's spending in the 2016 election, which was roughly 250 million dollars. Spokesperson James Davis says the network will be aggressive in promoting its goals and holding elected officials accountable as President Trump takes power. The rough spending plan is being disclosed as donors gather at a luxury hotel in Indian Wells, California, for the network's winter conference. Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch is hosting the event, which has attracted more than 550 donors, each willing to donate at least 100 thousand dollars each year to the various groups backed by the Koch brothers. Trump’s name was not mentioned by Charles Koch during his Saturday speech — or the four other speakers — at the welcome reception. The group’s primary benefactor ignored the new administration and noted instead that his network successfully helped preserve the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. Koch and many of his top donors refused to support Trump in the run-up to his election, raising questions about both his readiness for the job and his dedication to conservative principles. There were lingering signs of tensions as donors arrived on Saturday. The Kochs and their allies are particularly focused on re-shaping the federal health-care system and eliminating federal regulations — two priorities in alignment with the new president. They sharply oppose, however, efforts by the Trump administration to interfere with free trade. Charles and his brother David Koch have hosted such gatherings of donors and politicians for years, but usually in private. Organizers report this year’s attendees include five senators, three governors and two congressmen. All are Republicans. Several reporters, including one from the Associated Press, were invited to attend some of the forums. As a condition of attending, reporters were not permitted to identify any donors without their permission.