The network of groups led by Charles Koch is launching four new PACs and the political arm of the network is preparing to engage in primary elections to support candidates in any party who support their free market principles.
In a letter to donors, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) CEO Emily Seidel said the new PACs will go live in the coming weeks with a focus on immigration reform, free trade, economic opportunity and free expression.
AFP has traditionally backed Republican candidates, but Seidel said the group will also support Democrats and independent candidates in 2020 if they share the same goals and values as the Koch network.
“[AFP will] support the primary election of lawmakers, regardless of political party, who stick their necks out to lead diverse policy coalitions,” Seidel writes.
“The threat of being primaried prevents policymakers from leading on difficult issues and driving principled policy reforms. AFP or AFP Action will be ready to engage contested U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and state-level primary races, including Republican, Democrat, Independent or otherwise, to support sitting legislators who lead by uniting with others to pass principled policy and get good things done.”
AFP has not said how much it plans to spend in 2020, although they have no plans to be directly involved in the presidential race. The sprawling network of libertarian-minded donors, philanthropists and activists spent $400 million on politics and policy during the 2018 election cycle.
In the letter, Seidel said AFP would “bring our full capabilities to bear” in favor of the 2020 candidates they support through digital and TV advertising, nationwide phone calls, door knocking and donor support from their grass-roots allies.
Seidel said AFP would announce the candidates it plans to back in the coming weeks, likely at the network’s summer seminar, which usually takes place in July.
The new efforts come as the Koch network retools its efforts amid frustration with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE and what many officials viewed as a lost opportunity when Republicans were in full control of Congress during the first two years of his presidency.
Koch officials disagree with the president’s use of tariffs to negotiate new trade deals and say they’re frustrated by what they view as reckless federal spending under the GOP’s watch. They were also disappointed that Republicans did not follow through on their promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
The turning point for the network was a $1.3 trillion spending package Congress passed in 2017 and Trump signed into law.
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In 2018, AFP ran ads against more than a dozen House and Senate Republicans for supporting the spending package, including several who would go on to lose tough elections.
The network also ran ads thanking Democrats who worked with them on criminal justice reform or so-called right to try experimental drug laws.
The Koch network has registered several victories in the age of Trump, including on criminal justice reform and veterans health care, both of which were top priorities and came after intensive lobbying and spending campaigns.
But they’re frustrated by Congress’s inaction on immigration and seeking Democratic allies on legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and one of their top legislative priorities.
Top officials have also been angered by Trump’s rhetoric and what they view as corrosive discourse in Washington that has led to gridlock.
Seidel told donors the network would refuse to back candidates it views as poisonous to the political process.
“AFP and AFP Action’s advocacy efforts will lead with a positive vision and focus on the issues,” Seidel said.
“Going forward, we will expect the same of candidates we support politically. Addressing complex issues requires working with people who hold different points of view. If candidates engage in personal, ad hominem attacks and other divisive tactics during their election, it makes it difficult for them to work productively with others after the election.”