The deep-pocketed network associated with billionaire Charles Koch is preparing to throw its money and weight behind a single Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential primary – in a move that could significantly reshape the GOP field.
Americans for Prosperity Action, the main political arm of the Koch network, “is prepared to support a candidate in the Republican presidential primary who can lead our country forward, and who can win,” Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity and a top adviser at AFP Action, wrote in a memo released Sunday.
The memo does not mention Donald Trump, but an official with AFP Action confirmed to CNN that the network is not planning to support the former president’s White House bid.
“To write a new chapter for our county, we need to turn the page on the past,” Seidel wrote to AFP’s staff and activists. “So the best thing for the country would be to have a president in 2025 who represents a new chapter.”
The Koch decision to engage in the GOP primary – after sitting on the sidelines for the two most recent White House nomination fights – is likely to set off a scramble among Republican presidential contenders to win over the Kansas-based industrialist and the hundreds of wealthy donors who help finance his influential, free-market network.
During his White House tenure, Trump, often sparred with Koch officials, who sharply criticized his administration’s trade and hard-line immigration policies.
AFP Action has not announced a budget for its 2024 political activity, but the network has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in previous election cycles, rivaling the financial reach of the Republican National Committee. Americans for Prosperity has permanent staff in 36 states and touts millions of grassroots activists across the country.
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Its political wing also plans to engage earlier and more aggressively in congressional and state-level primaries, both to influence more contests and to find new voters to participate in primaries, AFP Action officials said.
Seidel said the network was stepping up its activity to help address “the broken politics” that he said had created a “toxic situation” in the nation’s capital and blocked policy progress.
“The Republican Party is nominating bad candidates who are advocating for things that go against core American principles,” Seidel wrote. “And the American people are rejecting them.”
And she cast Democrats as pushing “more and more extreme policies.”
Several Republicans weighing 2024 bids have longstanding ties to Koch world, including former Vice President Mike Pence. Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff and longtime aide, once oversaw political operations at the Koch network.
Another potential contender, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, had the financial backing of Koch political committees when he represented Wichita – where Koch Industries is headquartered – as a congressman. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is expected to announce her bid for the Republican nomination later this month, has attended at least one Koch donor conclave. And a Koch-backed super PAC supported Ron DeSantis before he won a competitive GOP primary in 2018 on his way to becoming governor.
The libertarian-leaning network has engaged in a public reset of its priorities in recent years and worked to distance itself from the Republican brand during the Trump era.
But the network did back some Trump-led efforts, spending heavily, for instance, to promote his $1.5 trillion tax code overhaul in 2017 – despite clashing with the then-president and the RNC on other political and policy matters.
In one sign of the network’s reach, Seidel noted that AFP and AFP Action participated in more than 450 races in the last year’s midterms, knocked on more than 7 million doors and sent out more than 100 million mail pieces.