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Koch network gathers wealthy donors after 2020 Trump snub

The Associated Press
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FILE - In this photo May 22, 2012 file photo, Charles Koch speaks in his office at Koch Industries in Wichita, Kan. Hundreds of wealthy donors gathered by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch will be meeting this weekend of Jan. 26, 2019, for the first time since the influential conservative political network announced it won't spend any money on the 2020 presidential race. (Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle via AP, File)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Hundreds of wealthy donors gathered by the conservative billionaire industrialist Charles Koch are meeting this weekend for the first time since his powerful political network said it won’t support President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

It remains to be seen how much the Koch network’s biannual meeting will address Trump directly, but some donors have already publicly expressed disappointment about the divide in Republican circles.

The Koch network is planning to back races for the U.S. Senate and House and state legislative seats to make the greatest impact, spokesman James Davis said.

“We’ve found overwhelming support that reaffirms the strengths of our partnerships. This is borne out by the fact that we will welcome our largest group of supporters this weekend in Palm Springs,” Davis said in a statement.

Long seen as GOP kingmakers best known for their pro-business agenda, libertarian leanings and support for the tea party movement, David and Charles Koch have made waves by lambasting Trump and his administration.

They refused to back Trump during the 2016 election, vowed to hold him accountable to conservative priorities like free trade, free markets and small government and have been outspoken against the White House on immigration and infrastructure spending.

Trump in 2018 responded on Twitter by slamming the Kochs as “a total joke in real Republican circles” who “are against strong borders and powerful trade.”

But with Vice President Mike Pence as a longtime Koch ally, there have been inroads and policy wins. The Koch network was influential in the 2017 GOP tax overhaul and 2018 prison reform signed by Trump.

As one of the nation’s leading conservative powerhouses that has at times outspent even the Republican National Committee, the Koch network is increasingly showing its willingness to work with Democrats and investing in nonprofit groups to promote its vision for “free and open societies.”

The weekend confab caters to donors who have committed to giving at least $100,000 annually to the sprawling Koch network of political, policy, educational and philanthropic organizations.

It’s being held Saturday through Monday at a luxury resort just outside Palm Springs, California, and will feature seminars revealing the network’s latest work and agenda, as well as Charles Koch himself, elected officials and other influencers.

The Associated Press is among a limited number of media organizations invited to cover parts of the private retreat on the condition that donors must give their permission to be identified.