PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — At a reception to launch the first large libertarian donor meeting since President Donald Trump was elected, billionaire philanthropist Charles Koch warned the crowd not to be satisfied with their victories– “we might not have an opportunity again like we have today.”
“On the political front, our main efforts in the last election [were] to support eight principled candidates for the U.S. Senate,” Koch told a large crowd of people who had donated at least $100,000 to the Seminar Network. Those candidates were Reps. Todd Young and Joe Heck, as well as Sens. Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Roy Blunt and Richard Burr. Only Heck, of Nevada, was defeated. None of the seven victorious senators are slated to be in attendance at this weekend’s Seminar Network meeting in the temperate desert outside of Los Angeles. With 550 donors in attendance, Seminar Network spokesman James Davis told reporters it was the biggest donor meeting the group had hosted.
Held twice a year, the seminars are a gathering place for a group of wealthy donors interested in libertarian causes. In the 2015-2016 cycle, the network spent $250 million on advertising and advocacy for limited-government politicians — namely, Republicans — running for the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and smaller races, but notably stayed out of the presidential primaries and race. They also scaled back their initial spending projections. (RELATED: As Trump Presidency Dawns, Kochs Plan To Bring Hundreds Of Millions To Bear On Next Two Years)
Thanking the donors and gathered staff for their help in promoting these candidates, hundreds of other races, and efforts in education, community and public policy, Koch said, “This gives us an unprecedented opportunity to truly start to unite this country to create a brighter future for everyone, because that’s what we’re after.” (RELATED: As Trump Presidency Dawns, Kochs Plan To Bring Hundreds Of Millions To Bear On Next Two Years)
“But this isn’t going to happen if we rest on our laurels, if we say, ‘Now we’ve got it made,'” he added later. “We haven’t got it made– we now have a chance.”
“Use this as an opportunity to help us really move forward in advancing the country toward a brighter future now while the opportunity is available, because we might not have an opportunity again like we have today.”
Explaining what would be necessary to make advances, Koch said, “It takes moving away from this system of control, dependency and cronyism that is pitting individuals and groups against each other and destroying opportunity and progress in this country.”
And after scaling back early projections on their spending during the last two-year cycle, the Seminar Network intends to ramp up spending on work to build grassroots networks and impact U.S. policy. That spending is expected to rise to an estimated $300-400 million in the 2017-2018 cycle.
Called “A Time to Lead,” the meeting is hosted at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa, and is focused on local, grassroots initiatives Americans can take in what Hooks called “the key institutions of society”– “education, community, business and government.” The network is co-chaired by Hooks and Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries.
Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Pat Toomey and James Lankford are scheduled to speak at a dinner for donors after Saturday night’s reception. Sens. Ben Sasse and David Perdue will also be attending the conference. Other elected officials scheduled to attend are Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Marsha Blackburn, Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner of Illinois, and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. All elected officials in attendance are Republicans.
Editor’s Note: Christopher Bedford was a fellow at the Charles Koch Institute in 2010.