INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Charles and David Koch have their eyes locked in on making 2018 the year that kicks their libertarian initiatives into high-gear, pledging to spend 60 percent more in the 2018 mid-term election cycle on politics and policy than they did in the 2016 election cycle.
The Renaissance Indian Wells Resort And Spa — a luxury getaway tucked away in the desert of California — is the setting for the 2018 Koch-affiliated Seminar Network, where the billionaire brothers have brought together over 550 men and women who donated at least $100,000 to discuss the network’s path forward, not only for 2018, but for the foreseeable future.
“This network is going to have the largest investment we’ve ever had in a mid-term election. 60 percent bigger than what we spent in the 2016 presidential election on politics and policy,” Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, told reporters Saturday.
The network — which includes nearly 100,000 donors nationwide and grassroots organizations operating in 36 states — originally announced at the 2016 conference in Palm Springs that it would spend between $300 and $400 million during the 2017-2018 cycle.
The network has expanded those goals to spending towards the higher end of the $400 million figure in the 2018 cycle, a figure that is slightly above the total amount the Republican Party has raised going into the midterms, Phillips said Saturday.
The uptick in spending comes from the network’s chief — Charles Koch.
Koch told donors and members of the media Saturday evening exactly what he recently told those within his organization: we need to “grow our order and magnitude ten-fold.” A number of Koch spokesman mentioned the billionaire’s decree throughout the weekend and noted that Koch, a man who grew his father’s refinery business into one of the second-largest privately held company in North America, means what he says.
Koch’s order comes from the immense progress he feels the network has made in just the past half-decade and its unique opportunity to continue making progress in 2018 and beyond.
“This network has accomplished more in the past 5 years than I have been able to do in 50,” Koch said Saturday.
The network spent much of the weekend touting the various successes that the White House and Congress secured in 2017, like signing comprehensive tax reform into law, the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and a number of Senate-confirmed judicial nominees.
Republican’s tax reform bill will remain a key priority for the Koch network in 2018. The network plans to spend $20 million — the same amount the network spent during the tax reform push — selling the benefits the bill will provide American households and individual income earners.
Some goals were realized in 2017, however, the network plans to continue pushing not only for candidates but also for policies, like criminal justice, education and regulatory reform, that the network is throwing its weight behind.
The Koch’s vision for the weekend is “Breaking Barriers,” a theme meant to encapsulate the idea that societal, man-made barriers inhibit people from realizing their dreams and those barriers need to be broken to ensure a freer, more prosperous society.
“Vision of our network is to remove barriers that are standing in the way of letting people realize their potential,” Brian Hooks, president of the Charles Koch Institute and Charles Koch Foundation, told reporters Saturday. “We are aiming towards a society of mutual benefit, where people are able to succeed by helping other people to succeed.”
What breaking down barriers will look like is an initiative that spreads the gamut from business, education, prison and criminal justice reform, and nearly every public policy realm imaginable.
Koch likes to describe barriers, much like he did in Colorado in June, as both “internal and external” barriers. He breaks it down to the individual level.
Breaking barriers “starts by developing capabilities that will create values for others and then applying the to the best opportunities for their capabilities,” Koch said Sunday afternoon. “Then continually improving and adding to those capabilities, which then opens more opportunities in a never-ending cycle of improvement and growth.”
As Koch put it in June 2017, “We have to help them make that belief a reality. We have to help them attain a valued skill that people are going to compensate for … This is the path to success for everyone I’ve ever known or ever heard about.”
From that point, Koch believes people can become “social entrepreneurs,” or people who use their skills to improve not only their own lives but helping others to do the same.
“We all need to be fully committed to a society in which every body has the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. That is what we are all about,” Koch said Sunday.
Editor’s Note: Robert Donachie was a Charles Koch Institute Associate in 2016.
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