Charles Koch And Allies Lay Out Plan For 2019 Spending

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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Fresh off December’s win on criminal justice reform, Charles Koch’s influential Seminar Network of donors intends to double down on poverty-tackling measures, devote resources to education, support legislation backing “Dreamers,” and continue its long focus on deregulation and doing away with red tape, according to an internal Jan. 2 donor memo first reported by Time and confirmed by The Daily Caller.

In addition to maintaining the traditional array of Seminar Network goals, the memo states the network will once again wade into politics, including primaries, identifying candidate and using PACs to push issue campaigns.
(RELATED: Deion Sanders Is On The Same Team As Charles Koch)

The agenda fits in with the planned trajectory of the network, which for several years has stressed justice, regulatory and immigration reform; education; opportunity; and targeted political spending. The memo also confirms the long-expected decision to not spend on the massive 2020 presidential race, instead focusing on the House, Senate and “key state races”– places, the memo says, their money “can have an outsized impact.” (RELATED: Kochs Slam GOP: ‘This Network Will No Longer Follow Anyone’s Lead Or Be Taken For Granted’)

Founded in 2003 by billionaire libertarian industrialist Charles Koch, the Seminar Network has a long history of working in non-partisan, social-change areas but is made up of largely center-right, conservative and Republican donors. In 2018, they scored a surprise victory with the House and Senate passing, and the president signing, The FIRST STEP Act. The law, which tackles justice reform, was broadly supported by an alliance of left-wing activist and commentator Van Jones, the president’s son in law, Jared Kushner, and Mark Holden, a longtime leader in the Koch network. (RELATED: What Washington And The Media Still Get So Wrong About The Kochs)

The diverse coalition that backed FIRST STEP “is the blueprint for how we’ll achieve other critical public policy priorities in 2019 and 2020,” the memo reads, “despite a divided and increasingly polarized political landscape.”

The decision to continue to back legislation to legalize “Dreamers”– illegal immigrants brought to the United States by their parents while still children– could potentially fray the partnership with the White House that formed around criminal justice reform and, the year before that, tax reform. Congressional GOP leaders, however, have previously proposed “Dreamer” reform as on the table in a broader deal on immigration. A deal in 2019 would require likely-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s support, however, severely decreasing the chance it would include the kind of trade-offs President Donald Trump and his immigration hawk allies would require.

“We are making significant investments to unite the country and address critical issues that will help people improve their lives,” Koch Network spokesman James Davis told Time. “This starts with a major new initiative to fight poverty in America, and following on the success of the First Step Act in December continuing to build broad-based policy coalitions on issues from education reform to immigration.”

The Seminar Network’s next annual winter meeting is planned for later this month, and will gather staff, donors and reporters to raise funds, assess past initiatives and chart new ones.

Editor’s note: Christopher Bedford is editor in chief of The Daily Caller News Foundation, a non-profit that does investigative reporting and trains journalists. It is supported by donors, including individuals, corporations and non-profits, and including The Charles G. Koch Institute and The Charles G. Koch Foundation. From 2010-2011, Bedford was an associate at the Charles Koch Foundation, where he spent a year studying economics, philosophy and business management.  

Follow Bedford on Twitter