The political network founded by Republican billionaire megadonor brothers Charles Koch and the late David Koch endorsed Nikki Haley on Tuesday for the Republican primary, the latest snub in the Koch network’s ongoing (and so far fruitless) campaign against Donald Trump.
Americans for Prosperity Action, the Koch network’s advocacy arm, sent out a memo to conservative grassroots activists announcing its endorsement, as well as a coming multimillion-dollar campaign for pro-Haley online and television ads.
“When we announced our decision to engage in our first ever Republican presidential primary, we made it clear that we’d be looking for a candidate who can turn the page on our political dysfunction—and win. It’s clear that candidate is Nikki Haley,” AFP Action senior adviser Emily Seidel said in a statement.
The Koch network has spent the past year steadily ramping up its strident rejection of Trump. Just Monday, AFP Action sent out leaflets urging voters to “stop Biden by letting go of Trump.”
The network’s efforts to keep Trump from winning another presidential nomination kicked off in earnest back in February, when AFP Action sent out a memo stating that the group wanted to help the U.S. “move on” from Trump. The Koch network launched a wave of anti-Trump digital ads in June, arguing that “Trump can’t win.”
That same month, the Koch network revealed it had already raised more than $70 million to donate to non-Trump political races. Koch Industries and Stand Together each donated $25 million, for a combined $50 million of the total funds raised. David Koch died in 2019, but Charles Koch is a major shareholder in Koch Industries, and he founded the nonprofit Stand Together.
The Koch network is one of the most influential conservative political groups, and yet its efforts to stop Trump have been foiled at every turn. In the months since the Koch network proclaimed that Trump “can’t win,” the former president has established himself as the Republican primary front-runner—by a massive margin. National polls show him with an average of 61.6 percent support. Haley has climbed steadily in recent months, but she’s still sitting in third place with a nationwide average of just 9.8 percent support.
It’s also unclear exactly why the Koch network dislikes Trump so much. While in office, he successfully carried out moves long sought by the organization, including the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, a single-minded strategy of deregulation to strengthen the hand of private businesses, and tipping the Supreme Court conservative—with a majority that’s proven to be well inclined to favor the interests of big business and the decimation of the administrative state.
Whether or not there is a difference of opinion beyond mere aesthetics, it seems the animosity is mutual. Trump said in 2018 that he never sought the Koch network’s backing because “I don’t need their money or bad ideas.” In September, he once again dismissed the Koch network, calling Charles Koch “highly overrated.”
“Very stupid, awkward, and highly overrated Globalist Charles Koch of the Koch Network doesn’t have a clue,” Trump said on Truth Social. “He said his best years were the four years during the Trump Administration, and now his people are aimlessly throwing away other people’s money.”