Fresh off spending $290 million on the 2014 midterm elections, multibillionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are rolling up their sleeves and getting ready for the 2016 presidential race.
In their annual three-day American Recovery Policy Forum gathering in Palm Springs, hundreds of conservative supporters gathered to hear Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio explain their positions as potential presidential candidates and to hear Charles Koch give his vision of the political future.
"Americans have taken an important step in slowing down the march toward collectivism," Charles Koch said, referring to last year's Republican takeover of Congress, Politico reported
"But as many of you know, we don't rest on our laurels. We are already back at work and hard at it. In fact, the work never really ends. Because the struggle for freedom never ends," Charles Koch added.
According to the Wesleyan Media Project
, Koch-sponsored political groups, including Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the weekend forum, the super-PAC Freedom Partners Action fund, and groups Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans for America bought 12,000 TV ads in 2014 at a cost of more than $25 million.
Charles Koch said he views his organizations' efforts as "largely defensive to slow down a government that continues to swell and become more intrusive, causing our culture to deteriorate," Politico reported.
"It is up to us. Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of our lives."
While Democrats view the Koch brothers as big-money bogeymen out to wield their billions to take over the government, in a live-streamed forum moderated by ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, the three main presidential contenders at the session strongly disagreed.
"I believe that spending money on political campaigns is a form of political speech that is protected under the Constitution and the people who seem to have a problem with it are the ones that only want unions to be able to do it, their friends in Hollywood to be able to do it, and their friends in the press to be able to do it," Rubio said.
Cruz added: "There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking point that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world. Harry Reid says that every week.
"I think that is grotesque and offensive. [Democrats] cannot defend their record. They can't defend the Obama economy — it's a disaster. They can't defend Obamacare, which is a train wreck, and they certainly can't defend the Obama/Clinton foreign policy, so they want to scare people by painting a picture of nefarious billionaires.
"I admire Charles and David Koch. They are businessmen who have created hundreds of thousands of jobs and they have stood up for free market principles and endured vilification with equanimity and grace."
The three potential candidates swapped statements on their positions, with Paul speaking in favor of opening relationships with Cuba and continuing negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons, which Cruz and Rubio oppose. Cruz called the Iranian leadership "radical Islamic nutcases," and Rubio called the Castro brothers "brutal dictators," Fox News reported
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