The conservative billionaire Koch brothers are planning a massive $900 million strategy to put a Republican in the White House in 2016 – including a $125 million budget next year for its flagship Americans for Prosperity for an effort described as "beyond the biggest, boldest, broadest effort AFP has ever undertaken."
The AFP plan calls for new chapters in Alabama, Idaho, North Dakota and Utah, according to confidential briefing documents to donors obtained by Politico
. Other objectives include an enhanced data-communications system and the hiring of hundreds of local staffers nationwide for extensive "get out the vote" efforts.
The bound briefing document – called a "Partner Prospectus"
– was sent to Koch donors last month, Politico reports. Its cover is marked "confidential" and "privileged" and says: "Please do not disclose, discuss, or disseminate the contents herewith."
The prospectus also outlines a strategy for attack ads targeting Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, starting after Labor Day – though the network headed by Charles and David Koch will largely sit out the Republican presidential primaries, Politico reports.
"They have said very clearly they are not going to get into the primary process, period," Stan Hubbard, a Minnesota media entrepreneur who is a major AFP donor, told Politico. "I see their end game as to elect a Republican president and to let the American people know what they believe Hillary Clinton to be and what she stands for."
Hubbard said the message was reinforced last month at a briefing in Florida with AFP President Tim Phillips and Michael Lanzara, a top official with the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the Koch network.
"There are at least five really good candidates," Hubbard said. "Any one of them would be acceptable, and they [the Kochs] plan to get behind whoever gets the nomination."
However, "if some really bad person who they felt was really dangerous for the country was still involved, I'm sure they would get involved, just like all of us would," Hubbard added. "But I think they're going to be pretty much hands-off as an organization."
The Politico report comes after Charles Koch told USA Today on Tuesday that the brothers had zeroed in on five candidates
they think have a good message and "a good chance of getting elected."
They are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Charles Koch's comments came after The New York Times reported Monday that David Koch told donors in Manhattan: "We will support whoever the candidate is, but it should be Scott Walker."
However, a Koch spokesman issued a statement to Newsmax on Tuesday saying that neither brother had yet supported any candidate.
"While I think Gov. Walker is terrific, let me be clear, I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time," David Koch said.
According to Politico, the Kochs will decide early next year whether to become involved in the GOP primary – cautioning that it would only occur if "the final field pitted a candidate seen as aligned with the Kochs' small-government ideology – such as Walker or Paul – against one considered anathema to it – such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham."
While the brothers seek to maintain their independence in supporting candidates advancing free-enterprise causes rather than just simply backing Republicans, support for one candidate over another could have a huge impact on other donors, Hubbard told Politico.
"If they came out and said they were for somebody – man, what a boost," he said. Hubbard supports Walker. "In some circles, a boost. In other circles, the opposite."
He said that he had already given "quite a bit" to the Walker super-PAC and plans to give more – "a lot, by my standards. But my standards are different than David Koch's."
Frayda Levin, an AFP board member from New Jersey and large Republican Party donor, is backing Paul.
She dismissed the idea that David Koch might be trying to steer donors to Walker.
"There is just no way," she told Politico. Many donors, she said, are backing Paul, Rubio and other candidates. "This is so far from settled."
Meanwhile, James Davis, a Freedom Partners spokesman, would tell Politico only that the group's efforts would seek to "advance a free society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed and opportunity is not limited to those with political connections."
"We will look to support candidates with a positive vision for addressing these pressing issues with free-market solutions," David Koch added. "We're not interested in seeing any petty, personal attacks."
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