COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch extended an olive branch to Democrats during a weekend donor confab, saying Sunday that he wants to work with lawmakers regardless of party — so long as they work on issues he cares about — and admitting he has regrets about politicians his powerful network supported in the past.
“I don’t care what initials are in front or after somebody’s name — I’d like there to be many more politicians who would embrace and have the courage to run on a platform” that embraces the values he espouses, Koch told reporters when asked how he would feel about Democrats flipping the House of Representatives.
Koch officials spent much of the first half of the donor gathering at a five-star hotel touting themselves as dealmakers on policy issues such as criminal justice reform and “Right to Try” legislation, which lets terminally ill patients use experimental treatments that don’t have regulatory approval.
The Kochs’ political network has been bombarding the 2018 midterm elections with millions of dollars to help Republicans keep their seats in Congress, but the tone of the weekend was a departure from previous years, when the Kochs engineered tea party opposition to Obamacare and positioned themselves as the archnemesis of the Democratic Party.
Charles Koch said he has sometimes regretted his network’s financial support for Republican lawmakers in the past and will be more careful with how he spends money going forward.
“They say they’re going to be for these principles that we espouse and then they aren’t,” Koch said. “We’re going to more directly deal with that and hold people responsible for these commitments.”
Some Koch network officials privately fumed for months after the Republican Congress approved a $1.3 trillion government spending measure in March that they said was packed with giveaways. And one top Koch aide on Saturday dingedlawmakers for “following” President Donald Trump’s lead on tariffs.
During rare on-the-record remarks, Charles Koch said the network is only political insofar as politics serves its goals. “We’ll engage in politics to the degree in which it’s really moving our overall agenda,” he said. The Koch network also spends millions of dollars a year on education, philanthropy and other work.
Koch did not support Trump during the 2016 election and is known to be skeptical of the president. But asked whether he thinks Trump is to blame for the divisiveness of U.S. politics — to which the Koch network tried to paint itself as an antidote over the weekend — Koch said the blame should be shared widely.
“We’re all part of that,” Koch replied. “We’ve had divisiveness long before Trump became president.”
“I’m into hating the sin, not the sinner,” Koch added.