CNBC - June 7, 2019
The political arm of the network funded in part by libertarian billionaire Charles Koch is turning over a new leaf for the upcoming elections and expanding its engagement to include supporting Democrats running for office.
In a memo distributed to employees and activists, Emily Seidel, CEO of the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, said the organization is going into the next round of congressional elections being open to backing Democrats in primary fights as long as they support some of the networks proposed policies.
“AFP or AFP Action [the group’s super PAC] will be ready to engage contested U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and state-level primary races, including Republican, Democrat, Independent or otherwise, to support sitting legislators who lead by uniting with others to pass principled policy and get good things done,” Seidel said.
Historically the political network has only backed Republicans running for Congress.
Since the start of President Donald Trump’s administration, the network as a whole, now titled “Stand Together,” has received numerous political victories, including the signing of a criminal justice reform bill and the passing of tax reform legislation.
The move to open its doors to Democrats comes after recent disagreements with lawmakers and Trump on how they’ve handled the immigration status of Dreamers — immigrants brought into the country as children. The two sides have also disagreed on trade policy, with Trump remaining firm on tariffs that have been implemented on goods coming from China.
For those candidates receiving the group’s help in 2019 and 2020, they will get the reinforcement of four new political action committees based on the issues they’ve been actively engaging on. The letter shows the four PACs will be called “Economic Opportunity,” “Uniting for Free Expression,” “Uniting for Free Trade” and “Uniting for Immigration Reform.” They’re designed to contribute to candidates who follow their desired policy initiatives.
The “Economic Opportunity” PAC, for instance, will finance campaigns that support removing business regulations, while the “Uniting for Free Trade” PAC will spend on candidates who are vocal about the negative effect tariffs are having on U.S. consumers.
Still, Seidel warns that some of the candidates they’ll support will not always be directly on the same page with their organization — but said that’s no longer going to stop them.
“We know that candidates will seldom agree with Americans for Prosperity on every issue,” she said. “But for those who do the politically difficult job of leading on a critical issue, these issue-specific PACs will make it clear why the millions of Americans support them on that issue, even if they have principled disagreements on others.”
To be sure, the network has previously said it was willing to support Democrats but then opted to side with only Republicans instead.
During the buildup to the 2018 congressional elections, Koch himself told reporters at his annual donor conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that he didn’t care which party a candidate is affiliated with, provided they follow their policy model.
Americans for Prosperity supported only Republican candidates, and the GOP failed to maintain its majority in the House of Representatives after the 2018 election. Republicans in the Senate maintained their advantage.
Going into the next set of elections, Democrats in the House have at least 11 seats marked as toss-ups, while Republicans only have five, according to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.