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Trump’s Koch Administration
Trump’s Koch Administration
Despite past clashes and looming policy disputes the Koch brothers operation has allies in key positions on Trumps team.
By KENNETH P. VOGEL and ELIANA JOHNSON
11/28/16 05:01 AM EST
Charles Koch once likened the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to being asked to choose cancer or a heart attack.
Now, Kochs allies are helping to launch Trumps administration, giving Charles and his brother David potential inroads with a president whose campaign they refused to support.
The president-elect, in filling out his transition team and administration, has drawn heavily from the vast network of donors and advocacy groups built by the billionaire industrialist brothers, who have sought to reshape American politics in their libertarian image.
From White House Counsel Don McGahn and transition team advisers Tom Pyle, Darin Selnick and Alan Cobb to Presidential Inaugural Committee member Diane Hendricks and transition-team executive committee members Rebekah Mercer and Anthony Scaramucci, Trump has surrounded himself with people tied to the Kochs.
In creating the Koch network, I dont think that we ever envisioned that we would be supplying staffers to this semi-free market, semi-populist president, said Frayda Levin, a donor to the network who chairs the board of its main voter mobilization group, Americans for Prosperity. But were happy that hes picking people who have that free market background, particularly because on many issues, he is a blank slate, so anybody with expertise is in an amazing position to shape his agenda.
And many more Koch-linked operatives are expected to join Trumps nascent administration in the coming weeks, according to Trump transition-team sources. Names being considered include Koch Industries lobbyist Brian Henneberry and former company spokesman Matt Lloyd, as well as Daniel Garza, who runs a Koch-backed nonprofit called the LIBRE Initiative that courts Latinos, not to mention a handful of veterans of the Koch networks advocacy groups who worked on the Trump campaign from top Pence adviser Marc Short and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to ex-campaign aides Stuart Jolly, Eli Miller, Scott Hagerstrom, Charles Munoz and Matt Ciepielowski.
Perhaps more surprisingly, despite some predictions of imminent policy clashes, theres already informal communication between the Trump team and the Koch network, and both camps are signaling a willingness to work together on issues of mutual interest. David Koch even attended Trumps election night victory party.
How long the comity lasts between Trump and the powerful Koch brothers could go far in determining whether Trump is able to take full advantage of the complete Republican control of Washington ushered in by his stunning victory over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
At one point, Charles Koch compared the choice between Trump and Clinton to choosing between cancer or heart attack, and the Koch network did not spend any money directly boosting Trump or attacking Clinton.
Trump in turn boasted that the Kochs could not influence him because he didnt want their money or anything else from them. And he blasted his rivals for the GOP nomination as puppets of the Kochs. A possible truce after Trump clinched the nomination broke down quickly, with the two sides clashing over who rejected a proposed meeting.
The Koch network, which some believed was discouraging its operatives from working with Trumps campaign, is now seen by insiders as welcoming the chance to have allies on the inside of Trumps administration.
At the same time, though, the network already is signaling that it intends to oppose aspects of Trumps agenda that run counter to the brothers brand of small government, low-regulation conservatism, possibly including the incoming presidents $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan and his pledge to renegotiate trade deals.
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