On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the billionaire Koch brothers, who have contributed billions of dollars in support of Republican candidates over the years, have “become a total joke in real Republican circles.” The tweets came after the Koch network criticized Trump’s “divisive” rhetoric and announced they will not support Republican candidate Kevin Cramer in the North Dakota Senate race.
Representatives of the Koch network announced Monday that the group would not be supporting Rep. Cramer, who is currently in a toss-up race against Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democratic seats in the midterm elections and if Cramer takes her seat, it could help them keep the majority.
However, the Koch network has previously criticized Cramer’s stances on issues that matter to the Koch brothers, including free trade, as “inconsistent.” Cramer has publicly voiced support for Trump’s tariffs, which the Koch network is adamantly against. Over the weekend, Koch network representatives including Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips told donors, “We can’t support [Cramer] at this time. And to be clear, we’ve met with his team, explained this, and lobbied him on this to change their ways. For those who stand in the way, we don’t pull any punches, regardless of party.”
On Sunday, the network released a video combatting protectionism. Although Trump’s name is never mentioned, it’s an obvious criticism of Trump’s tariffs and escalating trade war.
Also on Sunday, Charles Koch, who is solely running the company after the retirement of his brother David, spoke to reporters about the current political divisions. He said, “We’ve had divisiveness long before Trump became president and we’ll have it long after he’s no longer president,” he said. “I’m into hating the sin, not the sinner.” However, the network’s co-chair Brian Hooks took a more direct jab at Trump and said, “The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage.”
On Tuesday, Trump fired back on Twitter—as always:
This isn’t the first time the Koch brothers have disagreed with Trump—in fact, they didn’t financially back his 2016 campaign. Despite the brothers’ financial support for countless Republican candidates, they are self-proclaimed libertarians. CNN contributor Marc Short, who worked for the Koch brothers as well as the Trump administration, said, “I think what is important for the media and American public to know is Charles and David never wanted to be Republicans. They never wanted to be Democrats. They have always been more libertarian independents.”
The Koch brothers’ statements against Trump come less than 100 days before the midterm elections and could have a major impact. The Koch brothers’ funnel so much money into political elections that their system of supporting candidates has been described as “labyrinthian.” After Trump’s comments, the brothers won’t be funding Trump-endorsed candidates in the midterm elections—not that they planned to anyway.