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IPFS News Link • Trump Administration

They snubbed Trump. But the Koch network has still exerted a surprising influence...


uring the presidential campaign, about the only common ground between billionaire conservative Charles Koch and Republican nominee Donald Trump was a colorful disregard for each other.

Koch complained the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton was like opting for cancer or a heart attack. And Trump bashed big-money donors, deriding his Republican rivals as "puppets" who went knocking on Koch's door for backing.

Not surprisingly, the Koch network largely sat out the 2016 presidential election and, Trump went on to win without them. Normally such a high-profile snub would carry a steep political price, shutting doors to the new administration.

But in recent months, Koch's sprawling network of conservative advocacy groups has exerted surprising influence in the Trump administration, scoring some early accomplishments and pushing its priorities to the top of the White House agenda.


It started with the quick rollback of a dozen Obama-era environmental and labor regulations — a to-do list orchestrated by Koch-backed groups even before Trump was sworn into office.

By spring, the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America was instrumental in passage of the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, a long-fought Koch effort to make it easier to fire employees at the beleaguered Veterans Affairs department, providing a blueprint for how to make an end-run around civil service protections that could be replicated across other federal departments.

In July, the Kochs celebrated the official demise of the border-adjustment tax, a tax-reform proposal backed by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan that was bitterly opposed by many business groups, including the brothers. GOP congressional leaders and the White House announced that idea would not be part of the upcoming tax-reform package.

The network's job has been made easier by the administration's hiring of Koch-affiliated alumni to key positions at the White House to help shape policy for a president who arrived without his own deeply staffed bench.

"The vacuum in Trump not having his own network is filled by people who've been cultivated for years by the Koch network," said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine law school and an expert in campaign finance.

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