Trump goes on offense against Koch network as it spends against former president

Key Points
  • Armed with over $70 million, the super PAC Americans for Prosperity Action is running ads against former President Donald Trump.
  • Trump and his allies are shifting to offense against the network financed by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.
  • But nothing so far came close to Trump's post on the afternoon of Aug. 4.
Charles Koch
Patrick T. Fallon | The Washington Post | Getty Images

As former President Donald Trump battles prosecutors in three states and a half dozen Republican primary candidates, he and his allies are waging another war, this one against the political network financed largely by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.

Armed with over $70 million, much of it from Charles Koch chaired- Koch Industries, the super PAC Americans for Prosperity Action is running digital ads and other forms of voter outreach against Trump in the 2024 election.

For Trump and Koch, it represents the latest chapter in the on again, off again relationship between the two parties. Koch, who is personally worth around $60 billion, traditionally backs Republican candidates. But not this Republican.

The theme of the ads is simple: Trump can't win, and with Trump as the Republican nominee, President Joe Biden will be reelected.

The ads have landed the Koch network squarely on Trump's list of enemies, literally.

"The special interests, the globalists, the Koch brothers, George Soros, the Paul Ryans of the Republican Party - RINO's, are now going to try even harder to stop us and stop our great movement," Trump said in a campaign fundraising video that was blasted out recently.

In a separate memo, the Trump campaign falsely accused Koch-backed groups of supporting his primary opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"Club for No Growth and Koch Brothers operations spending tens of millions of dollars to prop up Ron DeSantis while attacking President Trump," the July 17 memo claimed.

But neither the Koch network nor the Club for Growth has endorsed a Republican primary candidate.

The Trump campaign's reference to "brothers" is also misleading. David Koch, who was Charles' brother and partner in political and philanthropic projects, died in 2019.

Trump's closest surrogates are also amplifying the case against Koch.

VANDALIA, OHIO - NOVEMBER 07: Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate JD Vance greet supporters during the rally at the Dayton International Airport on November 7, 2022 in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump campaigned at the rally for Ohio Republican candidates including Republican candidate for U.S. Senate JD Vance, who is running in a tight race against Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

"They hate Donald Trump because they hate the agenda," said Ohio GOP Sen. J.D. Vance on Fox News last month, when asked about the Koch network's spending against Trump. If Trump wins the general election, Vance said, the Republican Party can "reset."

The interview was well received in Trump's world. Vance "rips the globalist Koch Network for spending millions to try to stop Trump," is how the former president's son, Donald Trump, Jr., described it on social media.

Trump endorsed Vance during the 2022 GOP Senate primary in Ohio. Vance endorsed Trump for president earlier this year. It's not just Trump and Vance who are focused on the Koch network.

Former Trump White House advisor Peter Navarro name checked the Koch network when he took a shot at former Vice President Mike Pence recently, citing Pence's ties to the Koch network as part of why Navarro had a problem with Pence during the Trump years.

Pence is currently running against Trump in the Republican primary for president. A recent New York Times poll has Pence tied for third at 3%, while Trump is in first place with 54% of likely voters.

Still, none of these broadsides come close to Trump's post on the afternoon of Aug. 4.

"IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!" Trump wrote on Truth Social.

The Truth Social post came just a day after Trump was arraigned in Washington D.C. on criminal charges stemming from his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.

The post immediately sparked debate about whether it could constitute a threat against potential witnesses in Trump's three current cases. Later that same day, prosecutors in one of the cases cited the Truth Social post in a court filing, asking for a limit on what Trump could reveal publicly in the case.

But Trump's campaign objected to that idea. The post was not a threat, said an anonymous campaign aide, merely a shot across the bow.

Intended target? Koch's network of groups.

Trump's post "was in response to the RINO, China-loving, dishonest special interest groups and Super PACs, like the ones funded by the Koch brothers and the Club for No Growth," said the statement, blasted out to reporters.

Asked about the Koch network's campaign against the former president, a Trump campaign spokesman pointed CNBC to Trump's posts on Truth Social. A spokesman for Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity did not return a request for comment before publication.