(Bloomberg) -- The conservative political network led by billionaires Charles and David Koch plans to spend close to $400 million on policy and politics during the two-year election cycle that culminates with November’s midterm elections, a roughly 60 percent increase over 2015-16.
That will include as much as $20 million in 2018 to sell to voters the Republican tax cuts signed in December by President Donald Trump, about the same amount Koch-affiliated groups spent on promoting the legislation in 2017, officials with the Koch network said Saturday.
The plans were outlined to reporters at a three-day summit for some 550 donors and potential donors at a desert resort near Palm Springs, California. Previously, the organization had pledged to spend $300 million to $400 million this election cycle, up from the roughly $250 million it shelled out during the 2015-2016 campaign season.
Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-affiliated advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, said the spending would be the “largest investment we’ve ever had in a midterm election.” The money will be spread across a network that has a presence in more than 30 states and a voter-turnout operation that rivals that of the Republican Party.
For Republicans, 2018 will be a “very challenging environment at the federal and state level,” Phillips said. The party that controls the White House typically loses seats in the midterm elections -- an outcome made more likely by Trump’s historic unpopularity.
Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to take the House and two to secure a majority in the Senate, an outcome well within the bounds of historical precedent in midterms.
“The left is energized,” Phillips said. “There is no question about that, and it’s prudent for folks to understand that.”
The Koch network is unlikely to get involved with Republican primaries, Phillips said.
That’s a different approach from another powerful force in conservative politics. Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said earlier this month that his organization would challenge candidates in Republican primaries when it thinks an individual is too extreme to be successful in a general election.
Much of the Koch group’s messaging in 2018 will focus on the tax law, Phillips said, as he outlined plans for rallies, phone banks, and broadcast television and online ads. “You’ve got to go out there and sell the benefits,” he said.
Charles Koch, 82, expressed optimism for the conservative movement as he welcomed donors who were standing amid palm trees, sipping cocktails.
“I’m more excited about what we’re doing and about the opportunities than I’ve ever been,” he said. “We have made more progress in the last five years than I had in the previous 50.”
With more than 700 donors who give a minimum of $100,000 per year and more than 100,000 donors overall, the Koch network has convened similar gatherings twice annually since 2003.
Expected speakers -- all Republican -- include Governors Matt Bevin of Kentucky and Doug Ducey of Arizona, Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, and Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana.
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