Donald Trump, now the president of U.S., gestures as he arrives on stage during a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona during his campaign. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

RNC Escalates GOP Feud With Koch Network After Trump's Attack

(Bloomberg) -- The Republican National Committee joined President Donald Trump’s attack on the powerful public policy and political network built by billionaires Charles and David Koch, exacerbating a fight with some of the most influential conservatives over the future of the party.

In a letter to donors on Thursday, the RNC questioned the network’s commitment to conservative candidates after its leaders decided not to endorse a GOP Senate candidate in North Dakota because of disagreements over policy positions.

"This week, the Koch Network announced they will no longer support only Republicans running for office, and that moving forward they will support candidates that fit their agenda -- even if they are Democrats," RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote. "Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or party. This is unacceptable."

Keeping the network happy has traditionally been important to Republicans, especially in election years. It plans to spend about $400 million on state and federal policy and politics during the two-year cycle that culminates with November’s balloting, a 60 percent increase over 2015-16. Besides trying to influence electoral politics, the organization also works on education, criminal justice, workforce and poverty issues.

The letter, reported earlier by Politico, was released the same day that Trump attacked Charles Koch on Twitter for the second time this week.

“Charles Koch of Koch Brothers, who claims to be giving away millions of dollars to politicians even though I know very few who have seen this (?), now makes the ridiculous statement that what President Trump is doing is unfair to ‘foreign workers,”’ Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “He is correct, AMERICA FIRST!”

The president appeared to be referencing pro-free-trade comments Koch made to reporters Sunday in Colorado, when he mentioned fairness to people in other nations where manufacturing is subsidized by the government.

Discounts

“It’s unfair to their people, if they’re selling goods to us at below cost," said Koch, 82, the chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries, the second-largest closely held company in the U.S. But then he pointed to the irony of a top discount retailer where Americans benefit from low prices on imported goods.

“You go to Walmart, they’re going to discount," he said. "Oh, we can’t do that. That’d be unfair to us. It’s ridiculous.”

James Davis, a spokesman for the public policy and political network built by the Kochs, responded to Trump with a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"We will work together with the president, elected officials and others where we agree," he said. "And, where we disagree, we will do so in a civil way. This is what it will take to make progress on the issues and ultimately create a society of mutual benefit, where people succeed by helping others."

Koch also told reporters that he worries Trump’s trade policies could trigger a recession, if they became restrictive enough. The billionaire industrialist was measured in his criticisms, but his top deputies had sharply condemned the president’s leadership style a day earlier.

In two tweets Tuesday, Trump called brothers Charles and David Koch “globalists” who “have become a total joke in real Republican circles.” He called their network, which has funneled millions to Republican candidates and causes, “highly overrated” and said he’s “beaten them at every turn.”

The Koch brothers didn’t support Trump in 2016 and the two sides have clashed over Trump’s opposition to long-held conservative beliefs on government spending and free trade, as well as a more welcoming stance held by the network on immigration. But Trump has demonstrated a tight hold over GOP voters that has made Republican politicians wary of crossing him.

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