Clinton Rebuffs Faint Praise From Koch Cool to 2016 Republicans

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Koch Hints Clinton May Be Better Choice Than Republicans
  • No thanks, Democrat counters on Twitter: `not interested'
  • Billionaire brothers spend mostly on non-presidential races

Hillary Clinton may make a better president than any of the Republicans vying for the job, according to billionaire Charles Koch, but the Democrat wasn’t thrilled that she could be a new favorite of the conservative mega-donor.

“Not interested in endorsements from people who deny climate science and try to make it harder for people to vote,” Clinton said on Twitter after Koch’s comment, which was made in an interview with ABC News broadcast on Sunday.

In the interview, Koch, the chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries Inc., derided the campaign rhetoric of Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and criticized the “tax code that subsidizes the wealthy.”

Trump, Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, the three remaining Republican candidates to succeed Barack Obama, have failed to win Koch’s backing because they aren’t addressing the tax issue, he said.

Charles Koch, 80, and his brother, David, 75, whose combined net worth is $106 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting Republicans whose platforms are consistent with their small-government views.

Down-Ticket Focus

Their spending typically is concentrated on influencing legislation at the congressional and state levels, rather than on the top of the ballot. That may make any hesitation to spend on the 2016 presidential race less significant than a broader reluctance to keep backing Republicans.

Asked if sitting out the presidential election was a possibility, Koch said “we’ll see.” He said he wanted specifics from the Republican candidates. “We’d have to believe their actions will be quite different than the rhetoric we’ve heard so far.”

The network of nonprofits and political organizations with connections to the Kochs raised $407 million in the 2012 election cycle, of which $58.2 million, or 14 percent, was directed at the presidential race. The biggest spender was Americans for Prosperity at $33.5 million.

While the Kochs are closely associated with Republicans, their positions don’t always line up with the party, displaying a more libertarian streak in their support of issues such as same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana.

Speaking to ABC, Koch took issue with the idea that the size of their donations give him and his brother “control” of the Republican agenda.

‘Corporate Welfare’

“If I controlled the Republican Party, we wouldn’t have a two-tiered system. We wouldn’t have a tax code that subsidizes the wealthy,” Koch said. “We have this corporate welfare that benefits established companies and makes it very difficult for somebody to get started.”

Koch said the U.S. has to “get rid of all” tax breaks. “I don’t hear any of the Republican candidates talking about this two-tiered system and getting rid of it. So that’s why we haven’t supported any of them,” he said.

Koch said Trump’s proposal to create a register of all Muslims in America was “reminiscent of Nazi Germany. I mean, that’s monstrous.”

Cruz’s suggestion to carpet-bomb parts of the Middle East to go after terrorists was hyperbolic but disturbing, he said. “I mean, that a candidate, whether they believe it or not, would think that appeals to the American people, that is frightening.”

The billionaire’s assessment of Clinton was based in part on the White House record of her husband. Bill Clinton “wasn’t an exemplar. But as far as the growth in government, the increase in spending, it was two and a half times” more under Republican George W. Bush than it was under Clinton, Koch said.

He stopped short of saying he would endorse the former secretary of state.

‘Her Rhetoric’

“We would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way,” Koch said.

Art Pope, a North Carolina Republican and member of the Koch network of donors, said Koch’s comments didn’t amount to an endorsement.

“The way I heard it and in context, he did not say he would vote for Hillary,” Pope said, adding that he speaks only for himself.  “When you say someone’s actions have to differ from their words, that’s not an endorsement.”

A year ago Koch considered backing a candidate in the Republican primary for the first time. Of the five candidates he cited to USA Today at the time as having “a good chance of getting elected,” only Cruz is still in the race.

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