The vast network of conservative political groups coordinated by the Koch brothers are set to spend $889 million on the 2016 presidential election — but it appears to be unlikely that any of that cash will find its way to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump. In fact, the brothers, who made a fortune in the fossil fuel industry and are known as political kingmakers, seem to be systematically cutting off the mogul from their vast network of activists, donors, and political consultants.
Trump, who is leading the GOP presidential field in many of the early polls, has been at the center of numerous controversies since he announced his candidacy in June. In his first campaign speech, he referred to some Mexican immigrants as "rapists," and in July he questioned whether Senator John McCain — who spent years in a North Vietnam prison camp — qualified as a "war hero."
The apparent move to by the Kochs to shut out Trump seems to be part of a broader effort to steer the Republican field in a more palatable direction. According to Politico, the brothers will not allow Trump to purchase valuable data from i360, a political analytics firm they back. Trump is also reportedly barred from addressing the Americans for Prosperity Summit — a major "grassroots" conservative activist convention funded by the Kochs— that will be held in Columbus, Ohio in August.
Trump will also reportedly be barred from addressing Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — an umbrella fundraising group convened by the Koch Brothers in Orange County, California later this month. Such a freeze out could hinder the mogul's fundraising capabilities.
Although the former reality TV star reportedly filled out a questionnaire indicating he intended to attend the event, he has not received an invitation. Other leading GOP candidates including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker were all invited and plan to address the donors.
"The good news is that Donald Trump doesn't need the Koch brothers, and he can do this perfectly without their assistance," Josh Youssef, the co-chair of Trump's campaign in Belknap County, New Hampshire," told Politico. "Their motivations are clearly not to break the mold of political insider-ship. Their goal is to keep the wheel spinning. Trump's bad for business for them."
In the past, the Koch brothers have not been as wary of Trump. Many operatives from Americans for Prosperity — the Koch funded political action group — have taken jobs on Trump's campaign, and there are reports that the brothers are personally friendly with the mogul. But as Trump picks up momentum in the Republican primary, the GOP kingmakers seem to be getting worried.
"They can't control Trump," New Hampshire state legislator Stephen Stepanek, who is co-chairing Trump's state campaign, told Politico. "I think that's what is sort of scaring a lot of people."