Charles and David Koch wrapped up their annual summer seminar on June 16 in Dana Point, California, at the St. Regis Monarch Bay resort—a fitting location for two men whose combined net worth is more than $100 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The highly secretive mega-donor conference, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” featured a who’s who of Republican political elites. According to conference documents obtained through a source who was in attendance, Representatives Tom Cotton (AR), Cory Gardner (CO) and Jim Jordan (OH) were present, as were Senators Mitch McConnell (KY) and Marco Rubio (FL). Cotton, Gardner and McConnell are all running for the Senate this year; Jordan for re-election in the House. Rubio is widely considered a major contender for a 2016 presidential run. According to the documents, the conference attendees discussed strategy on campaign finance, climate change, healthcare, higher education and opportunities for taking control of the Senate. (The draft agenda is available for viewing here.)
According to another source who also attended the conference, 300 individuals—worth at least a billion each—were present. This source said that the explicit goal was to raise $500 million to take the Senate in the 2014 midterms and another $500 million “to make sure Hillary Clinton is never president.” Three hundred billionaires in attendance is likely an exaggeration; to put that figure in perspective, there are 492 total billionaires in the United States by Forbes’s count. The Koch network raised an estimated $407 million in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics.
The official conference lasted two days, Sunday and Monday, but several events for top donors occurred on Saturday. According to conference documents, Representatives Tom Cotton and Jim Jordan were to join a group of top donors for a post-golf lunch discussion. A special dinner was scheduled at La Casa Pacifica—the former home of President Richard Nixon that has come to be known as “The Western White House”—with Rich DeVos, the Amway co-founder, owner of the Orlando Magic and frequent Koch collaborator. The menu offered “oven roasted Angus natural filet mignon served in a fresh green peppercorn sauce served with braised fennel with truffle, asparagus tips, vegetable and mint quinoa” among other dishes prepared by Master Chef Maurice Brazier.
La Casa Pacifica is currently owned by Gavin Herbert, the founder of the pharmaceutical company Allergan and a Republican heavyweight. Herbert is a GOP donor and former Nixon confidant, and Allergan is a major funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative powerhouse behind model legislation that would bust unions, repeal environmental protections, require voter ID and increase access to guns and justify their use in Stand Your Ground cases.
On Sunday, Representative Jordan, Senate minority leader McConnell and Koch legal operative Mark Holden held a strategy discussion titled “Free Speech: Defending First-Amendment Rights” for a small, invite-only group. McConnell was slated to address the full crowd in a talk by the same name later in the afternoon. Earlier this month, McConnell clashed with Senate majority leader Harry Reid in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Reid’s proposed constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. The billionaire Koch brothers have been popular targets for Reid’s ire.