The billionaire Koch brothers have always had a thing for Scott Walker. But do they support him for president? Well, sort of, but, you know, um, not just yet.
According to several reports from a New York State Republican Party fundraising event on Monday, David Koch told the big donors, “We will support whoever the candidate is. But it should be Scott Walker.”
That sounded like an endorsement. So did what Koch said outside the Manhattan event, at which Walker also spoke. Koch hailed the governor of Wisconsin “a tremendous candidate.” Could Walker beat former secretary of state Hillary Clinton? “No question about it,” chirped Koch. “If enough Republicans have a thing to say— why, he’ll defeat her by a major margin.”
But hold on. As confused headline writers churned out the “news” that the monied Machiavellis had found their prince, David Koch was scrambling to clarify that: “While I think Governor Walker is terrific, let me be clear, I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time.”
First privately and then publicly, Koch signaled that the massive political apparatus he and his brother Charles oversee—with $900 million raised from the Kochs and their fellow billionaires at help favored partisans win control of the federal government in 2016—will not intervene in GOP primaries on behalf of any candidate. Not even Scott Walker.
For now, at least, the Kochs won’t spend against the Wisconsinite. But they won’t spend for him.
Because, for the Kochs, Republican contenders are essentially interchangeable. The Kochs want power, not a personality. That’s bad news for Walker, whose political rise has benefited from massive infusions of Koch money. The billionaire brothers supported his bid to get elected governor of Wisconsin in 2010, and they came to the rescue when Walker was in a fight for his political life after his attacks on labor and public services and public education stirred an outcry. They have hailed Walker’s policies. They have invited Walker to their “secret” summits. They have held him up as a model governor. In many senses, the Kochs made Scott Walker who he is today. Bloomberg Politics even refers to Walker as the “King of Kochworld.”