Koch Network Won't Back GOP Challenger to Democratic Senator

Koch Brothers Group Says They Won't Be Backing Kevin Cramer in His Senate Race Against Heidi Heitkamp

In response to the president's tweet, network spokesperson James Davis played down the criticism.

Their company, Koch Industries, is the second largest privately owned business in the United States and has interests ranging from pipelines to paper towels.

The network of 700 donors who contribute at least $100,000 annually has been one of the most influential groups in Republican politics in recent years and this weekend reiterated plans to spend up to $400 million in the two-year-election cycle.

At the centre of the latest flare between the Kochs and Trump is support for Kevin Cramer, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota against incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.

Heitkamp is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection.

"I never sought their support because I don't need their money or bad ideas. Their network is highly overrated, I have beaten them at every turn", he added.

Colorado-based energy investor Chris Wright, a longtime Koch donor, said the Republican Party may have lost its way in the age of Trump.

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That could mean Republican candidates who seek to closely align themselves with Trump on trade are forgoing backing from groups like the Koch network. Trump carried North Dakota by more than 30 points.

So far, 10 GOP House lawmakers and two senators have been targeted by the Koch network's political arm due to their support for the $1.3 trillion spending package passed by Congress in March or for voting against spending clawbacks.

Tensions remained between the two camps - in part fueled by the Kochs' status as key members of the Manhattan donor network, a group that has long rejected Trump, even as the president staffed his administration with a number of Koch alumni. On Monday, Freedom Partners, another Koch-backed organization, released an ad directly targeting farmers, asking them to reject Trump's policies because farmers "want trade not aid". "If [he] doesn't step up to lead, that makes it hard to support him".

Charles Koch said Sunday during the meeting, "I regret some of the [lawmakers] we have supported ... we're gonna more directly deal with that and hold people accountable", according to The Hill.

"We've had divisiveness long before Trump became president and we'll have it long after he's no longer president", he said.

While much of Trump's agenda, such as the GOP-authored tax law and a sweeping rollback of regulations, has heartened the party's business wing and libertarian-leaning leaders, there remains resistance to Trump's raw populism and economic nationalism, which many traditional Republicans have argued for decades is the antithesis of conservative principles. His younger brother, David Koch, retired from the company and network in June.

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