EXCLUSIVE: Billionaire Republican donors urge Kochs to back Trump

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Koch Brothers Will Not Try to Block Trump

NEW YORK, July 28 (Reuters) - A group of at least six wealthy Republican donors is urging the billionaire Koch brothers to step off the sidelines of the U.S. presidential election to back Donald Trump, arguing they will want influence with the New York businessman they have harshly criticized if he wins the White House in November.

The financiers, prominent members of the sprawling 700-member Koch donor network, have been making their case in emails and phone calls to Charles and David Koch ahead of their bi-annual donor seminar, which begins Saturday in Colorado, according to four donors involved in the loosely-coordinated effort and advisors representing two others.

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Businessman David Koch arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in Upper Manhattan, New York May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT FASHION BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
Businessman David Koch arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in Upper Manhattan, New York May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT FASHION BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2013, file photo, David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla. Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are to speak at gathering hosted by the conservative political donors Charles and David Koch. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Businessman David Koch arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in Upper Manhattan, New York May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT FASHION BUSINESS)
EXCLUSIVE. Julia and David Koch, and their son host a party taking place at their home for the Charles Evans PCF Pro-AM TOUR 2012 Hamptons Tournament, benefiting the Prostate Cancer Foundation, in Southhampton, NY on August 18, 2012. The reclusive David Koch has a net worth of $25 billion. He is thought to have bankrolled the tea party, a connection however which he is evasive about. Strongly anti-Obama, he and his brother Charles have poured an estimated $400,000 million into the 2012 campaign. Photo by Art Seitz / ABACAUSA.COM
Businessman David Koch arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating the opening of "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" in Upper Manhattan, New York May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT FASHION BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
U.S. businessman and philanthropist David H. Koch is seen with an unidentifed guest as he arrives for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2015 celebrating the opening of "China: Through the Looking Glass," in Manhattan, New York May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Chairman of the board of Americans for Prosperity David Koch speaks at the Defending the American Dream summit hosted by Americans for Prosperity at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
David H. Koch is photographed during a "turning of the soil" ceremony on the future site of The David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care, Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in New York. Koch has given $150 million to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. His donation will help build a $1.3 billion, 23-story outpatient cancer center in Manhattan. It's expected to serve about 1,300 patients daily. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch, left, listens as Amway Founder Rich DeVos addresses attendees of the Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. DeVos was presented with the George Washington Award.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Koch Industries executive VP David Koch speaks at the CANCER: The Emperor of All Maladies Television Launch Event hosted by Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and WETA at Remi on June 11(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision for Stand Up 2 Cancer/AP Images)
David Koch, Executive Vice President of Koch Industries, Inc., attends The Economic Club of New York, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, attends a meeting of the Economic Club of New York, Monday, April 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
David Koch, left, executive vice president of Koch Industries, and Susie Gharib, an anchor with the Nightly Business Report, attend a meeting of the Economic Club of New York, Monday, April 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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An endorsement from the Kochs would be a radical departure: the industrialist brothers have railed against Trump's "monstrous" rhetoric and protectionist policies on immigration and trade. They have said they will not get involved in the presidential election and will instead focus on Senate races.

All the while, Trump has blasted the donor class and vowed not to become a "puppet" of outside interests as he tries to win the Nov. 8 election.

But there is room for a detente.

Trump's vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, has long been a darling of the Koch network, and Trump's fledgling campaign finance operation could use a cash injection as it faces a $1 billion general election battle against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

"I don't think it's impossible, or beyond the realm of possibility, that at some point the Kochs are going to get involved," said Doug Deason, a member of the Koch network.

Deason, who has met with Trump and his confidantes, said he and his father, the billionaire Darwin Deason, had proposed to Charles Koch in an email that he meet the Republican nominee in person.

"We think it's really important that Donald convince Charles he's the right guy, and for Charles to influence Donald's policies," said Deason. "He (Charles Koch) indicates he's taking a wait and see approach. He's not completely writing if off."

An advisor to another major Koch network donor added: "Some of the Koch donor class this weekend is surely going to say, 'Hey, guys, get on board.'"

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. James Davis, a spokesman for the Koch's political operation, Freedom Partners, declined comment.

The billionaire donors eyeing Trump stress they believe it is urgent for the Koch brothers' conservative thinking to start to influence him before the election while he is still fine tuning policy and considering possible Cabinet picks.

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20 celebrities who endorse Donald Trump

Kid Rock

Kid Rock showed his support for the presidential hopeful in an interview with Rolling Stone, saying he's "digging Trump." He also added, "Let the motherf---ing business guy run it like a f---ing business. And his campaign has been entertaining as shit."

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Mike Tyson
 

The former heavyweight champion announced that he would endorse Trump while appearing on HuffPost Live back in October of 2015. "He should be president of the United States," Tyson said. 

As for what Trump has said about immigration, Tyson said the words were "crude" and someone could work with him on the delivery of his message.

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Stephen Baldwin


Baldwin, who was fired by Trump on two different seasons of "The Celebrity Apprentice," said during an interview with Don Lemon on an episode of "CNN Tonight" that Trump would make a "great" president "because he's not a politician, and he doesn't care what anybody thinks."  

Photo via Getty

Gary Busey

The actor endorsed Trump back in 2011, even after being fired from season four of "The Celebrity Apprentice," and offered his praise for the presidential hopeful again recently. "He's a great guy. He's sharp. He's fast," he told Fox411. "He can change the country after the last eight years."  

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Dennis Rodman

The retired pro-basketball player tweeted: "@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don't need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016." He was fired from season two of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

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Lou Ferrigno

When asked by TMZ for his thoughts on Trump, the actor and former bodybuilder said, "I hope Donald goes all the way." He was also fired from a season of "The Celebrity Apprentice." 

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Hulk Hogan

TMZ asked Hogan which 2016 Republican presidential candidate he would want to face in the ring, but instead of answering the question, he said he'd want to be Trump's running mate. 

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Ted Nugent 

The musician wrote an article for WorldNetDaily in which he said, "[Trump] should be given the Medal of Freedom for speaking his mind in such a bold, honest, and straightforward manner."

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Tila Tequila 

The model and reality star posted a video on YouTube expressing her support for Trump.

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Wayne Newton

The Las Vegas entertainer announced his support on "Fox and Friends," “I love Donald, and he would make a great president,” he said. But he also voiced his support for other hopefuls, such as Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson. 

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Willie Robertson

The businessman and star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” supported Trump at a rally in Oklahoma last year, where he was invited up on stage. He officially announced his endorsement in January. 

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Jesse Ventura 

Jesse Ventura

The former pro wrestler, former Minnesota governor, and actor was speaking with previous Trump staffer Roger Stone for "Off the Grid," when Ventura said, "I shocked my staff today. I came in and said, ‘You know what, as far as the Republicans are concerned, I hope Trump wins.'" Though he also added, "Now I’m not a Republican — I’m not a Democrat either — so ultimately, I’d like somebody else to win overall.”

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Charlie Sheen 

After initially calling Trump a "shame pile of idiocy" in a tweet, Sheen had a change of heart a month later and tweeted that he'd be Trump's "VP in a heartbeat!"

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Ivana Trump

The socialite held a luncheon in support of her ex-husband. 

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Mike Ditka

The retired NFL coach said of Trump, "I think that he has the fire in his belly to make America great again and probably do it the right way," in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. 

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Terrell Owens 

The retired NFL wide receiver told TMZ Sports, "This may be what the country needs and Trump... He’s a guy who won’t put up with B.S. and has what it takes to change how government is run." He appeared on the most recent season of "The Celebrity Apprentice."   

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Azealia Banks

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Jesse James 

James, a TV personality and founder of West Coast Choppers, posted a lengthy Facebook message in January supporting his former "Celebrity Apprentice" boss. He said:

 "Ive met a lot of people in life and I have found it best to form opinions about them by actually meeting them in person. ... What I personally observed is a man that is perfect suited to run this country. ... One thing you know about me is Good or bad I will always tell it like it is. This guy is the Real Deal, and will Make America Great Again."

Photo via AP

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MIX OF OPINIONS

The Koch network, made up of the wealthiest conservative families in America, rivals both the Republican and Democratic parties in both its resources and scope. Membership requires a payment of at least $100,000 per year.

But it is by no means a monolithic group.

At their donor summit in January in Palm Springs, California, most donors seemed vehemently opposed to Trump among the vast field of other Republican options. But now that Trump has won the nomination, vanquishing 16 opponents in the primaries, some see little option but to back him.

Broadcast magnate Stanley Hubbard, who had opposed Trump earlier in the year but now wants the Kochs to support him, said he was most concerned by the prospect of a Democrat nominating people to vacancies on the Supreme Court.

"A lot of us are giving a lot of money to the Kochs, and what we would expect is that they would do all they can to see to it that the right Supreme Court justices are selected," Hubbard said. "Supreme Court justices will last a lot longer than any president."

He said he hoped the weekend confab in Colorado would persuade the Kochs to rethink Trump.

"If nothing else, the Kochs better ask for a show of hands," said Hubbard, "and I think most people in the room this weekend will say, 'Yes, you need to get involved.'"

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