Charles Koch explains to donors why he won't support Trump

The top 100 donors in political campaigns

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Donors at the swanky bi-annual Charles and David Koch retreat over the weekend noshed on top-quality food and sipped on cocktails while networking and listening to senators, governors and business leaders promote limited government and social responsibility.

But not far from any discussion was presidential politics.

Charles Koch's refusal to spend the network's money to influence the presidential election in favor of Trump, aggravated some donors who believe Trump is a far better choice than Clinton.

To appease some donors' concerns, officials presenting to the group explained why it was not in the best interest of the network.

"Today they gave a great explanation," California real-estate attorney Tim Busch said, referring to discussion in sessions closed to the press. "Charles said 'I've been at this for 50 years. It's a crisis today and it's going to be a crisis in four years.'"

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"If they did [contribute to Trump], they would compromise their values and they would never be able to hold any politician accountable," Busch said.

Charles Koch, who runs the conservative donor network that has raised three-quarters of a billion dollars from its members, emphasized and clarified his own personal position, including that he would not support Republican candidate Donald Trump.

"At this point I can't support either candidate," Koch told the attendees, adding to scattered applause, "but I'm certainly not going to support Hillary."

The notion that he would support the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, is "blood libel," Koch said.

In public remarks, he told the group that politics is definitely part of their strategy to promote a free and open society. "But keep in mind just one piece," Koch said, "because if we focus on that [alone] we are going to continue to lose; we're going to continue to deteriorate."

"The good news [is] we've built this network for just such a condition," he added. "That puts us in a position to make progress in spite of the political situation."

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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." 

Photo via Getty

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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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. 

Photo via Getty

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. 

Photo via Getty

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.”

Photo via Getty

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."   

Photo via Getty 


The Koch network has created a web of policy and political groups with 1,600 employees in 38 states that coordinate to advance their limited government objectives. They also fund think tanks, 300 university professor positions and philanthropic organizations.

Related: After Snubs, Trump Claims He Rejected Koch Request to Meet

Koch's explanation wasn't enough for Doug Deason, a prominent Koch donor who is also serving as a trustee on Trump's finance team.

"Just admit you're voting for trump, then you can maybe influence his policies,'" Deason said. "What are his options?"

Deason said he also wants Koch to meet with Donald Trump.

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Top Trump campaign aides and top officials of the Koch network, including Mark Holden, the chairman of the board of Koch's political arm Freedom Partners, met in June after Trump staff requests. Leaders of the Koch network did not change their position or opinion of Trump after that meeting.

Koch, whose network spent $400 million on the 2012 election, has so far refused to spend money to support Trump.

Instead his group is planning $42 million in television and digital adverting on five Senate races — Ohio, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Indiana and potentially Florida — a few gubernatorial races and some House contests.

We are focused on the Senate," Holden said.

Nearly a dozen journalists, including from NBC News, accepted an invitation and agreed to ground rules, including no filming and respecting attendees privacy, in order to cover the three-day long gathering.

For some at the meeting, the debate is not just about publicly supporting Trump, but also about a willingness to donate to his campaign, and that's where the divisions arise.

"I may end up voting for him," said Chart Westcott, a biotech investor in Dallas. "I'm probably not going to contribute."

Busch, the California donor, expressed a similar view.

"I'm gonna vote for Donald Trump, but I'm not going to support him," he said.

And some said they won't even vote for him.

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Art Pope of North Carolina, a long time ally of Koch who runs the John William Pope Foundation, which funds conservative projects in the Tar Heel State, said that even though North Carolina is a battle ground state he might only vote in down-ballot races.

"I am not supporting Donald trump, nor am I supporting Hillary Clinton," Pope said.

A dozen elected officials attended to speak and to meet with donors.

House Speaker Paul Ryan will speak at the closing luncheon Monday. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Wisconsin Gov. Soctt Walker, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Mike Lee, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Colorado lawmakers Rep. Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner all attended.

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