The Koch Brothers’ Big Gamble: Scott Walker for the Republican Nomination

Until recently, Scott Walker was most reknowned–or notorious, depending on whom you ask–for being the governor who fought Wisconsin’s public employee unions, passed controversial “right to work” laws, and successfully defeated a recall. That may soon change. As the unofficial 2016 presidential pick of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Scott Walker will soon fill the airwaves with his conservative accomplishments, as well as ads attacking his opponents.

Walker has not yet declared his candidacy, but is expected to announce after the Wisconsin state budget passes in June or July. In the meantime, he has been fundraising and making speeches to Republican donors, and making clear his intentions for 2016, albeit unofficially.

The Koch Brothers’ choice

Most key among these donors are the Koch brothers, and they appear to be firmly in Walker’s camp. As described in the New York Times, at a fundraising event last month in Manhattan, David Koch declared they would support Walker “[w]hen the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination.” And, Koch emphasized, “It should be Scott Walker.”

While David Koch later clarified that the Koch brothers won’t officially endorse a candidate until after the primaries are over, the brothers’ esteem for Walker is clear. David Koch believes Walker would defeat Hillary Clinton “by a major margin” and that he would be a “tremendous candidate to be the nominee.” Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity–a tax-exempt PAC founded by the Kochs–was equally effusive: “The difference Scott Walker has made with his policy achievements is as transformative as any governor anywhere in a generation.” Phillips added, “That’s why his appeal flourishes for activists and for donors.”

Image via Flickr
Image via Flickr

The Koch machine

Charles and David Koch, who are the fourth and fifth richest people in America respectively with an estimated $42 billion each to their names, have supported Walker since 2010. It is impossible to tell to what extent the Koch brothers were involved in defeating Walker’s recall in the wake of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign contributions without disclosing who the individual donors are (unless the corporation is engaged primarily in election activity, which Americans for Prosperity is not). Few doubt, however, that they were instrumental.Although the brothers did not directly donate to the anti-recall efforts, Americans for Prosperity did: It spent a reported $3 million on ads, provided 75 staffers to go door-to-door, and launched a four-day, ten-city bus tour leading up to the recall. Said David Koch at the time: “We’re helping [Walker], as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years… We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.” The influx worked, with Walker defeating the recall initiative. During the recall election, in which he was pitted against the same opponent he was up against in the 2010 election, he ended up winning by an even wider margin than the first time around.

This time, the Koch brothers are prepared to spend much more than $3 million; leading up to 2105, they have announced that they intend to spend $889 million, more than double the

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