Indiana’s Mike Pence could be the Kochs’ 2016 candidate of choice

August 29, 2014

On the heels of new revelations about the Koch brothers’ favorite 2014 GOP Senate candidates, POLITICO looks at a candidate the Kochs may be grooming for a 2016 run — Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The report points to numerous instances of alignment between Pence’s activities as a Member of Congress and Governor and the Kochs’ extreme agenda, in addition to the collection of former Pence staffers that are now among the upper echelons of Koch World. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars the Koch network is likely to pour into the next Presidential election — it raised over $400 million in 2012 — the headline’s claim that Pence could have a “Koch advantage” is quite the understatement.

In what reads like a 2,000 word love story about the romance between Pence and the Koch brothers, POLITICO notes that Pence initially piqued the Kochs’ interest as a Member of Congress for his opposition to “Big Government” programs, leading the billionaire brothers to feature Pence at least once at one of their secretive donor “seminars” during that time. Pence has since become a mainstay at Koch events; he’s appearing this weekend at a summit hosted in Dallas by Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ political arm. For his part, Pence went out of his way to exalt the Kochs ahead of his appearance at their event, saying that he’s “grateful” for David Koch and AFP, “honored” to be participating in the event and has “immense respect” for one of the Kochs’ top advisors.

Also during his Congressional tenure, Pence advocated for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, among other extreme positions that led one Republican operative to tell POLITICO that Pence is “credible to the conservatives.” As Governor of Indiana, Pence enacted what POLITICO terms “aggressive tax cuts,” which significantly benefited the state’s top earners — a move straight out of the Koch playbook. He did so with full-throated support from AFP Indiana. Indeed, AFP operatives are so enamored of Pence’s oeuvre of extreme, Koch-backed policies that they held up Indiana as a example of a “model state” in a memo to donors obtained by POLITICO. The article also makes note of at least three different former Pence staffers who are now embedded in the Kochs’ political network, none more so than former Pence chief of staff Marc Short, who leads Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a shadowy group known as the Kochs’ “secret bank.”

From Pence’s attendance at Koch events, to AFP’s lauding his work in Indiana as exemplary of the Koch agenda, to the Pence alumni scattered throughout the Koch ranks, POLITICO brings to light many different signs that the Koch winds could be blowing toward a Pence presidential candidacy. But in Koch World, money and political spending are how the brothers really show their love for their favorite candidates, so perhaps no signal is more clear than the $200,000 the brothers gave to Pence’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign.

Never ones to limit themselves to being courted by just one extreme candidate at a time, the Kochs are also auditioning several other potential 2016 Republican candidates this weekend at the AFP summit. In addition to Governor Pence, Koch-inspired activists in attendance will hear from recently indicted Texas Governor Rick Perry, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and author Dr. Ben Carson.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation