“Torrid Courtship”: A Story Of Budding Koch-Christie Loving In The Garden State

February 4, 2016

Jane Mayer’s new book Dark Money brought us some pretty mind-blowing revelations about Charles and David Koch and their family history — like that their father, Fred Koch, helped build a Hitler-approved oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was later bombed by the Allies and rebuilt using concentration camp slave labor.

Here’s another more recent, but nonetheless fascinating, blast from the Kochs’ past: Back in 2011, Charles and David Koch aggressively courted New Jersey governor Chris Christie to run for president as an “empathetic,” Koch-friendly alternative to Mitt Romney.

Chris Christie has gone on the record to throw some love the Kochs’ way, defending the brothers and the influence of their and others’ dark money spending and negative ads back in 2014. But Mayer’s new book reveals that the Koch-Christie affinity and admiration was mutual — and that it goes back even further.

In 2011, with polls showing Mitt Romney struggling with a perceived lack of empathy, New Yorker David Koch looked south to the Garden State for answers:

The search for a more promising candidate set off a torrid courtship of Chris Christie, the tough-guy governor of New Jersey. David Koch invited Christie to his Manhattan office, where the two spent almost two hours bonding over Christie’s brawls with the unions and other liberal forces. The governor’s scrappy blue- collar style, combined with his plutocrat-friendly economic policies, made him an almost irresistible prospect. By June, the Kochs had given Christie the keynote speaker slot at their seminar, where he could audition for his party’s leading role in front of the people who could pay his way.

The “torrid” Koch-Christie love affair hit its zenith at a Koch network donor summit that same year, where David publicly embraced Christie as “my kind of guy,” calling him a “true political hero” who “tells it like it is.” Mayer writes that the Kochs were enamored with Christie’s “courage and leadership,” and particularly drawn to his efforts to “cut future pension and benefit payments to New Jersey’s unionized public sector employees.” But the Kochs have never been defenders of working people, so no surprise there.

The Koch-Christie romance continued. Back in New Jersey, Christie even took on the Kochs’ priorities as his own, reversing course on a campaign promise to make “his state a superpower in wind energy” and taking steps to slow the growth of the renewable energy sector. In late 2011, the Kochs joined a number of other “business titans” in urging Christie to pursue the GOP nomination, though the New Jersey governor ultimately balked at the prospect.

So far in 2016, the Kochs have seemed less enamored with Christie, but it’s clear he still has a place in their heart. The New Jersey governor’s “worked to cultivate a relationship” with David, and the two have even socialized together with their spouses, according to the New York Times. For a time, Christie even appeared to be a leading contender in the Koch primary, attending a private donor dinner at David Koch’s Upper East Side duplex.

As the GOP field narrows and remains dominated by right-wing demagogues, Chris Christie has remained a strong — though equally extreme conservative — contender in the establishment lane. 

Has the time come for the Kochs to once more seek out their New Jerseyan knight in shining armor? Charles and David are getting desperate, so only time will tell.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation