August 30, 2013
Charles Koch (Mike Burley/Associated Press)
Charles Koch (Mike Burley/Associated Press)

Billionaire Republican megadonors Charles and David Koch abandoned their plans last week to purchase the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times (they apparently hadn’t realized that newspapers are not a “profitable venture”), but that doesn’t mean they’re pulling back from politics. Not by a long shot.

Today kicks off the two-day Defending the American Dream Summit, a Florida confab hosted by the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation (David Koch is chairman of the board, helped start the group and is reportedly its largest funder), which will feature a slew of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida will be there, as will Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. That’s about half of the potential field of candidates in one room. AFP holds events like this regularly, but the lineup suggests the organization is exerting influence early in the developing 2016 field.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Florida Gov. Rick Scott will also be on hand, along with a smattering of conservative media figures, such as Michelle Malkin, in addition to the president of the American Enterprise Institute.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the foundation’s activist wing, has been on the ground in Colorado where a fight to recall two state lawmakers has become a national proxy fight over gun control, with the Kochs and the NRA on one side, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg on the other. Reid Wilson reported Wednesday:

Altogether, the two sides have spent nearly $2 million on the two races since Aug. 1, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office — most of it coming from high-profile outside groups with a stake in the gun debate.

Colorado has never recalled an elected official in its 137-year history, but conservative activists gathered more than the 10,000 signatures they needed to initiate the process to oust Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron after the state Senate passed new gun-control regulations following the Aurora theater massacre. The election will take place Sept. 10.

As Alec MacGillis wrote in The New Republic his week, second only to the National Rifle Association, AFP has been leading the campaign against the senators:

Americans for Prosperity, the group funded by the Koch brothers, is also very active — it’s running the most aggressive field operation against the two senators, though it doesn’t have to report what it’s spending because it is technically only “educating” voters about the senators’ positions, not explicitly advocating for their recall.

According to the group, it has 70,000 members across the state, and its canvassers have made 5,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 3,500 doors. AFP’s literature doesn’t actually mention guns, but it portrays Morse as Bloomberg’s stooge. AFP also has run radio ads against Giron and is considering more. “We’re willing to invest some significant money,” a spokesperson for AFP’s Colorado chapter told the Colorado Springs Independent.

(On top of that, Magpul, a firearms accessories manufacturer based in the state, donated 20,000 high-capacity magazines to the recall effort — the new law bans the sale of magazines that carry more than 15 rounds — and the company is reportedly considering spending $50,000 on attack ads.)

The gun issue is a relatively new one for the Kochs and AFP, which typically focus on economic and regulatory issues, but Colorado is one of the only states that’s actually advanced gun-control regulation this year, so there’s a lot at stake for both sides.

 

Update: An earlier version of this post quoted a post from The Post’s GovBeat that has been corrected. Reid Wilson’s correction:

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Democrats and Republicans in the state Senate. There are 20 Democrats and 15 Republicans in the Senate, meaning Democrats would maintain control even if Morse and Giron are recalled.