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Koch-backed political group unveils House endorsements

Tim Phillips on health care
Koch brothers political chief: Health care effort a "disappointment" 04:46

The political network created by the billionaire Koch brothers announced plans to support eight House Republicans on Thursday, pledging financial resources and activists to help re-elect several vulnerable congressmen deemed "principled" conservatives.

The first wave of endorsements includes a handful of sometime-critics of President Trump, particularly on immigration and spending.

The announcement comes a month after Mr. Trump assailed the Koch brothers as "a total joke in real Republican circles." Days earlier, network patriarch Charles Koch had condemned the increased government spending under the Republican president's leadership and Mr. Trump's push for import tariffs. The Koch brothers have also been critical of Mr. Trump's protectionist trade measures. In July, Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, told CBSN that the aluminum and steel tariffs implemented by the Trump administration were "misguided."

Despite clashes with the White House, the Koch network remains one of the most powerful political organizations in the country. The sprawling organization is on pace to spend as much as $400 million on politics and policy ahead of November's election. And its coalition of trained activists across 36 states has no rival.

The candidates backed by the network's political arm, Americans for Prosperity, include eight men from seven states: Reps. Rod Blum and David Young of Iowa, Dave Brat of Virginia, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Will Hurd of Texas, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Peter Roskam of Illinois. Brat, Roskam and Hurd in particular are facing serious challenges in November, and are vulnerable to being defeated by their Democratic opponents.

For each of the candidates, Americans for Prosperity "will fully activate its grass-roots infrastructure through phone banks and neighborhood canvassing, as well as deploy targeted digital, mail and radio advertising," according to a statement.

Absent from the list are some of the nation's most vulnerable House Republicans including Reps. Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Mike Coffman of Colorado in addition to any Republicans from top House battleground states such as California, New Jersey or New York.

The Kochs, who devote substantial resources to pushing conservative policies at the state and national level, are active in New Jersey but do not have chapters in California or New York.

"While Americans for Prosperity is committed to opposing politicians who actively work to defeat good policies, we are proud to stand with lawmakers who champion legislation that helps improve people's lives," said Phillips.

He added: "The candidates we are supporting this fall have each been strong, principled leaders."

All but one of the endorsed candidates, Hurd, supported efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law, including the popular provision that required insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. Hurd is a moderate Republican from Texas, differing ideologically from some of the other candidates backed by the Kochs.

All of them voted for the sweeping tax cuts and the GOP plan to ease banking regulations put in place after the 2007 financial collapse.

Most supported the White House-backed $1.3 trillion spending bill Congress adopted earlier in the year over the Koch network's objections. The opponents included three people on the endorsement list: Freedom Caucus members Blum, Brat and Budd.

Some of the group also oppose Mr. Trump's immigration policies. Hurd, in particular, has emerged as a vocal critic of the administration's move to separate immigrant families at the border and spend tens of billions of dollars on a huge wall. Paulsen supports a law that would protect many young immigrants in the country illegally from deportation, while Roskam opposed Mr. Trump's border separation policy as well.

The Koch network favors a more forgiving immigration policy in line with much of the business wing of the GOP. In April, the Koch network launched an ad campaign to urge for the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.

"As we work to build progress in Washington, we will continue our pursuit of policy majorities that will move our country in the right direction by supporting leaders like these," Phillips said.

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