In an apparent attack on President Donald Trump from the same side of the aisle, a top Koch brothers associate criticized Trump’s ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority nations as the “wrong approach” on Sunday.
“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families,” Brian Hooks, the head of the Charles Koch Foundation, said at an event for the brothers’ political and policy network. “The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive.”
Hooks added: “Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”
The billionaire Koch brothers have been critical of Trump before, and did not endorse his candidacy. During the campaign, Charles Koch, 81, said Trump’s proposal to register all Muslims living in the U.S. was “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.” (He also compared the choice between electing Trump or his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton to picking a “heart attack or cancer.”)
The Koch network, officially known as Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, operates several political groups, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Libre Initiative.
Hooks issued the statement on Trump’s controversial immigrant ban as some 550 of the network’s biggest donors gathered at a luxury resort near Palm Springs, California, for its annual winter seminar. Some of the talk seemed to be pro-Trump, ABC reported.
Charles Koch didn’t mention Trump in his public remarks to the donors, who pay the network at least $100,000 each year. Other network leaders, however, said they were willing to work with Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress on reducing regulations and government spending. “We see big opportunities to work with the new administration and this new Congress,” Hooks said, but he also warned that the network would “hold all politicians accountable, regardless of political party.”
Besides Trump’s immigration crackdown, his planned spending boost for infrastructure and the plan he floated — and then dropped — to impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican products were not popular with the network.
“A $1 trillion government stimulus is a bad idea under Democrats and it’s a bad idea for a Republican,” Hooks said to donor applause, USA Today reported.
Network leaders are pleased, however, about Trump’s executive order supporting the Keystone pipeline and some of his Cabinet posts.
Koch network officials said they intend to spend up to $400 million to influence policy and politics over the next two years, compared with the $250 million that Koch groups spent on the 2016 elections ― largely for key Senate races, The Washington Post reported.
“We had by far the most productive year in the history of this network,” Charles Koch told donors about the last election. “We’re just getting started.”
No one from the Trump administration attended the conclave. But five Republican senators, two members of Congress and governors from Wisconsin, Arizona and Illinois were there.