- Jan 27, 2014
This weekend, a select group of Republican presidential hopefuls will arrive in southern California to attend one of Charles and David Koch's biannual donor retreats, a coveted invite for GOP politicians seeking the backing of the billionaire brothers and their elite club of conservative and libertarian mega-donors. Featured guests at the conclave will include Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was also invited to the confab but is unlikely to attend.
Notably absent from the guest list for the Koch winter seminar: Mitt Romney.
Romney, despite earning David Koch's endorsement in 2008, has never been beloved by the Kochs and their allies. In fact, donors who travel in the Kochs' circles singled out Romney for blame after his 2012 defeat at the hands of an unpopular sitting president. Judging by the reception to Romney's flirtation with a 2016 race, Kochworld is unlikely to embrace Romney should he run again—and may actively work to oppose him.
Poor Mittens - not invited to a private dinner party AND getting bashed by the Kocholytes.After Romney's defeat, donors far and wide—including several who attend the Kochs' events—were quick to blame the candidate for their party's defeat. "You've got a bad candidate, you're gonna lose," Stan Hubbard, a Minnesota telecommunications mogul who typically attends one Koch seminar a year, told me a few months after the 2012 election. "You can spend all the money on a candidate you want, but if they’re talking about self-deportation, or betting $10,000, or 47 percent, you're gonna lose." Hubbard went on, "Romney may be a nice man, but he didn't understand where the average person's coming from. He didn't understand how people were suffering. He was a losing candidate."
Hubbard, who says he gives to Americans for Prosperity, remains no less critical of Romney. In an interview last week, he called Romney a "terrible" candidate. "We have to put forward candidates who can win," Hubbard said, listing Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie. (Hubbard says he has not picked a 2016 favorite.)
Randy Kendrick, the wife of Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick and a fixture in the Koch donor network, recently pledged to aggressively oppose a third Romney presidential bid. "My family spent enormous time and money to elect Mitt Romney despite our concerns," Kendrick said in an email to donors obtained by the Daily Caller. "However, lesson learned, I will work early and tirelessly now to make sure he is not our nominee again."
Having run for president twice before, Romney knows all too well the staggering sums of cash required to mount a credible bid for his party's nomination, let alone the presidency. (Jeb Bush's team has reportedly set a goal of raising a whopping $100 million—in just the first three months of 2015.) But unless something drastic changes between Romney, the Kochs, and their club of free-market-minded donors, Romney will find himself shut out of the biggest wellspring of political cash in modern American politics.