Charles and David Koch – often referred to as the Koch brothers — are seen by many as big donors and allies of the Republican Party. Now they appear to be forging a financial friendship with those on the left who share their policitcal views – most notably regarding open borders. But is this really a sudden change in the billionaire brothers’ goals and policy views, perhaps brought on by the onset of Trump Derangement Syndrome, or could it be that, as Libertarians, they naturally align with Democrats on certain issues than Trump’s brand of Republicans?
A key vehicle in the immigration and border security battle is the LIBRE Initiative, a Koch-funded Hispanic outreach organization. As Trump mulls severely reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States, LIBRE has already spoken out in protest, saying Americans cannot “turn their backs” on those seeking to enter the US. “[W]e know that the vast majority of refugees who come here – like other immigrants – make immeasurable contributions to our nation,” David Garza, president of LIBRE, said in a statement.
In fact, the organization takes a far more radical approach than that to the tide of foreigners clamoring to cross our borders. The immigration page on LIBRE’s website hangs a “come one, come all” sign on our back porch in the name of “a streamlined, market-based and employment-driven” immigration system.
Come on in, Everybody
“The focus of US border security should be to defend against people that present risks to national safety, as determined by Congress, and not those who simply want to work,” reads the paragraph titled “Border Security.” The statement also calls for a legal path for the “estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States.” It urges legal status for Dreamers and an unlimited supply of foreign work visas. “A modern-day, employment-based and market-driven policy will allow people to meet specific labor-market needs without capping visas and provide employers with the workforce they require to drive their business,” the statement reads.
LIBRE firmly disapproves of a wall to protect our porous southern border. “We absolutely oppose a wall but we’re all for border security and increasing resources on the border,” Garza said in 2015 as Trump was seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Their idea of border security remains to be seen.
This position on border security and immigration could certainly be considered closer to the philosophy of Democrats than Republicans. But this should come as no surprise. David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s pick for vice president in 1980, and his colors have been pinned to that mast for a long time. With the GOP following Trump down the road of building an actual wall on the US-Mexico border, is it any wonder the Kochs are looking for other places to spend their political dollars? They openly declared in 2018 that they would support Democrats who share their pro-immigration views before getting behind Trump.
Last year, LIBRE sent mailers to voters on behalf of Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Reps. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Here on this issue, we have Democrats where we want to make sure that their constituents are aware that they are working on a permanent solution for Dreamers and on border security. So it certainly is a unique effort,” LIBRE spokesman Wadi Gaitan said of the effort, NPR reported.
Radical New Friends
But Koch aid for Democrats doesn’t stop there. Through their Freedom Partners organization, the Kochs actively backed the drive to pass Amendment 4 in Florida, a ballot initiative to restore the voting rights of convicted felons in that crucial electoral state. “We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full,” said Freedom Partners Chairman Mark Holden in a statement in September 2018. Holden is general counsel and senior vice president of Koch Industries. A 2014 survey by the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science found that 73% of convicts who would participate in a presidential election say they would vote Democrat. As Dems try to flip Florida from red to blue, every vote matters. With help from the Kochs, Amendment 4 was approved.
The successful campaign in Florida coincides with another major facet of the Koch agenda. Holden is a member of the advisory board for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Trone Center for Criminal Justice Reform. The center is named after Rep. David Trone (D-MD), owner of the Total Wine beverage chain and a hardcore progressive. The ACLU noted that Trone’s $15 million donation to fund the center marked the second-largest grant ever bestowed upon the leftist organization, trailing only the $50 million notorious progressive billionaire George Soros poured into it in 2014.
“I would like to congratulate and thank David Trone for his important response to the challenge I issued to the ACLU to mount the largest effort in history to end over-incarceration,” Soros said of Trone’s donation.
Koch and Soros dollars have mingled before. Most notably, both fund the left-leaning “media watchdog” the Poynter Institute. Poynter made headlines in May when it was forced to remove a list of “unreliable” conservative news sites it had posted on its website. The list turned out to have been compiled by a staffer from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a radical organization that has seen its reputation plummet to such a degree that even a leftist media giant like The Washington Post has denounced it.
It’s clear that the Koch Brothers believe they do not have a home in a populist nationalist Republican Party headed by a president who vows to put “America First.” The diving lines between the ideologies of leftist and libertarians are becoming quite thin. Now that the establishment GOP that served their needs so well has collapsed, the Koch brothers are finding new friends on the far left. As allegiances shift, perhaps it’s time to look at what we consider left and right with new eyes.