The Corner

Can the Koch Network and Jared Kushner Come Up with a Big Immigration Reform Deal?

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner waits in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2018. (Leah Millis/REUTERS )

Indian Wells, California — This morning, the Koch Seminar Network – more often referred to as “the Koch network” or “the shadowy Koch brothers” by gravely-voiced attack ad announcers – kick off their three-day winter meeting with the government at least temporarily reopened but the landscape in Washington deeply unsettled.

Thursday, Daniel Garza, the president of one of the Koch network’s affiliate groups called the Libre Initiative, met at the White House with officials in the administration to discuss a larger deal on immigration reform. Libre Institute president Daniel Garza told HillTv hosts the meeting, which included leaders of other Latino groups, was “very constructive, productive. We felt Jared [Kushner] was an honest broker.”

Kushner has proven the network’s most valuable negotiating partner in the White House, playing a key role in the criminal justice reform legislation passed late last year. Ideas in that legislation, particularly anti-recidivism programs in federal prisoners, were the centerpiece of last year’s winter meeting.

But two of the open questions as the Koch donors gather at the luxury resort outside Palm Springs are just how much can get done in Washington with divided government and the jockeying for position in 2020 starting already, and just what kind of a deal President Trump is willing to accept. Last year Brian Hooks, president of the Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Institute, applauded the administration’s proposal of “legal certainty” for Dreamers, and indicated the network hoped the administration could go a step further for the Dreamers: “A path to citizenship is enormous incentive to continue to contribute to this country.” This year, the network is expected to push for a permanent solution to the Dreamers’s current legal status.

Politics makes strange bedfellows; this will put the Koch network on the same side as many Democratic lawmakers who have decried their allegedly sinister influence for many years. Earlier this month, Congressional Democrats rejected the administration’s offer of three years of legislative relief for about 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients in exchange for $5.7 billion in steel barriers. Democrats appear unwilling to accept a temporary reprieve for the Dreamers in exchange for a permanent structure on the border.

Immigration is certain to come up at some point during the winter meeting, but the main focus in the coming days will be the theme “unleash the potential in everyone,” with an emphasis on programs, organizations and legislative proposals that address problems such as chronic unemployment, drugs and addiction, and poverty.

The Koch network boasts, with some strong evidence, that it has become one of the most consequential forces in American politics, with what it calls a “permanent grassroots infrastructure in 36 states.” Besides the Libre Initiative, the network includes the most visible arm, Americans for Prosperity; Generation Opportunity, which focuses on Millennials; Concerned Veterans for America, which addresses veterans’ issues; and Stand Together, which endeavors to build social capital.

But 2018 was a rough year for some of the network’s favorite political allies. Governor Scott Walker lost in Wisconsin, and Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt failed in his bid for governor. Five of Americans for Prosperity’s eight “policy champions” in the U.S. House of Representatives lost in 2018. But the Koch Industries Political Action Committee donated to most of the winning 2018 GOP candidates — Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Greg Abbott of Texas, as well as senators Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota (despite the network saying they would not support his heavily-favored Senate bid because he was backing the administration’s tariffs) and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Another lawmaker who has addressed the winter meeting in past years, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, is up for reelection this year and he appears to be in for a tough fight.

Most Popular

White House

On the Bidens, Schiff Opened the Door

You opened the door. Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase. When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial ... Read More
White House

On the Bidens, Schiff Opened the Door

You opened the door. Trial lawyers live in fear of that phrase. When a trial starts, both sides know what the allegations are. Both have had enough discovery to know what the adversary will try to prove. Just as significantly, both know what their own vulnerabilities are. A litigator spends his pretrial ... Read More
World

Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike

Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the ... Read More
World

Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike

Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the ... Read More
Elections

Buttigieg’s Hollow Military Bragging

The term “veteran” wields a strange talismanic power in American politics today; the military is almost the only institution in American life that has maintained very high favorability ratings over the past 30 years. Invocation of the sacred words “military service” invariably grants a presumed license to ... Read More
Elections

Buttigieg’s Hollow Military Bragging

The term “veteran” wields a strange talismanic power in American politics today; the military is almost the only institution in American life that has maintained very high favorability ratings over the past 30 years. Invocation of the sacred words “military service” invariably grants a presumed license to ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Doesn’t Require a Crime

Senate Republicans, by and large, have reached an unspoken consensus about President Trump and Ukraine. He should not have put a temporary freeze on congressionally authorized aid to Ukraine, should not have dabbled with using the aid to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or a nutty theory about Ukrainian ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Doesn’t Require a Crime

Senate Republicans, by and large, have reached an unspoken consensus about President Trump and Ukraine. He should not have put a temporary freeze on congressionally authorized aid to Ukraine, should not have dabbled with using the aid to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or a nutty theory about Ukrainian ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Clarence Thomas Speaks

Those who know Justice Clarence Thomas say that any perception of him as dour or phlegmatic couldn't be more off-base. He's a charming, gracious, jovial man, full of bonhomie and easy with a laugh, or so I'm told by people who know him well. On summer breaks he likes to roam around the country in an RV and stay ... Read More