For a few hours yesterday, the universe of Republican operatives and donors believed that the billionaires Charles and David Koch had made known their 2016 presidential candidate.
“Charles G. and David H. Koch, the influential and big-spending conservative donors, appear to have a favorite in the race for the Republican presidential nomination: Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin,” breathlessly reported the New York Times, after a private luncheon meeting of the Empire Club, an elite group of New York GOP donors. The Times reported it had talked with two people at the event who said they had heard David Koch indicate that Walker should be the Republican nominee and the Kochs might offer personal financial support to him in the primaries.
That certainly could have been big news. As the Times reported:
“Few donors have been courted as aggressively as the Kochs, whose network of political nonprofits, ‘super PACs’ and like-minded donors plans to spend almost $900 million over the next two years advancing conservative candidates and policies.”
A couple hours after the Times story broke, David Koch clarified what he had really said. “While I think Governor Walker is terrific, let me be clear, I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time,” he said in a statement.
As a backup he included a transcript of his remarks made at the Empire Club lunch: “My brother and I are going to take a neutral position as to who we are going to support until the primaries are over by the beginning of, in the summer of next year, so when the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination, well,” he said, pausing for laughter and applause from the audience. “Then we will support.”
The translation of all this is roughly as follows: David Koch is extremely fond of Wisconsin’s governor and would love to see him president. But he will be officially neutral and the considerable resources of the Koch family aren’t going to be deployed on his behalf during the primary season. The New York Times did clarify its original story, but its breathless account that the Koch brothers have anointed Scott Walker appears to have been, well, premature.