Between Donald Trump's historic unpopularity and an unprecedented number of resignations in the House and Senate, this year's midterm elections could prove to be a blue wave for Democrats, even with much of the congressional map gerrymandered against them. If so, the Koch brothers appear to have missed the memo.
According to CBS, the right-wing billionaires are "all in" for 2018, planning to spend as much as $400 million on political candidates across the country. But it's not just Congress they hope to reshape in their own image. The Washington Post reports the oil magnates have their sights set on the next Supreme Court vacancy, and that their political advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, is "expanding its portfolio into the judicial branch."
"In 2017, the network’s activists worked phones and knocked on doors, urging voters to push their senators to confirm Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia," writes the Post's Michelle Ye Hee Lee. "The new effort will build on the 2017 work, led by Concerned Veterans for America, which network officials viewed as an indication of how much energy activists will bring to the new judicial campaign."
As part of their latest push, the Kochs announced Sunday that they have hired Sarah Field as vice president of judicial strategy. Field previously worked for the Federalist Society, an ultra-conservative pressure group that has helped Trump stack the courts with any number of far-right ideologues, including Gorsuch.
The Kochs' active involvement in the nomination process speaks to their burgeoning alliance with the Trump administration. While the avowed libertarians refused to endorse Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, they have found common cause with the president on a host of policy matters, ranging from a trillion-dollar tax cut for multinational corporations and the rich, to massive deregulation and the ongoing dismantling of the Environment Protection Agency. As a separate report from Ye Hee Lee and James Hohmann of the Post reveals, they already have a major ally in Marc Short, a former political strategist for the Kochs who now serves as White House liaison to Capitol Hill.
"On areas of disagreement where they were once outspoken — such as supporting free trade, advocating more open borders and opposing deficit spending — network officials now tread carefully to downplay divisions and avoid antagonizing Trump," Ye Hee Lee and Hohmann observe.
Over the weekend, more than 500 megadonors, each of whom contributes more than $100,000 annually to the Koch network, gathered at a resort in Palm Springs for a biannual seminar to assess, among other things, the first year of the Trump's presidency. When Americans for Prosperity's Tim Phillips mentioned the former reality show host's numerous federal district and circuit court appointments — the most in modern American history — the crowd erupted in applause.
“Securing Justice Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court bench was a major victory for freedom, but the fight to realign our courts around the rule of law is far from over,” the newly appointed Field said in a statement. “This year we will mobilize our activists as needed, particularly when members of the Senate choose to needlessly obstruct the confirmation process. When the next vacancy opens on the Supreme Court, we will be ready."