Koch network spends big to lobby against Biden agenda while supporting other Democratic plans

Charles Koch

Patrick T. Fallon | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The political network backed by billionaire Charles Koch spent a record amount of money directly lobbying Congress, with a focus on opposing crucial elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda while supporting some bills backed by Democratic lawmakers.

Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, supported by the libertarian-leaning Koch, spent $350,000 between July and September as they separately committed millions of dollars on advertisements that, at times, took aim at pieces of Biden’s proposals.

One of the network’s lobbying targets this year has been moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The total also does not include the millions spent on lobbying by the separate Koch Industries, a conglomerate that’s been owned and run by the family for decades.

Still, that six-figure lobbying total is the most Americans for Prosperity has spent in one quarter directly engaging with congressional lawmakers, according to records reviewed by CNBC.

A third quarter disclosure shows the Koch network opposed the House version of Biden’s infrastructure proposal known as the Build Back Better Act, the social and climate budget plan backed by progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders and the House-based For the People Act, which aims to expand access to voting and overhaul campaign finance laws.

A spokesman for Americans for Prosperity did not return a request for comment before publication.

Democrats are currently debating amongst themselves about the final version of Biden’s infrastructure proposal and what should be in the larger reconciliation package.

The most recent quarter shows that the Koch backed group did not directly engage with the Biden White House or administration officials, but did lobby Congress in support of a batch of bills originally sponsored by Democrats. Much of those pieces of legislation focus on criminal justice reform and curtailing the use of military force.

Those two themes have been among the network’s priorities spanning multiple administrations and, with Democrats in power, Americans for Prosperity seems to see an opportunity to complete much of their agenda that they couldn’t finish when President Donald Trump was in the White House and Republicans controlled Congress.

The Koch network did see multiple victories after Trump’s election in 2016, including reforms to the tax code and getting all of their preferred Supreme Court justices onto the high court.

Since Trump’s defeat in 2020, Koch himself told multiple publications that he was aiming to work with the Biden administration on several issues. The network had also previously vowed to be open to working with Democrats.

The bills Americans for Prosperity lobbied to support in Congress included legislation originally introduced and sponsored by the likes of Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Chris Coons, D-Del., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

The disclosure lists the EQUAL Act, a bill originally co-sponsored by Booker and Durbin earlier this year, as an item Americans for Prosperity lobbied in support of last quarter. The bill, if passed, would eliminate the federal sentencing disparity between drug offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine. It has only been introduced and has yet to pass the Senate.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Bobby Scott, D-Va., Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., introduced their own version of the EQUAL Act in March. Americans for Prosperity also lobbied in support of that bill in the third quarter. It passed the House and has yet to go through the Senate.

Americans for Prosperity also lobbied in support of a bill to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which justified the use of military force against Iraq nearly 20 years ago. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and a bipartisan group of lawmakers

It passed the House earlier this summer and has yet to make it’s way through the Senate.

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