“Reports that we are supporting or considering supporting any third party presidential candidate are false,” Philip Ellender, president and COO of public affairs at Koch Companies Public Sector, said in a statement provided to The Hill.
Citing unnamed sources, conservative news website The Daily Caller reported Thursday that “Koch’s money will be made available should Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, secure his second consecutive Libertarian Party presidential nomination.”
But later on Thursday, Johnson told The Hill he had not engaged in any conversations with members of the Koch network and that the Daily Caller story had come as a surprise to him.
The Johnson team declined to discuss other donors who may be considering giving to the campaign, but spokesman Joe Hunter said they're “hearing from a wide range of groups and individuals who are interested in the governor and our campaign.”
Charles and David Koch lead the most powerful donor network in conservative politics.
Harnessing their network of some 700 donors, the Koch network has been working toward a 2016 cycle budget of some $889 million to spend on conservative causes and politics.
But they've so far shied away from spending any money at the presidential level because network officials and the Kochs are unhappy with both major party nominees. Neither Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Biden's Supreme Court reform study panel notes 'considerable' risks to court expansion Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump MORE nor Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Bill Clinton hospitalized with sepsis We have a presidential leadership crisis — and it's only going to get worse MORE has a sufficiently free market policy platform, and so the network is so far focusing its political spending on preserving Republican control of the Senate.
The Koch network has already committed more than $42 million to help Republican Senate candidates in five battleground states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida.
But at no point has the network committed a penny to funding a third-party candidacy, especially one that could potentially siphon conservative voters away from the Republican ticket and hand the White House to Clinton.
“The network is and will continue to be fully engaged in 2016’s political and policy battles. We want to maximize the number of freedom-oriented Senators,” said James Davis, spokesman for the Koch network, earlier this week.
“We see that on a number of issues, particularly free speech, the current majority is far preferable to the alternative.”
—Jonathan Easley contributed reporting