Koch-backed group launches new effort to pressure Congress on spending

Koch-backed group launches new effort to pressure Congress on spending
© Greg Nash

An influential conservative group backed by billionaire donor Charles Koch is launching a new effort to pressure Congress to freeze spending ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the political arm of the Koch network, is organizing its activists to hold on-the-ground events throughout August, when many lawmakers will be home for recess.

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The events include town hall summits, meetings with members of Congress in their home offices and branded events, like ice cream socials, designed to draw attention to AFP’s efforts to “freeze” spending.

“Congress struggles to meaningfully restrain even discretionary spending, which accounts for one-third of federal government spending,” said AFP Chief Government Affairs Officer Brent Gardner. “If we can’t achieve that, what hope is there for us to make serious fixes to the budget?”

The Koch network is furious with Congress for passing the massive $1.3 trillion spending bill in March.

AFP, which traditionally supports Republicans, has spent six figures running ads targeting members of both parties for voting for that bill or voting against spending clawbacks, including 10 GOP House members and two Republican senators.

“Many of you watched in disgust as the most fiscally irresponsible spending bill was passed in March under a Republican Congress … we supported the election of some of these people … it drives us crazy,” Brian Hooks, president of The Charles Koch Foundation, told a group of donors gathered for a biannual summit in Colorado Springs.

After signing the $1.3 trillion spending bill, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE said he would never sign anything like it again. Republicans are instead looking to pass a series of narrow spending bills in an effort to avoid sending one massive bill to the president for approval.

But AFP is worried that the smaller bills Congress is rolling into the larger funding package will blow past 2018 spending. A spokesperson said that the U.S. government will spend more than $4 trillion for the first time this fiscal year and noted that the national debt is at an all-time high, at over $21 trillion.

“Simply put, the American dream won’t exist for future generations if we allow our country to head into a debt spiral,” Gardner said. “This effort is designed to make sure spending remains a critical part of our national discussion.”