Bannon to GOP candidates: If you take Koch money, 'you are going to pay'

Bannon to GOP candidates: If you take Koch money, 'you are going to pay'
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE's former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is warning Republican candidates not to take money from the conservative Koch network — or face consequences.

"You take Koch money, it's going to be toxic," Bannon told CNBC in an interview. "We are going to let people know that if you take Koch money there's a punishment.

"If you take money from people who are against the president and are looking to put a knife in the back of the president, you are going to pay."

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Bannon's comments came amid signs of tensions between the Koch network and President Trump.

The Koch network has said it would freeze out Republicans who break with its fiscally conservative policy priorities, at least for now, and that it plans to back only a handful of candidates in Senate races in Florida, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Missouri.

The Koch network, a web of conservative groups funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, has long been a forceful player in conservative politics in the U.S. This election cycle, the network is slated to spend about $400 million on politics and policy initiatives.

But it has broken with President Trump and some of his allies in Congress on issues such as spending and government trade. And the Koch network declined to endorse Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Barr says he'll make surveillance reforms after damning watchdog report Trump Fed nominee stirs controversy ahead of hearing MORE (R-N.D.), who is challenging Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D) for her Senate seat in North Dakota.

The announcement drew the ire of President Trump, who said in a tweet on Monday that the network had become a "total joke" and insisted that he "never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas."

Bannon declined to say in his interview with CNBC exactly how he planned to go after the Koch network, but asserted that it needed to be held accountable. 

"Let's start holding the Kochs accountable. It's a con job and they are a total scam," he told the network. "They are promoters and it's a total Ponzi scheme. They never raise as much money as they talk about and no one ever knows who their donors are."