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 TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' 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 CramerOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst on trade deal Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-N.D.), who is challenging Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states 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."