According to CNN, groups affiliated with Charles and David Koch – the conservative billionaire industrialists with an extensive network of political advocacy organizations – have unveiled a “new pool of money” to fund things like advertisements and mailings in defense of congresspeople who vote against the American Health Care Act.
CNN did not describe its source for the story, but printed a statement from Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group, who said: “We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact.”
“We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise,” he continued.
Politico also reported on the fund, described as a “seven-figure" reserve fund.
James Davis, executive vice president of Freedom Partners, another Koch-funded group, told the publication in part: "We will stand with lawmakers who keep their promise and oppose this legislation — and work toward a solution that reduces costs and provides Americans with the relief they need and deserve.”
In a statement emailed to TPM Thursday, Freedom Partners Vice President for Strategic Communications Bill Riggs said in part: "Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners joined together today to announce a commitment to stand by principled lawmakers who keep their promise of fully repealing Obamacare by opposing the American Health Care Act unless there are significant changes."
The Koch groups aren’t alone in applying pressure to lawmakers on the fence about the Obamacare replacement plan. President Donald Trump pressured lawmakers with the prospect of primary challengers if they don't support the bill.
But the promise of independent campaign funds for things like television advertisements in exchange for a specific vote is an especially blunt message to lawmakers.
On Tuesday, Levi Russel, Americans for Prosperity’s director for public affairs, retweeted CNN’s Teddy Schleifer, who called the effort “hardball” and “an aggressive step.”
Kochs have withheld money from GOP before -- think Kelly Ayotte in 2016 -- but this is an aggressive step meant to warn those in advance. https://t.co/lkChIog2J1
— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) March 23, 2017
Reuters reported that Americans for Prosperity's Phillips stopped short of saying directly that those who vote for the bill would face consequences, but, he told the publication: “Members of Congress know how serious we take a vote like this.” And Freedom Partners' Davis told Reuters: “[N]etwork organizations will stand with principled lawmakers who will oppose the House healthcare proposal.”
This post has been updated.