Wealthy Republican donors are descending on Colorado Springs this weekend to attend the Charles and David Koch bi-annual retreat where the cloud of Donald Trump hovers over the rich influencers.
The wealthy conservative activists and the sum of their vast donor network have shunned Trump throughout the entire presidential election. But as they gather this weekend, Trump is sure to be a topic of discussion as it's the first time the group is meeting since Trump was crowned as the Republican nominee.
"Presidential politics will be discussed for sure," said one regular donor who won't be attending this weekend due to a conflict.
Another donor who will attend said, "Surely presidential politics will be discussed, but much less than usual as we don't have a real advancing freedom option in this election."
Trump, coincidentally or not, held a rally in Colorado Springs Friday despite being 10 points behind in the latest poll in Colorado, a gap that explains why Democrat Hillary Clinton pulled advertising from the state.
Politico reported Friday that members of the Trump finance team attempted to meet with the Kochs but the request was denied.
James Davis, spokesperson for Freedom Partners, the political arm of the Koch network, said in a statement, "We’ve met with them before to discuss the issues that we care about and helping people their lives. Our focus will remain on the Senate."
Top Trump staffers met with Mark Holden, the head of Freedom Partners in June. Neither party provided a read out or even advertised the meeting. Even after the meeting, the Kochs have been consistent in saying they would maintain focus on the Senate races up for grabs this fall.
Since it became clear that Trump was going to win the Republican nomination, the Kochs decided against spending as much as $300 million on politics and policy this cycle. Instead they have dramatically down-scaled their investment, committing just a fraction — $42 million — on down-ballot races.
A small group of donors in the network are trying to change that by urging the Kochs to reconsider their election-year absence, Reuters reports.
The last time this vast donor network, member of which are required to give at least $100,000, met was on the eve of the Iowa Caucuses. At that time, the network had high hopes for several of the 17 Republican candidates, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. The network even considered spending money to defeat Trump, but decided against it.
Even Trump’s selection of Koch-favorite Mike Pence as his running mate wasn’t enough for them to commit to helping the top of the ticket.
Pence had even planned to attend the retreat but cancelled two weeks ago because of the scheduling difficulties of additional campaign duties.
Trump has long hoped he could get in the good graces of the Koch brothers but has been unsuccessful. He chose former New Hampshire chapter head of Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Corey Lewandowski, as his campaign manager but the Kochs have rebuked his efforts every step of the way.
The group i360, which is said to have the best data tools in politics and is funded in part by the Kochs, gave many Republican presidential candidates access to its network in the presidential primary, but not Trump.
The retreat takes place from Saturday through Monday.