Gary Johnson

David Koch Reported to Be Intending to Put Big Money Behind Gary Johnson; Johnson Denies the Report; Austin Petersen Reacts [UPDATE: Koch Spokesperson Also Denies Report]


David Koch, himself a former Libertarian vice presidential candidate in 1980, industrial billionaire and political philanthropist (who is on the board of the Reason Foundation, which owns this publication), was reported this morning by The Daily Caller to be considering spending tens of millions to support the Libertarian campaign of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson should he be the Libertarian Party's nominee.

Gage Skidmore via / CC BY-SA

Shortly thereafter, Johnson denied the report to CBS News:

"We have no knowledge of it," Johnson told CBS News when asked about the report, which first appeared on The Daily Caller, a conservative news site. "None whatsoever."

"You just got to laugh," Johnson added, chuckling.

When I talked to Johnson about money on Monday, he said that he sees about $50 million as the minimum necessary to really push Libertarian campaigning to an effective next level. Were the Koch story to be true, that would have been of great help toward that goal.

For now, Johnson's campaign's official comment on the Koch story: "We won't comment specifically on those who may or may not be considering lending support to Gov. Johnson. We are hearing from a wide range of groups and individuals who are interested in the Governor and our campaign." This should be considered in the context of Johnson's more direct comments to CBS.

This news, during the brief period before Johnson contradicted it, seemed as if it could harm the chances of Johnson's major competitors: movement activist and former Fox Business News producer Austin Petersen, and antivirus software magnate John McAfee. McAfee said in an email this morning, prior to Johnson's denial, that he had "nothing to add to the news."

Johnson in 2012 spent over $4 million on his campaign, though Libertarian Party member George Phillies** in a detailed critique of the campaign's spending calculates only about 20 percent of it was spent on what he categorizes as "outreach."

Austin Petersen, who has been critical of what he and others see as an overly large percentage of Johnson's last campaign money going to staff vs. actual politicking or advertising as per Phillies' analysis, replied in an IM interview (again, prior to Johnson's denial of the story) that:

If 150 million was what it took to win an election, Mitt Romney would be president right now. All the Koch money in the world won't make a Christian vote for a man who wants to force them to associate against their beliefs. Money doesn't win elections. Values and ground game does. Also, considering Gary's spending habits, are we certain this money would be spent like it was last time? I'm certain that would be the case.

I've reached out to a spokeman for Koch for comment on the story, and gotten no reply yet. Will update post accordingly if I do.

UPDATE: A Koch spokesperson said in an emailed statement: "Reports that David Koch has pledged his support to Gary Johnson – or any candidate running for president for that matter – are untrue."

**An earlier version of this post misspelled George Phillies name.

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  1. Sounds like Johnson just got…

    [dons sunglasses]

    …the Koch-bloc.

    1. If I may:

      ( ?_?)
      Sounds like Johnson just got…

      ( ?_?)??-?

      …the Koch-bloc.



  3. Johnson in 2012 spent over $4 million on his campaign, though Libertarian Party member George Philles in a detailed critique of the campaign’s spending calculates only about 20 percent of it was spent on what he categorizes as “outreach.”

    The rest was on weed and toot? Hey, that’s got my vote.

    1. Does anyone at the LP understand the structure of a political campaign? You have to hire a base level of analysts, pollsters, consultants, regional staff and other hangers on before you start spending on “outreach”. If you just want to run a bunch of adds, try Kickstarter. (If they allow it.)

  4. Trump is proving that campaign spending is irrelevant. What matters is media coverage, so Johnson and the LP are out of luck.

    At least Facebook is free. (If you don’t consider handing over your personal data to the CIA as a cost.)

    1. Here, I think you dropped this…?

      *hands CE a tinfoil hat*

  5. At this point, maybe the money would be better spent campaigning for Trump to adopt more libertarian positions. If the GOP isn’t going to authorize a third-party run as has been rumored, it’s because they don’t see a realistic challenge; I certainly don’t see libertarians having more of a shot.

    1. It seems David just really likes throwing his money into the incinerator.

      1. I think Trump desperately wants not to spend more of his own money on this run. The Kochs could have some pull as a fellow billionaire offering to pick up some of the tab.

        1. As somebody who would like to see more libertarians in the world, I can think of nothing I would want less then to have high-profile figures in the movement forging close ties with Trump.

    2. the money would be better spent campaigning for Trump to adopt more libertarian positions.

      That’s what I think. Why try to buy influence with millions of people when you can just target 1?

  6. Also, this news is most likely to scare off all those Bern victims that Gary has been trying to outreach to.

  7. If this is real, I suspect the motivation is to toss a spanner into the gears, and deny the Tomato Face and the Gorgon an electoral college majority rather than any expectation of winning.

    1. That’s why I bring up GOP hardliners like Bill Kristol advocating for a third-party run to throw the vote to the House. If they’re not going to do it, it’s because they don’t think it’s tenable, and the Libertarian ticket can hardly expect to be any more successful.

  8. Although I can agree that money is speech and do not disagree with Citizens United, this is one area that I believe is a conundrum for the Libertarian Party and the advancement of the Libertarian message. How does the Libertarian Party raise the amount of capital needed to mount a successful Presidential campaign. The vast majority of big dollar political donors rely more on quid pro quo than on ideology, and, at least in my opinion, Libertarian ideology does not support quid pro quo. Even if this story is true, $10M from David Koch is barely a drop in the bucket when, as the article states, it would take $150M for a successful campaign. And that is also assuming David isn’t asking for quid pro quo.

    1. And that is also assuming David isn’t asking for quid pro quo.

      Given his track record, it’s a pretty safe assumption.

    2. Citizens United didn’t determine that money was speech. It determined that the government cannot ban speach even temporarily (in this case a documentary) regardless of who funded it (a corporation).

      1. Thank you Banjos. This isn’t brought up enough.

    3. This is something of a conundrum, but I’d consider it pretty rational to put someone in power who you suspect can’t be bought by the other guy either. A politician that can be bought, can be bought. Rather like a cheater always cheats, a bought politician is always for sale.

      1. A good bought pol stays bought. If people can’t trust them to stay bought, they won’t buy.

  9. Whatever, Petersen. Why don’t you step aside and let the big boys do the campaignin’.

  10. Austin Petersen creeps me out. Please go back to the elephant party.

  11. Word on the street is that all of your moms love Koch.

    1. Coke? It would explain a lot.

    2. Only Winston’s mom. Repeatedly.

      1. “No, that’s your mom.”

  12. Well, given that David Koch owns REASON.COM, I can see why REASON.COM wasn’t for Gary Johnson as much as I thought.

    Good for Gary Johnson to deny association with the Koch brothers.
    Unfortunately for Gary, that could be the end of his campaign that would go no-where anyway.

    1. What does any of this even mean? It’s just random words and then for some reason you hit the submit button.

    2. given that David Koch owns REASON.COM

      Start out with a lie, atta girl.

      1. He’s on the Board – that’s the same as 100% ownership, right?

        /no understanding of how things work

  13. Wasn’t around on Monday so don’t know if this was covered.

    NR had a long “insider report” on changes inside Koch HQ on their approach to funding political campaigns, especially at the national level.

    tl;dr version: “there was much more an emphasis on getting back to the policy aspect, as opposed to the electoral aspect,” says one Koch insider.

  14. if he does, it will be to make Hillary president.

  15. Austin Petersen- I’m younger than you, and i think your too young to be president. And bitchy.

    Look, just go in 2018 and do what we know you’re going to do- run as a republican for an open congressional seat and be a liberty oriented Republican congressman which will let you go a bit more socon. I think it’s a win-win.

    And I don’t say the above because I think petersen isn’t a libertarian or no-true-scotsman kind of stuff. I just think he’s ambitious to an almost douchey level and congress/senate as a Republican is a good fit.

    1. Honestly, Petersen running for Missouri’s 2018 Senate seat vs. Claire McCaskill, to put another right-libertarian in there alongside the likes of Paul, Lee, and a few others is probably a workable plan ? even a quixotic campaign* like this one gives him both the experience and name recognition that could build him a plausible network over the next two years.

      Then, with the other major Libertarian candidates too old to run in future cycles, a Senator Austen Petersen would have a far better chance at gaining traction as either a serious Libertarian or constitutionalist Republican candidate for President in his forties.
      *I’m not discounting AP’s effort this year, but what institutions the LP have and what media covers the LP seem to be pulling heavily for Johnson, especially in terms of trying to offer up an experienced candidate for those opposed to major-party offerings.

  16. The sooner the Libertarian Party nominates someone else and Austin Petersen goes back to being a sad, virtually unknown internet troll the better.

  17. In before SIV jizz-belches some incoherent GayJay insult.

  18. Can we get GJ a hair stylist so he can lose the Traficant?

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