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.
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.