David Koch, one half of the controversial billionaire Koch brothers and one of Romney’s biggest financial supporters through his political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, has broken with the GOP party line, telling Politico.com that he supports gay marriage, raising taxes, and cutting defense spending. Koch’s statements are certainly shocking, but how much impact will they have?
“I Believe in Gay Marriage”
Recently, when reminded that Romney and most Republicans are against gay marriage Koch replied, “Well, I disagree with that.” This statement isn’t entirely shocking, considering Koch was previously aligned with the Libertarian Party – he was their vice presidential nominee in 1980. Koch split with the party after he felt it “got too far off the deep end” in suggesting all taxes be abolished. That’s right – he left his political party because they didn’t support enough taxation.
Perhaps this statement will help Romney’s latest attempts to reform the Republican Party’s image and influence those who previously voted for President Obama but are disappointed with his first term. Along with the attempts to pander to women and Hispanic voters, the presentations at the Republican National Convention featured disillusioned Obama voters who spoke about their decisions to vote Republican this time around. Koch’s support of gay marriage could aid Romney in winning over these voters by presenting the party as a softer, slightly more progressive version of itself.
“Some Tax Increases” Necessary to Reduce Deficit
David Koch’s support of legalizing gay marriage wasn’t even his most surprising statement. That came while discussing government spending. Koch stressed the importance of reducing debt but strayed from the traditional conservative viewpoint when he said, “I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases.” This statement is out of character for a man who has long championed shrinking government. In fact, his super PAC Americans for Prosperity explicitly references cutting taxes in its mission statement.
It is important to note, however, that Koch did not elaborate on this statement. He failed to specify on whom taxes should be increased – an important detail considering most conservatives’ desire to raise taxes on the middle and lower classes.
Nevertheless, Koch is not the first billionaire to propose raising taxes. Warren Buffett‘s controversial 2011 editorial for The New York Times proposed raising taxes for the wealthy. Additionally, Buffett’s proposal, known as the Buffett Rule, had enormous influence. His tax plan, which would implement a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on those making more than $1 million per year, has received considerable support from the Obama administration and electorate alike. The Buffett Rule was proposed as the “Paying a Fair Share Act,” though it was eventually blocked by the Senate in April.
Considering the RNC’s insistence that business experience is a prerequisite for the presidency, this is a serious blow to the Norquist era of conservatism. It is telling that both Buffett and Koch – men with much more business experience than Romney – are distancing themselves from the GOP’s tax-cutting economic strategy that obviously hasn’t worked. Despite the fact that most Republicans seem content to cling to the sinking ship that is the Bush-era tax cuts, it’s clear that the cuts are not helping to solve the financial crisis and those with business experience know it.
Military “Has to Take Cuts”
As for the military, Koch said, “I think to balance the budget, probably every federal department has to take cuts in my opinion. We have to spread it around.” He also stated that he thinks the military should withdraw from the Middle East. He backtracked a bit, stating that he was “not an expert” and that he preferred to yield to Mitt Romney’s opinion on just how much military is needed. Still, his statements about cutting defense spending are sure to make an impact.
Koch stated that he considers himself a “Republican first,” but what does that mean when he seems to disagree with the party on such important issues? Though Koch plans to steer upwards of $400 million to back the Republican Party this election season, he didn’t sound too much like a Republican. He assured Politico.com that he was “in this for the long haul” and would continue to support the Republican Party even if Obama wins the 2012 election.
It’s clear that like Warren Buffett, David Koch has enormous influence. It’ll be interesting to see if Koch will use his power to influence his own party to actually adopt his much more moderate views.