The Slatest

Charles Koch Says He Could Work With Democrats if Ideals Align

Charles Koch.
Charles Koch speaks at a conference on July 11, 2016, in Aspen, Colorado. Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm TECH/Creative Commons

Billionaire Charles Koch says he and his network of big political donors don’t want to be automatically associated with the Republican Party anymore. In a rare on-the-record interview with reporters, Koch said he would be happy to work with Democrats if they share the same values. “I don’t care what initials are in front or after somebody’s name—I’d like there to be many more politicians who would embrace and have the courage to run on a platform” that aligns with his values, Koch said.

The industrialist seemed to suggest the conservative network he leads could be a bit more strict about where it puts its cash, noting that he regrets supporting some politicians who didn’t come through with their promises. “They say they’re going to be for these principles that we espouse and then they aren’t,” Koch said. “We’re going to more directly deal with that and hold people responsible for these commitments.”

Koch spoke to reporters during a retreat with some 500 donors who are part of the billionaire’s conservative network in large part to criticize President Donald Trump’s moves on trade and tariffs, which he fears could trigger a recession. “It depends on the degree,” he said when asked whether a trade war could lead to a recession. “Yeah, if it’s severe enough, it could.” Despite the evident dislike for the president’s trade policies and protectionist instincts, Koch avoided directly criticizing the president. “We agree with some things and we disagree with others,” Koch, who didn’t back Trump’s presidential campaign, said.

Koch wasn’t the only one espousing the message that the powerful donor network could support Democratic lawmakers. During a seminar with donors Sunday, Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity, said conservatives would have to get used to working with Democrats, particularly when it comes to cutting government spending. “I know this is uncomfortable,” Seidel told the donors.