The influential Koch network plans to invest close to $400 million toward protecting Republican majorities in the 2018 midterm election cycle, the network's leaders confirmed Saturday -- roughly a 60 percent increase over the group's 2016 spending, they said.
"This network is going to have the largest investment we've ever had in a midterm election in 2018," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups under the Koch umbrella. "So, we're all in."
The network had previously indicated it was to spend between $300 million and $400 million toward both policy and political objectives. The spending target was previously announced last summer; the network's leaders stressed Saturday that they now anticipate hitting the top of that range by Election Day.
The announcement came as the network's donors were set to convene in the California desert Saturday for an annual retreat.
A key component of the Koch networks' strategy to counter a Democratic surge will focus on selling the sweeping tax reform passed by congressional Republicans and signed into law by the president last month. The Koch network plans to spend roughly $20 million on that effort alone, said a spokesman, James Davis -- on par with the investment the network made last year in pushing for the plan's passage.
Republicans and the Koch network will have their work cut out for them: When Congress approved the legislation in December, most Americans opposed it. But the plan's boosters have maintained that it will become more popular as the changes begin to take effect this year.
"Our job is to make sure we shine a spotlight on those benefits that are occurring because of this law, and over time, that should overwhelm what has been a lot of demagoguery," said Phillips. "It is a process, though, and we know that."
Republicans are bracing for a punishing election year in 2018, a dynamic that Phillips acknowledged. Historically, he stressed, the party in power struggles during a president's first midterm election -- as in 2010, when Democrats lost the House in a historic wave under President Barack Obama.
"You're going against the tide," said Phillips. "You're going against history."
Another challenge for Republicans is an energized Democratic electorate, Phillips added, as reflected in the Virginia governor's race last fall and recent special elections.
"The left is energized," Phillips said. "There's no question about that. And it's prudent for folks to understand that and acknowledge that."