Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips announced at a donor summit on Monday in Colorado Springs, Colo., that the network would not support Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen.
Donald Trump enters the RNC to deliver a speech in Cleveland.
The decision for now to stay out of a pivotal 2018 Senate race will likely send shockwaves through the Republican Party and fits with a broader theme from the Koch network's summer meeting that the network feels like it has been "taken for granted" by the GOP. In order to keep everyone in line, they've decided to make some mostly symbolic gestures toward supporting a Democrat here or there, like taking out a web ad thanking Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp for voting for a bill to deregulate banks. They backed Mitt Romney in 2012, but did not support either Trump nor his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.
Trump has previously clashed with the donors, suggesting in the early days of his presidential campaign that those courting the two were "puppets". He contended the Kochs "love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more".
But recently, Koch opened up to the possibility of funding Democratic candidates as they try to take both houses of Congress in November.
Some Trump loyalists were furious at perceived contradictions in the Koch network's behaviour and anxious that it could complicate the president's 2020 re-election.
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Mr Trump said on Tuesday he has "beaten them [the Kochs] at every turn".
And prominent Texas-based Trump donor Doug Deason, who attended the weekend retreat, said Republican candidates should not be punished for embracing the Republican president's agenda.
Withholding support for Cramer could be a fairly low-stakes political move for the network. Sanders thanked the Koch network by name.
Some Trump loyalists were furious even before Monday's news. Yet the trade war brewing under his leadership has jarred the anti-protectionist coalition, which was created in 2003 when Charles Koch convened a small group of like-minded business leaders to oppose steel tariffs and rising federal spending under the George W. Bush administration.
"We've had divisiveness long before Trump became president and we'll have it long after he's no longer president", Koch said during a rare question-and-answer session with reporters.
Tom Shepherd, a businessman from OH and Koch donor, said: "I think that holding Republicans and Democrats accountable for decisions and votes that violate our principles is extremely helpful". "I'm into hating the sin, not the sinner".