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Koch Industries backing Pompeo over Tiahrt in GOP primary

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at 5:05 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, July 24, 2014, at 9:46 a.m.

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In past elections, Koch Industries supported Todd Tiahrt in his Republican bids as a congressman and later for the U.S. Senate.

But in the high-profile GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District, the Wichita-based mega company is backing incumbent Mike Pompeo over Tiahrt through its political action committee.

KochPAC already has contributed the maximum $10,000 it can this year toward Pompeo’s campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Koch’s support of Pompeo is “driven by the fact that he sees the importance of why the free market has to be allowed to work, the importance of having small government and focusing on the need for less spending,” Mark Nichols, Koch’s vice president of government and public affairs, said Tuesday.

KochPAC backed Tiahrt during his 16 years representing the 4th, including $10,000 in 2008 for his last congressional race while in office. It provided the same amount in 2010 when he lost in the GOP Senate primary to Jerry Moran, according to FEC records.

“That was a different time and place,” Nichols said. “The spending has needed to be addressed, and the opportunity is there with Mike Pompeo.”

While Tiahrt has been a strong advocate of earmarks – a position Koch opposes – and addressed what he called their importance when he announced his candidacy on May 29, Nichols said the decision to endorse Pompeo was made before that became a campaign issue.

Of the $10,000 provided to Pompeo, federal records show $8,000 was distributed to his campaign at the end of the most recent reporting period, which was May 31, a Sunday. The actual distribution date for the $8,000 was June 1.

KochPAC also provided $10,000 to Pompeo’s campaign in 2010 and again in 2012, records show.

“We think the decision by KOCHPAC … reflects a clear choice between true fiscal conservative – who believes economic freedom an opportunity for all – as against a big government Republican,” Pompeo campaign manager Jim Richardson said in a statement. “Conservative Kansans know that we can’t return to the reckless, job-destroying wealth redistribution policies of old Washington.”

Robert Noland, Tiahrt’s campaign manager, said it was “no surprise” that brothers Charles and David Koch are endorsing Pompeo, through their PAC.

“We knew they were supporting him financially,” Noland said. “This, however, is more about the money and politics rather than it is about the people of the 4th District.

“There is an incumbency protection plan in place, and Koch is a willing participant. It’s more a case of where lobbyists and special interests are circling the wagons to protect their friends.”

KochPAC had received $2.8 million in contributions from Jan. 1, 2013, through May 31, according to FEC records. More than $1.8 million has been given to campaigns across the country through the end of May.

Koch, one of the nation’s largest privately owned companies, employs 3,300 people at its headquarters in Wichita – the heart of the 4th District. The company has about 60,000 employees in the United States and more than 100,000 worldwide.

The primary is Aug. 5. Perry Schuckman, former head of the nonprofit chamber of commerce in Wichita, is the lone Democratic candidate.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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