Why Are the Koch Brothers Thanking Democrats? Republican Donors Fund 'Unique' Campaign on DACA Fix

Billionaire libertarian megadonors Charles and David Koch, long associated with support for Republicans and the right wing of American politics, are funding an effort to praise members of both parties working to find a permanent solution for the "Dreamers." The move is a rebuff to President Donald Trump and the congressional leadership, who are trying to quell a moderate rebellion on immigration within their own party.

The Koch brothers are using their LIBRE Initiative—a "dark money" nonprofit formed in 2011 and aimed at outreach toward the Hispanic community— to fund mailers to 100,000 homes thanking a bipartisan group in Congress trying to find a legislative solution that will allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to avoid deportation, NPR reported Thursday.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama era-program the Trump administration ended last year, allowed those immigrants, known as Dreamers, to stay in the country legally. They were named after the DREAM Act—Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors—which offered many of the same protections as DACA but never passed Congress.

The courts have since challenged the Trump administration's cancellation of the DACA program, and despite promising to fix the program through legislation, Congress has yet to deliver a solution.

But while the body as a whole has not come up with a fix, some members of Congress are trying to craft one. Fourteen of those members, including five Democrats and nine Republicans, are the beneficiaries of the Koch brothers' spending. One flyer sent to constituents of Democratic Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico says, "Thank you Rep. Luján for a supporting a permanent solution for Dreamers."

"Ask him to keep working for a permanent solution" that includes "certainty for Dreamers" and "Security for our borders," the flyer's language asks recipients. Other Democrats targeted for praise in the initiative are New Mexico Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, California Representatives Raul Ruiz and Pete Aguilar and Delaware Senator Chris Coons.

David Koch arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala in New York on May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The new mailing campaign was announced just as the House leadership is trying to squelch an effort by moderate Republicans to force a vote on legislation to replace DACA. That effort, orchestrated through a "discharge petition," gained two additional Republican supporters on Wednesday after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned his caucus a forced vote could help turn the House blue in November.

"This stands out. People, when they talk about the Koch network...they point at areas like tax reform, where we've worked very closely with Republican members," Wadi Gaitan, a spokesman for the LIBRE Initiative, told NPR. "Here on this issue, we have Democrats where we want to make sure that their constituents are aware that they are working on a permanent solution for Dreamers and on border security. So it certainly is a unique effort."

The initiative pits the Kochs against Trump, whom they opposed throughout much of the 2016 campaign before ultimately coming to a truce after Trump tapped Koch ally Mike Pence to be his running mate.

"The Democrats have really let [Dreamers] down," Trump said in April. "They really let them down. It's a shame."

The Koch brothers, owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S., plan to use their network of donors and political groups to spend $400 million on the midterm elections to defend conservative legislative and policy advances against an expected "blue wave." Before the 2016 election, Politico reported that the Kochs' political operation employed "three-and-a-half times as many employees as the Republican National Committee and its congressional campaign arms."

The LIBRE Initiative did not disclose how much it plans to spend on the flyers.