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The Koch network and other Trump allies are quietly backing his biggest GOP critic: Rep. Liz Cheney

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Republican candidate U.S. Representative Liz Cheney waves during her primary election night party in Jackson, Wyoming, U.S. August 16, 2022.
David Stubbs | Reuters

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney has amassed a group of political consultants with ties to former President Donald Trump and the expansive Koch network as she mulls a run for the White House after losing in the GOP primary for her Wyoming House seat.

Cheney’s role as vice chair of the committee investigating Trump’s actions in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has cost the third-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House her standing in the GOP and her seat in Congress. She lost the Republican nomination in a landslide race last week to one of Trump’s picks, Wyoming lawyer Harriet Hageman.

Cheney’s now considering running against Trump for president in 2024, she told NBC News, and has quietly put together a team of top GOP advisors to help her ensure he doesn’t ever get back in the White House.

“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our republic. And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that’s what I intend to be a part of,” she said in an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “TODAY” show last week.

Immediately after her loss, she launched a leadership political action committee titled The Great Task which will allow her to keep her political aspirations alive while taking on the former president. Trump, whose home and private club Mar-a-Lago in Florida was raided by the FBI just days before the primary, has not ruled out running for president again in two years.

Cheney is using some of Trump’s own consultants and allies, including those from the powerful Koch network, to try to keep the former president from winning a second term in the White House. Some of them appear to have used limited liability companies that shroud their identity from the public.

“These people are going to be persona non grata after the Cheney loss,” a senior GOP strategist close to Trump said when asked if the president and his associates will work with the former Cheney advisors again. Jeff Miller, a longtime lobbyist and ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has told vendors not to work with Cheney’s team, according to The New York Times.

Miller and a spokesman for Trump did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for Cheney did not return a request for comment.

Billionaire and conservative political backer Charles Koch is helping Cheney through i360, a data and technology company owned by his conglomerate, Koch Industries, according to financial database PitchBook and Federal Election Commission filings.

The filing shows two PACs, Conservatives for a Strong America and Wyomingites Defending Freedom and Democracy, paid more than $300,000 for i360 to help deploy pro-Cheney ads through text messages. Axios reported that the leader of Wyomingites Defending Freedom and Democracy is former Trump White House aide Julia Griswold Dailer, who didn’t return a request for comment.

A nonprofit partially funded by Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity, paid $11 million to i360 for data services, according to the nonprofit’s 2020 tax disclosure.

While Koch didn’t back Trump during either his 2016 or 2020 campaigns, his political network worked with the Trump administration to support some of the former president’s key initiatives, including cutting regulations for businesses and extensive tax cuts.

Americans for Prosperity recently ran an ad campaign targeting Democratic lawmakers, including moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to oppose the more than $400 billion Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law this month.

FEC records show that i360 also has worked this election cycle with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who Trump endorsed for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, as well as Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., who voted to impeach the former president and lost in his recent primary.

Representatives for the pro-Cheney PACs, Koch Industries, i360 and Americans for Prosperity did not return requests for comment.

Trump and the Koch family have not always been close, even after the former president adopted long-sought tax cuts and the nomination of numerous conservative-leaning Supreme Court Justices. Trump ripped the Kochs in 2018, saying in a tweet that they’re a “total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade.” The Koch network didn’t help Trump in what would be his failed 2020 bid for reelection versus Biden.

People close to Trump told CNBC that the former president and those aligned with him could move to halt future work with those who were employed by Cheney’s team.

FEC filings show that one of the Cheney campaign’s top vendors in the 2022 election cycle was a company called Red Right Media. That company was paid more than $1 million for advertising and media services by Cheney’s campaign during her 2022 primary run, including more than $300,000 in July, according to FEC disclosures.

Though it doesn’t appear to have a public website, Virginia business records say that Red Right Media is a an alternative name for a company called X/Roads Communications. According to state business records, X/Roads Communications is run by Mike Dubke, a veteran Republican strategist who once worked in Trump’s White House as communications director. Dubke was a managing partner of X/Roads Communications before taking on the role with Trump in 2017, according to financial disclosures filed while leading the White House communications team.

Dubke resigned from the White House communications post in 2017 after less than 100 days on the job. Since then, Red Right Media has been getting paid millions of dollars by Republican groups for consulting work, according to data from the nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets. Records show that a super PAC called DefendArizona paid more than $4 million for Red Right Media’s services.

The super PAC supported Martha McSally when she ran a failed campaign against Sinema during the 2018 election. DefendArizona was funded in part by Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Black Rock Group, a media consulting firm Dubke co-founded that’s not affiliated with investment firm BlackRock, was previously paid more than $100,000 by Cheney’s campaign in 2018. Dubke and Black Rock Group did not return requests for comment.

Other past Trump consultants that worked with Cheney during her primary run and who previously aided Trump include SCM Associates, a fundraising and direct mail consulting group based out of New Hampshire. The Cheney campaign paid more than $600,000 for SCM’s help with direct mail advertising. The Trump campaign paid SCM more than $8 million during the 2020 election cycle, according to campaign finance data.

TAG Strategies, a political marketing firm that worked for Trump in the 2020 campaign and several of his endorsed candidates in the midterms, was paid almost $380,000 by Cheney’s campaign for digital and marketing services, including over $100,000 in May, according to FEC records. Trump’s campaign paid TAG Strategies more than $200,000 during the 2020 election cycle.

Erin Perrine, a vice president at TAG who also worked communications for Trump’s reelection bid, told CNBC in an email that the firm’s work for Cheney was a “one-off service at one point during the primary.” She said that “TAG is a Republican firm and we do work for America First, Conservative, and center-right candidates.”

SCM did not return a request for comment.

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