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[USA TODAY]: Vice President Pence meets with billionaire Charles Koch



COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Vice President Pence and several of his top aides met Friday night with billionaire Charles Koch, another sign of the influential donor's increasing willingness to work with the Trump administration to advance his free-market ideas.

Pence, who has longstanding ties to Koch's political and policy empire, met with the Kansas industrialist for about 50 minutes and discussed a "range of policies that will benefit the country," including repealing the Affordable Care Act, overhauling the tax system and a law signed Friday by Trump that makes it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire problem employees, said James Davis, a spokesman for the Koch organizations.

Koch, whose network rivals the Republican Party's size and budget, did not support President Trump's candidacy, and Trump publicly mocked his rivals who sought to win favor with Koch and his brother, David Koch. But in recent months, the Kochs have committed more resources to backing Trump's agenda, including a multimillion-dollar campaign to help push Trump's tax cuts through the GOP-controlled Congress.

"We're going to work with them where we can to advance good policy," Davis said of the Trump administration.

The high-level meeting came a day before Koch is scheduled to convene his annual summer gathering of the wealthy conservatives who help fund the network's activities. Pence is not attending the three-day Koch summit but was in Colorado Springs on Friday for other events, including an anniversary celebration for the conservative religious group, Focus on the Family.

Friday's meeting included Marc Short, Trump's director of legislative affairs, and longtime Pence aide Marty Obst. Short is a former top official in the Koch network.

Those accompanying Charles Koch included key Koch lieutenants Mark Holden and Brian Hooks, who oversee the network's activities, along with Tim Phillips, who runs the Kochs' grassroots arm, Americans for Prosperity. Davis also attended.

The Kochs also are putting their financial and grassroots might behind efforts to win Senate confirmation for several of Trump's judicial nominees, as they did for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch earlier this year.

Davis said Gorsuch was a topic of Friday's meeting. "We talked about what a great Supreme Court justice he's going to be and already is," he said.
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