Billionaire Koch not planning to donate in U.S. presidential primary: USA Today

Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Governor John Kasich, former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and U.S. Rep. Rand Paul pose during a photo opportunity before the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billionaire Charles Koch said he is unlikely to support a candidate in the U.S. presidential primary race but is likely to help a Republican in the November 2016 general election, USA Today reported on Wednesday.

“I have no plans to support anybody in the primary now,” Koch told USA Today.

“If they start saying things we think are beneficial overall and will change the trajectory of the country, then that would be good, but we have to believe also they’ll follow through on it, and by and large, candidates don’t do that,” he told the paper.

Several Republican presidential candidates have invested time and energy trying to court Koch in the hopes of gaining the substantial financial backing that could come with an endorsement.

Koch has never thrown his weight into a presidential primary race before.

The news signals a shift in plans from April, when Koch told the paper he was considering giving money to several of the candidates in the primary before settling on a single recipient.

Koch and his brother David are among the best-known conservative donors. In 2012, the operation established by the Koch brothers, as they are known in political parlance, spent millions trying to influence the race, much of it on advertising opposing Democratic President Barack Obama.

The duo has built a sprawling political operation to assist Republicans and spread a Libertarian message. In pledging to help Republicans in the general election in 2016, the Kochs set out to build an operation that could provide on-the-ground assistances to the eventual nominee.

Using their own money and an aggressive fundraising operation, they developed the umbrella organization Freedom Partners. Within that network is Americans for Prosperity, an organization credited by many as building the Tea Party movement in 2010 that boasts grassroots organizations in each state.

Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Eric Beech and Lisa Shumaker