Charles Koch calls for unity against 'corporate welfare'

Dana Point, California (CNN)As top GOP presidential candidates arrived at a hotel here to court the influential donors of the Koch network, Charles Koch called on retreat attendees to unite with him in a campaign against "corporate welfare" and "irresponsible spending" by both political parties.

Speaking on the hotel's grassy lawn with the Pacific Ocean shimmering behind him, Koch opened the gathering hosted by Freedom Partners by noting that the theme of the weekend would be "Unleashing Our Free Society." Koch network donors and politicians alike must work toward "eliminating welfare for the wealthy," he said.
"We're headed toward a two-tiered society -- a society that's destroying opportunities for the disadvantaged and creating welfare for the rich," Koch said. "Misguided policies are creating a permanent underclass, crippling our economy and corrupting the business community," he said, "present company excepted of course."
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    Koch said clearing those obstacles would require getting business leaders to recognize that accepting "corporate welfare" -- which he defined as subsidies and special preferences for business -- is "suicide long term."
    "Short term, taking the principled path (is) going to cause some companies some problems, as it will Koch industries," said Koch, who runs his business empire with his brother, David Koch. "But long term it will allow business people to continue to own and run their businesses."
    He singled out "big banks" as bad actors who have accepted handouts, including "massive bailouts" and taking "virtually free money from the Fed." To maintain the status quo, the banks "Make big political contributions," he said.
    "This destructive cycle goes on and on," he said.
    In between seminars this weekend, the roughly 450 donors here will have a chance to continue vetting the 2016 presidential candidates. The current GOP poll leader, Donald Trump, was not invited to the gathering.
    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina were the first two to address the group on Saturday during a question-answer session moderated by Politico's Mike Allen.
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    On Sunday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will address members of the Freedom Partners.
    Those three, along with Walker and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul -- who was invited but could not attend -- are considered to be the strongest contenders for Koch Brothers' backing in the 2016 cycle.
    But the Kochs have indicated they may not take sides before the primaries begin.
    Fiorina was invited because she is less well known, and some Freedom Partners members said they were interested in learning more about her views.
    The former Hewlett Packard took a sharp jab at Bush during her session when asked what question she would pose to one of the other candidates in the field.
    Given the festering problems in Washington over many decades, Fiorina said she would ask the former Florida governor: "Why do you think you are the Bush who can change that?"