Koch brothers postpone annual desert retreat

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, political heavyweights who are known to fund conservative causes and candidates, have postponed their annual retreat in the Coachella Valley.

The event, which for years flew under the public radar, is traditionally held in January. But according to a report in the National Review Online, organizers need more time to digest the November election.

The event is now being planned for April, according to the report. It does not specify whether the Kochs plan to return to the Coachella Valley.

“We are working hard to understand the election results, and based on that analysis, to re-examine our vision and the strategies and capabilities required for success,” Charles Koch wrote in an email that was obtained by the National Review.

“Although some of the needed changes are already evident, it will be several months before the state data necessary to complete this analysis is available.”

For nine years, the Kochs have held invitation-only conservative summits in the Coachella Valley. The guest list has included wealthy philanthropists, business leaders, state and federal officials, and even U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Their efforts attracted national attention in 2011, after an invitation to the gathering at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage was leaked to the New York Times.

Organizers have gone to great lengths to keep their activities under wraps. But the 2011 invitation said the conference goals included “attracting principled leaders and investors who will effectively defend our free society,” and “fashioning the message and building the education channels” to boost the effort.

Liberal groups such as Common Cause organized a summit of their own for the same weekend, hoping to raise awareness about how much money the Kochs were funneling into politics.

“We want Californians to understand who the Kochs are and what their agenda is,” Derek Cressman, a regional director for Common Cause, said at the time.

“These folks are likely making plans to spend millions of dollars in the next election that will be underground and can’t be directly tracked back. That does a real disservice to voters.”

More than 800 protesters gathered outside the strongly-guarded hotel site. Police later said the security was needed to protect 125 federal judges who happened to be holding a conference at the resort as well.

This year’s event didn’t draw any such protests.

Conference organizers booked nearly all of the 500-plus rooms at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort in Indian Wells for the three-day event. In addition, the resort closed its restaurants, had private security limiting access to the grounds and sent many workers home.