Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times editorial today blasts the Koch Brothers and the moneyed-interests that seek to control our democracy by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on conservative candidates and causes. The editorial appears below in its entirety and is quite candid in its assessment. It is also a nice complement to my earlier posting this morning on billionaire, Thomas Perkins.
The Koch Party
New York Times (January 25, 2014)
Only a few weeks into this midterm election year, the right-wing political zeppelin is fully inflated with secret cash and is firing malicious falsehoods at supporters of health care reform.
As Carl Hulse of The Times reported recently, Democrats have been staggered by a $20 million advertising blitz produced by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group organized and financed by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists. The ads take aim at House and Senate candidates for re-election who have supported the health law, and blame them for the hyped-up problems with the law’s rollout that now seem to be the sole plank in this year’s Republican platform.
In one typical example, the group’s ad against Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, a Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat, is full of distortions and lies. It accuses Mr. Peters of lying when he said the law bars cancellations of insurance policies. Mr. Peters happened to be right, as millions of people who once faced losing all insurance after they got sick now appreciate. The 225,000 Michigan residents who the ad said received “cancellation notices” were actually told that they could change to a better policy; they were not told they could no longer have insurance, as the ad implies. And though the ad said health care costs are “skyrocketing,” national spending on health care is now growing at the slowest pace ever recorded, in part because of the reform law.
Democrats intend to counter this campaign with the facts, but few of the candidates have the money to do so now. As a result, the campaign is taking a serious political toll, increasing the chances that Republicans who support a repeal of the law will win back the Senate majority this fall.
Naturally, Democrats are using the campaign to increase their own fund-raising, begging donors to give unlimited amounts to left-leaning super PACs and advocacy groups. But it is unlikely that they will be able to match the resources or the cunning of the Kochs, who are using vast pools of money earned through corporate revenues to build a network unrivaled in complexity and secrecy. This weekend, they are bringing together some of the biggest Republican bank accounts at a resort in Palm Springs, Calif., to collect money and plan this year’s strategy.
As Politico described it on Friday, they have already set up an operation so sophisticated it rivals “even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections.” Its components include a political consulting firm to recruit, train and support like-minded antigovernment candidates, which will be active in the congressional primaries. There is also a center that provides technology and administrative services to right-wing groups and candidates, an office that compiles and analyzes voter data and a youth advocacy group.
In 2012, as The Washington Post reported, the Koch network raised $407 million, which was secreted among 17 groups with cryptic names and purposes that were designed to make it impossible to figure out the names of donors the Kochs worked with. As one tax expert told The Post, “it’s designed to make it opaque as to where the money is coming from and where the money is going.”
The Democrats have smaller versions of these operations, though they are more focused on building a super PAC to collect unlimited donations supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016, and they lack the resources to compete with the Kochs at this stage.
The clandestine influence of the Kochs and their Palm Springs friends would be much reduced if they were forced to play in the sunshine.
The Internal Revenue Service and several lawmakers are beginning to step up their interest in preventing “social welfare” organizations and other tax-sheltered groups from being used as political conduits, but they have encountered the usual resistance from Republican lawmakers. Considering how effectively the Koch brothers are doing their job, it’s easy to see why.