The left’s fixation with the Koch brothers is akin to CNN’s obsession with the Malaysian Airlines disappearance. It’s 24/7 speculation and conspiracy theories mixed with endless repetition. It’s hard to describe the nonstop onslaught from the Democrats’ PACs and campaigns against the billionaire libertarian brothers. Democrats run ads, complain about them in mailers and jabber about them on cable TV shows. The brothers seem, in some cases, their prime issue. So far it’s been a frightfully expensive lark, not doing much to up the ante against Republicans. But the Democrats seem to think it’s the only way to boost their base. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid goes on tirades like this:
The Koch brothers and other moneyed interests are influencing the politics in a way not seen for generations. Republican senators have come to the floor to defend the Koch brothers’ attempt to buy our democracy. Once again, Republicans are all in to protect their billionaire friends. Not only have Senate Republicans come to the floor to defend the Koch brothers personally, they have again and again defended the Koch brothers’ radical agenda — and it is radical, at least from the middle-class perspective.
We get it — billionaires are bad, bad guys. Now, it wouldn’t be so despicable — anyone in politics these days can come up with a distracting, unsuccessful bogeyman — if it were not for the sheer hypocrisy of it all.
The Senate Majority PAC ads have gone up in Louisiana and Colorado harping on “out-of-state billionaires” trying to “rig the system.” It’s very similar to Reid’s assault on the Koch brothers from the Senate floor. According to reports, the Senate Majority PAC has only just begun.
News reports tell us that the Senate Majority PAC is going up with a $3 million TV ad attack against Republicans in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina based on this message. But when you look at Senate Majority PAC and those taking their money, it is hard to miss — you guessed it — the out-of-state billionaires trying to rig the system.
Who is the biggest donor to the Senate Majority PAC? Out-of-state billionaire Michael Bloomberg, according to the latest FEC filings. But he is not alone. There are a whole gaggle of billionaires giving to the Senate Majority PAC who hail from states which don’t have Senate races in 2014. The list of billionaire donors to the outfit condemning out-of-state billionaire donors includes billionaires Eli Broad, Jon Stryker, Steven Spielberg and Dirk Ziff. Also ponying up money to the Senate majority fund are not-quite-billionaire Hollywood donors such as Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Weinstein Company. (All you have to do is compare the contributor list on OpenSecrets.org to the Forbes billionaire list.)
The candidates the Senate Majority PAC is supporting also take money directly from out-of-state billionaires. Using the donor look-up search on OpenSecrets you can find, for example, Sen. Mary Landrieu — whose campaign has been blasting the Koch brothers — got money from a different out-of-state billionaire, Eli Broad.
What about North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan? Her campaign gripes about the billionaire Koch brothers but she took billionaire money directly from television mogul Haim Saban. Not to be left out, Sen. Mark Pryor, who also decries billionaires flooding the state, eagerly rakes in cash from Colorado moneyman Charles Ergen. Sen. Mark Udall is upset about all that billionaire money but has his own billionaire donors — Soros and Leonard Lauder, for example — in addition to the benefit of the Senate Majority PAC’s billionaire-financed ads decrying the role of billionaires in politics. Billionaires also route money to these Democrats through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Now, I’ve got no problem with third-party money or with billionaires giving money directly to campaigns; neither do most Republicans. But it is Democrats who brought up the Koch complaint and who have been impugning the Koch brothers. In 2010 Democrats attacked the nefarious and non-existent “foreign money” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; now it’s two businessmen. But if it’s all that terrible to take billionaires’ money then the Democratic candidates and the Senate Majority PAC should give back their billionaires’ cash.
If not, the next time the aggrieved Democrats are on a cable TV new show, someone should ask them: Why are your billionaires any better than your opponent’s billionaires?