Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor on Tuesday to denounce the spending -- now up to $14.5 million -- by Charles and David Koch on Senate races, the latest attempt by Democrats to raise the profile of the free-spending conservative brothers in advance of the November election.
What is un-American is when shadowy billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system to benefit themselves and the wealthiest one percent. I believe in an America where economic opportunity is open to all. And based on their actions and policies they promote, the Koch brothers seem to believe in an America where the system is rigged to benefit the very wealthy.
But, wait. Reid wasn't done. He added:
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.
And then there was this. "They already believe they can play by a different set of rules," Reid said. "Think about what an America rigged by the Koch brothers would look like." He went on to paint a dystopian picture of an America run by the brothers Koch.
For the record, Koch spokesman Phillip Ellender had this to say in response: "It is clear that there is a big difference between the vision of Senator Reid and of Koch as it relates to the future direction of this country....We are disappointed that Senator Reid is attacking private citizens rather than the problems facing this nation. It is no wonder that Americans have lost faith in Congress."
This isn't the first time Reid has gone directly after the Kochs. In fact, Reid used much the same language in a similar Senate stemwinder just last week. So, what gives? Why is Reid so amped up to attack the Kochs?
We put that question to a handful of Democratic strategists familiar with Reid's thinking. The answer? It's a little personal and a little political.
"It's more personal," said one Reid confidant. "He is deeply offended by their brazen tactics and fundamentally disagrees with the politics and policies they pursue." Added another Democratic strategist closely tracking Reid's comments: "Part of it is personal quest. As you know, he has the fighter persona and this is a David versus Goliath situation." (Wait, Reid was a boxer? We kid.)
But, Reid also knows that bashing the Kochs is good for business for Democrats. As we have written before, Democrats are working hard to raise the profile of the Koch brothers in advance of the midterms in hopes of using the specter of the big-spending billionaires to excite not only the party's activist base but, as importantly, its major donors. By repeatedly attacking the Koch brothers, Reid is making sure liberal donors know that the fight for the Senate -- at least among outside groups -- isn't a fair one at the moment and, if they want to hold the chamber, they need to step it up.
And, the more that Reid can play a part in turning (or at least trying to turn) the 2014 election into a choice between the Democrats and the Kochs, the better chance he has of staying on a Majority Leader. We know where Reid stands. The question is how effective he can be in making the Kochs an issue and how much (if any) support he gets from President Obama in demonizing the duo.
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