Politico reports that at the most recent gathering of rich conservatives sponsored by the Koch brothers, they announced that they planned to spend nearly $900 million to influence the 2016 elections. For comparison purposes, that’s more than twice what the RNC spent in 2012. It’s an absolutely mind-blowing number.
The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.
The figure, which more than doubles the amount spent by the Republican National Committee during the last presidential election cycle, prompted cheers from some in the GOP who are looking for all the help they can get headed into a potentially tough 2016 election landscape.
But while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC.
A spokesman for the RNC did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Some Republicans, however, quietly grumbled about the continued migration of power and money from the political parties and their candidates to super-rich donors emboldened by recent court decisions loosening campaign finance restrictions…
In the run-up to 2012, the RNC spent $404 million, while it dropped $188 million during last year’s midterms. To be sure, the RNC’s spending was supplemented by congressional campaign arms, but one reason the Koch operation has an edge over the traditional party apparatus like the RNC is that the Kochs and their operatives don’t have to spread cash across the entire GOP political landscape.
Yes, of course Democrats have billionaire supporters too, but they don’t spend nearly this much money. The political landscape has changed with the rise of super PACs, 527s and 501(c)(4)s. In the old days (meaning only a few years ago), buying influence was done mostly through bribes. I’ve had very powerful lobbyists tell me flat out that they bribe people, but it was all done legally in a variety of ways — giving money to non-profit foundations tied to the legislator or their family, giving money to other legislators that can be used as chips to gain their support on a bill or a vote for a leadership position, promises of jobs and board positions after they leave office, etc.
But now, buying influence is often done through threats rather than bribery — the stick instead of the carrot. They can simply walk in to a senator’s office and say you’re going to do what we want — insert this language into a bill, lead a filibuster, vote down this amendment, etc. — or we’re going to spend $10 million in your next election to kill your career. And this threat is very real. The list of elected legislators who have lost their seats because a powerful interest targeted them in an election, often under the guise of a group with a name like Americans for Cute Kittens and Kindly Grandmothers, and spent as much money as it took to destroy them. The politician knows this threat is real, so they do what they’re told.
That’s what this kind of money buys. It buys access. It buys compliance. The Koch brothers aren’t stupid, they know a good investment when they see it. They aren’t spending that money without expecting a huge return on that investment, and they’re going to get it.