Democrat Anti-Koch Strategy Seen as Loser

Monday, 12 May 2014 10:08 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats are "foolish" and hypocritical to pin their midterm election strategy on bashing the billionaire Koch brothers, according to a piece in Politico magazine penned by Lisa Boothe, senior director at the Black Rock Group.

Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC is shelling out millions to convince voters that David and Charles Koch are essentially buying Republicans into office with campaign donations that could top $125 million this election cycle, according to Politico.

Reid is organizing a Senate vote to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which found that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political spending by corporations, associations, or labor unions.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is using a digital campaign called "The GOP is addicted to Koch" to impart a message that the Kochs are "un-American, power-drunk billionaires" who are "trying to buy America."

But both history and polling numbers indicate this is a bad move by Democrats, according to Boothe. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that most Americans don’t even know who the Koch brothers are, and just 21 percent who do have negative feeling about them. The economy and jobs are at the forefront of Americans’ concerns, not obscure billionaires funding political campaigns, she wrote.

Democrats may also be viewed as living in a glass house, according to Boothe, because the Kochs have also donated to the their side of the aisle. Since 2000, according to Boothe, the brothers have given more than $1.4 million to Democrats and $60,000 since 2008 to the DSCC.

Democrats considered highly vulnerable this election – Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Alaska’s Mark Begich – have even taken money from the Koch brothers, though they don’t mention it.

Democrats have billionaire donors of their own.

"Liberal billionaires like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and environmental activist Tom Steyer have been propping up Democrats across the country," Boothe wrote. "Bloomberg’s anti-gun group, Everytown for Gun Safety, plans to spend as much as $50 million this cycle, and Steyer’s anti-Keystone super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, will spend $100 million."

Complicating matters for Democrats is the reality that "many voters owe their livelihoods to Koch-owned enterprises," Boothe writes.

Democrats should have heeded the similar 2006 strategy employed by the GOP, when President George W. Bush was under attack for his handling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War. The Democrats peddled a "culture of corruption" narrative, pointing the finger at lobbyist Jack Abramoff and then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay. Republicans responded by going after liberal billionaire George Soros. Their play didn’t work, and they lost the House and Senate and added governors’ seats, according to Boothe.

Like Bush at the time, President Barack Obama is tanking in popularity. He is still dealing with the botched Obamacare rollout and the law’s continuing unpopularity, especially in red states, and his administration cannot shake the Benghazi and IRS scandals, according to Boothe.

"If going after the Koch brothers is the best strategy that Democrats can dream up this election cycle, they are in serious trouble," Boothe says. "Not only is it a foolish strategy; it can’t possibly work. Over the next few months, Republicans shouldn’t just call Democrats out for their Koch addiction — they should encourage it."

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