The Republicans’ “pity the poor, beleaguered Koch brothers” whine in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s calling them out is getting a lot of airplay with the GOP’s lapdog media personalities. It’s highly unlikely, however, that it will get much traction in public opinion polls. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich does a good job of explaining why in his HuffPo post, “The New Billionaire Political Bosses“:
But in using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That’s a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share.
The Kochs exemplify a new reality that strikes at the heart of America. The vast wealth that has accumulated at the top of the American economy is not itself the problem. The problem is that political power tends to rise to where the money is. And this combination of great wealth with political power leads to greater and greater accumulations and concentrations of both — tilting the playing field in favor of the Kochs and their ilk, and against the rest of us.
America is not yet an oligarchy, but that’s where the Koch’s and a few other billionaires are taking us.
Reich, author of Beyond Outrage, has some telling numbers to back up his claim:
So far in the 2014 election cycle, “Americans for Prosperity,” the Koch brother’s political front group, has aired more than 17,000 broadcast TV commercials, compared with only 2,100 aired by Republican Party groups.
“Americans for Prosperity” has also been outspending top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races Republicans are targeting this year. In seven of the nine races the difference in total spending is at least two-to-one and Democratic super PACs have had virtually no air presence in five of the nine states.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the Koch Brothers who are leveraging their wealth to support candidates who are committed to voter suppression, destruction of unions, environmental deregulation and a host of other policies opposed by the American people. As Reich writes,
…Billionaire TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his son, Todd, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, have their own $25 million political operation called “Ending Spending.” The group is now investing heavily in TV ads against Republican Representative Walter Jones in a North Carolina primary (they blame Jones for too often voting with Obama).
Their ad attacking Democratic New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen for supporting Obama’s health-care law has become a template for similar ads funded by the Koch’s “Americans for Prosperity” in Senate races across the country.
When billionaires supplant political parties, candidates are beholden directly to the billionaires. And if and when those candidates win election, the billionaires will be completely in charge.
At this very moment, Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (worth an estimated $37.9 billion) is busy interviewing potential Republican candidates whom he might fund, in what’s being called the “Sheldon Primary.”
“Certainly the ‘Sheldon Primary’ is an important primary for any Republican running for president,” says Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. “It goes without saying that anybody running for the Republican nomination would want to have Sheldon at his side.”
Reich acknowledges that Democrats have some support from billionaires like Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg. But their contributions are dwarfed by shady, right-wing PAC money funding Republicans.
It’s not surprising that Republicans are upset with Majority Leader Reid calling out the Koch brothers and questioning their patriotism. But they are likely preaching to a small choir of the already converted. More thoughtful voters will credit Reid with a much-needed wake-up call.