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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Should Dems Fight Koch Brothers’ Democracy Buy-Out?

No one should be surprised by reports that the Koch brothers are ramping up to spend nearly $900 million on the 2016 elections, nor that the amount could top $1 billion when all accounts are settled after the election. The figure does represent a substantial increase over their huge outlays for 2012 and 2014. But energy-related profits are soaring and that is their primary source of revenue. They’ve got the money, and there is little to stop them, thanks to the Citizens United decision.
Of course Democrats and really anyone who cares about the integrity of our political system, such as it is, should raise hell about it and blast the Koch brothers’ buy-out as unAmerican. Democrats will have a lot to say about it, as Sean Sullivan and Anne Gearan explain at the Washington Post,

The announcement this week that the vast political network backed by the wealthy industrialist Koch brothers aims to spend nearly $1 billion on the 2016 elections has reignited Democratic hopes of casting the brothers as electoral villains and linking them closely to Republican candidates.
It’s a campaign strategy that yielded little success for the party in 2014, a banner year for the GOP. But Democratic officials and operatives say they are hopeful that their anti-Koch message will have more potency in a presidential election year.
Groups supporting potential Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as the House and Senate Democratic campaign arms, plan to single out the Kochs in their advertising and fundraising efforts.
…David Brock, founder of the pro-Clinton American Bridge political action committee, said his group will be retooling a 2014 war-room operation called “Real Koch Facts,” which he acknowledged did not achieve big results. The project aims to educate potential voters about what Democrats say is the Kochs’ largely hidden agenda and to attempt to shame recipients of Koch money.

But it would be folly for Democrats to expect that vilification alone will offset the harm done by the Koch’s spending. As Gearan and Sullivan explain,

Most voters don’t know who the Kochs are. Sixty-four percent of voters said they had no opinion or a neutral impression of them, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted about a month before the November midterms. But among those who did, attitudes were overwhelmingly negative.

There are those who say, with some evidence, that campaign spending is overrated, less important than fronting good candidates. And certainly Democrats can always do more to recruit and develop better candidates. A boycott of the Koch industries, such as Georgia Pacific products, can’t hurt. But let’s not expect it to do much to stop them, since most of Koch revenues come from energy-related industries.
Democrats have little choice but to keep speaking out and organizing to overturn Citizens United, hoping that the public will begin paying more attention as the national discussion progresses to the point where more voters are going to take it into consideration on election day. That and contributing to Democratic candidates still offers the best hope for stopping the Koch Democracy takeover.

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