EDITORIAL: Campaign cash and the Kochs


No political contributors are as widely vilified as the Koch brothers.

Their immense wealth and interest in conservative and libertarian causes has made them a popular target among left-leaning pundits and political figures. The folks at Brave New Films — the production company responsible for the documentary “Koch Brothers Exposed” — say the billionaires “have been handed the ability to buy our democracy in the form of giant checks to the House, Senate, and soon, possibly even the presidency.” And we’ve lost count of how many times Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has publicly attacked them.

In fact, Sen. Reid is so fed up with the activities of the Kochs and their ilk that he wants to rewrite the First Amendment. He has scheduled a Sept. 8 procedural vote on a constitutional amendment that would nullify prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings by allowing Congress to limit total direct contributions to multiple candidates, as well as the amount of money that nonprofits, super PACs, unions and corporations can spend on political speech.

But the Senate vote is doomed to failure, and all the grandstanding by Sen. Reid and others is complete and utter nonsense. The fact of the matter is Democrats love big money if it’s being spent on them. And is it ever.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics — the nation’s premier tracker of money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy — has released its lists of top contributors during the 2014 election cycle. The lists allow the public to see which organizations and individuals donate the most money to federal campaigns and committees.

The lists show a pronounced shift. In the 2012 election cycle, seven of the top 20 donors favored conservatives. Of this year’s top 20 organizations, only two favor Republicans. The other 18, with the exception of a lone, “on the fence” trade association, strongly favor liberal policies and Democratic candidates. Topping the list of organizations is ActBlue, a longtime Democratic fundraising organization. Eleven of the top 20 organizations are unions, including the country’s two largest teacher unions.

While 11 of the top 20 individual donors favor right-leaning causes, the top three lean left, and their total giving to liberals and Democrats exceeds the total of all 11 right-leaning individuals. Tom Steyer is in first place with more than $20 million (all to Democrats and liberals), former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in second place with $9.5 million (95 percent to Democrats and liberals), and Fred Eychaner is in third place with $5.8 million (none to Republicans or conservatives).

And what about Charles and David Koch — the two men whose right-leaning philanthropy is supposedly single-handedly destroying the political process? Where does their company, Koch Industries, rank? Number 36, with $2.66 million, well below AT&T, Comcast, Goldman Sachs and General Electric.

Among individual donors, David Koch ranks 90th with $382,000, below a pair of Las Vegas figures. Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, rank 83rd with $391,000, and Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn ranks 84th with $390,000.

As this page pointed out Monday, conservative donors had nothing to show for their big spending in 2012. The White House and Senate remained in Democratic control. If anyone is trying to buy government — and actually succeeding at buying government — it’s not the Koch brothers. It’s Big Labor. The numbers tell the story — all Democratic Party distractions to the contrary.