Ever wonder what the Koch brothers lie awake at night fearing?
It’s not liberal money, I’ll tell you that right now, regardless what Mark Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries, may say.
While attending a private retreat in June, at Dana Point, California, Holden delivered a speech about the overwhelming power of rich progressive donors lined up against the “meager” resources of the wealthy oil barons and their elite allies. An audio recording of the speech was obtained by Lauren Windsor‘s YouTube show The Undercurrent and provided exclusively to the Huffington Post.
Holden’s talk focused on the Democracy Alliance, a network of wealthy liberal donors who strategically steer money into a set of hand-picked progressive groups. Holden informed the assembly that “we’ve been able to learn a lot more details about them in the last couple of months from documents that someone in the group, Democracy Alliance, left behind at their last seminar.”
Holden attacked the group’s hypocrisy; noting that they don’t disclose their own donors while advocating for a more transparent system and slamming conservatives for relying on secret donors. He added that most of the groups that the Democracy Alliance recommends funding are also non-profits, who don’t have to disclose their donors. Holden, hitting all the nails for a proper conservative self-crucifixion, noted that the threat from the Democracy Alliance is “especially daunting” because of a “sympathetic mainstream media” and a close relationship with “organized labor.”
Since accuracy isn’t important when fearmongering and crucifying one’s self, Holden told the audience that he may have “done some significant double counting by adding labor money” but noted that, either way, liberals are banking a fortune to hammer the poor, defenseless Koch brothers. What’s worse, the helpless oil barons are outnumbered, according to Holden:
What we have is a drop in the bucket compared to the left. And they outnumber us. They outnumber us by a lot. So why do we get all the love? We know this, right? We talk about it all the time. Because you’re effective.
Holden added that “they have 172 groups, 172” and that “I was really bad at math, but 172 is a lot more than 31.”
According to the Huffington Post, Holden is either purposefully inflating the group’s power or doesn’t understand how it works. The 172 groups are simply groups that do progressive work, not part of an elite list the Democracy Alliance is working direct funding to; in fact, the list of groups that the DA is working direct funding too is remarkably small: it’s only 20. Meanwhile, the Koch network has 31 groups. Now, I may be bad at math, but 31 is a more than 20.
Holden also cited MoveOn as part of the network, when in reality, MoveOn is funded only by small donors, not the folks who bring the bank with them whenever they go to Democracy Alliance gatherings.
As if to prove his claim that he was “really bad at math,” he claimed that super PACs and PACs have already spent $400 million, and that the Democratic-linked super PACs and PACs have spent another $1 billion. The Center for Responsive Politics, meanwhile, notes that super PACs have spent $116 million and Democratic Party-aligned super PACs have spent just $59.6 million on the 2014 federal elections.
I mean, “only” a few hundred million. While DA has steered tens of millions towards groups this year, the Koch network is preparing to spend $290 million in November’s elections. Furthermore, as Gary LaMarche argued in an email to the Huffington Post, it’s “unreasonable” for Holden to factor in labor money, since it’s not like Unions and Organized Labor are on a strong footing in this country right now. He added that:
“What they think of as ‘special interests,’ our labor allies, are nurses, teachers, restaurant workers and other women and men who are the backbone of the American economy,” he wrote, adding that while the Koch network’s spending furthers the business interests of the Kochs and the other wealthy business owners, liberal donors are spending money to raise their own taxes and otherwise work against their own economic interests.
“The real difference is this: Democracy Alliance donors will probably always be outspent by our counterparts on the right, but our partners are wealthy individuals and families working for a world in which their money will have less of an influence on politics, and where every American has the opportunity to succeed,” LaMarche wrote.
This is especially ridiculous. I can’t believe Holden’s worry about liberal money, nor can I believe he even cares about it.
Consider this: if he were truly worried about money in politics, why isn’t he throwing in with the amendment to get it out? Why aren’t the GOP puppets the Koch Brothers bought with their combined wealth of $72 billion dollars working with the Democrats to hammer out a bill that will overturn Citizens United, limiting liberal and conservative money?
In response to the Huffington Post piece, Holden released a statement that says:
The Democrats and the Left like to strictly protest about “dark money” and assign it to a set of activities undertaken only by conservative/libertarian-oriented 501(c)4 groups. They neglect to mention the activities and deep pockets of the Left.
The reality is that the left’s activities, especially by the American Constitution Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for American Progress all have a profound impact on our country’s electoral politics and public policy. The presentation in question focused on the Democracy Alliance because they are much bigger in scope, and have more reach with its network’s ability to spend money in ways that have important (but sometimes overlooked) consequences for our country.
It is important that if there is going to be a discussion of these issues, then it needs to be a full, open, and honest one, which includes the Left and the huge impact that Democracy Alliance and its network have.
If he really, truly cared, and if the Kochs really, truly cared, they’d be doing what the Left is doing: everything they can get big money out of politics — including their own. But they’re not. So I’m not taking anything they say seriously, and neither should you.