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EDITORIAL: Kochs vs. Steyer: When ‘evil’ campaign cash is OK
Conservative contributors bad, Democratic donors good
Democrats love to throw mud balls at the Koch brothers — David and Charles — because they’re successful entrepreneurs, and they’re generous with groups that promote the free-market values that enabled them to succeed.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee even sponsors a website, StoptheKochBrothers.com. The Brothers Koch are accused of “planning a GOP takeover in 2014” by spending $27 million on political campaigns around the country.
The Democratic message is that wealthy Republicans should stay out of politics. When Tom Steyer, the billionaire onetime hedge-fund manager, promised the other day to spend up to $50 million of his own money and to raise another $50 million for Democrats, the critics of “too much money in politics” fell silent. Silence is said to be golden, but this time the silence is only brass.
The Koch brothers, despite their wealth and interest in politics, are not even in the major league of contributors to political causes. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics compiled a list of “Heavy Hitters,” top political donors from 1989 to 2014, and the Koch brothers are in 59th place.
Thirteen of the top 20 donor groups gave nearly all of their campaign cash to Democrats, with ActBlue leading the list with $97.2 million, all of it contributed to Democrats.
Twelve others on the list were unions that contributed a combined $458 million, nearly all of it to Democrats. Only three of the top 20 donor groups gave predominantly to Republicans.
Jesse Unruh, who once ruled the California legislature and then was state treasurer, famously observed that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” If so, Mr. Steyer is the newest cash cow for Democrats.
He dispensed millions to install Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s governor’s mansion. Mr. Steyer extended his generosity to Congress, inviting the most endangered freshman Democratic senators to his San Francisco manor for a fundraiser and pep rally.
Among the lucky senators were Mark Udall of Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and of course Harry Reid of Nevada, who is not running for re-election this year but he’s desperate to save his job as majority leader in the Senate.
Mr. Udall lamented on Facebook the other day that the bad-boy brothers have “already spent $27 million in this cycle in attacks against candidates all across the country — and that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what they’re going to spend in the months ahead.”
That sounds like good news to us. Everyone should take an interest in politics.
The Colorado chapter of the Americans for Prosperity sharply scolded Mr. Udall for embracing Mr. Steyer, whom the group aptly describes as a “professional green extremist.” The senator “seems more interested in promoting radical environmental causes than defending the economic interests of Coloradans,” the state director of the group said. “Many could lose their livelihoods, or see their energy bills soar, if environmental extremists like Tom Steyer get their way.”
By Democratic reckoning, Mr. Steyer is merely leveling the playing field with his millions dispensed on behalf of liberals threatened by the Kochs’ conservative campaign.
Hypocrisy doesn’t even stop there. Mr. Steyer made his enormous fortune as a hedge-fund manager, the demonized trade that Democrats blame for the 2008 market collapse. That was then, and this is now. Political survival sometimes requires “situational ethics.”
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