For the tycoon Koch brothers and their cadre of rich friends, being wealthy just isn’t enough. They want to exert a major influence on politics as well.
The brothers, Charles and David, lead a network of conservative advocacy groups that want to spend nearly $1 billion worth of donors’ money to support candidates and conservative causes in the 2016 presidential and congressional elections.
The $889 million figure nearly doubles the money they spent in 2012. In that election cycle, the national Republican party collectively spent about $675 million, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Washington Post reported the goal was announced to donors at a conference that ended Monday. The event was hosted by Freedom Partners, a powerful business lobby and part of the Koch brothers’ network of donors. Freedom Partners monetary influence over elections has already made its mark as this component spent almost $300 million on November’s congressional elections to help Republicans score big victories in the House and Senate.
The Koch brothers are also the top dogs in a network of 17 organizations comprised of wealthy donors who supports Libertarian causes and conservative think tanks. As the series of groups has earmarked this unprecedented amount of dough to fund Republican campaigns in the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, serious questions about their influence and those to which they are aligned have to be raised.
Though the Koch brothers network manages billions for donation to Conservative political advocacy groups, their donors remain secret. That’s because unlike the Democratic and Republican parties, donors do not have to be publicly disclosed — but their policy priorities and social stances are quite clear.
Read more: The Koch Brothers Suck Funds Dry
Their big-government bashing and hatred of institutions is infamous. David Koch was the Libertarian vice-presidential candidate in 1980 and advocated for the abolition of Social Security, the FBI, CIA and public schools whereas his brother Charles cofounded the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank. Therefore, at donor conferences like the one that ended this week in California, when the Koch Brothers and their money beckon, conservative candidates come to court the golden goose. The 2016 Republican candidate pool is already crowded, and five hopefuls for the nomination attended the conference.
An informal straw poll of some donors found that Sen. Marco Rubio was the preferred choice among the candidates that attended. It’s just the latest sign that huge money and billionaire influence have invaded politics and is looking to take over the government. The super-wealthy are increasingly playing a larger role in shaping political campaigns and are increasingly involved in politics, documented in a book by political scientist Darrell West, author of “Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust.”
Officially, the Koch brothers have not said whom they have decided to support or if they will back one Republication running for the nomination, but some might feel through their influence it has already been bought. It’s only a matter of which candidate most closely aligns himself with the networks or preferred policy and social stances.
Donors at the conference were asked to pledge, and the brothers’ money has never gone toward a presidential candidate before. Among the network’s aims in 2016 are to dismantle the national health care law and to fight climate change legislation.
How much will their money influence the election? Will this become the new normal of political influence? Are the wealthiest Americans destined to become a controlling influence on society through their check-writing and purse strings?
Only time will tell, but this move is a major power play for more influence over elections, but hopefully voters will continue to decide the outcomes, not just dollars and cents.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.