No, Follow the Money


Another week, another poor attempt by a New York Times columnist to be contrarian. Last week it was Frank Rich with a diatribe against the Internet, this week it’s David Brooks with an exhortation for people to NOT follow the money in elections. Glenn Greenwald penned a pretty effective response to Brooks that includes an email debunking Brooks’ statistic comparing the amount spent by outside groups and candidates.

Here’s one thing that is missing from this entire discussion of why money flows into politics: what the contributors of money get in return. To whit, I am drawn to an article in today’s New York Times, the paper that employs Brooks:

Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning a confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise and prosperity.”

The invitation, sent to potential new participants, offers a rare peek at the Koch network of the ultrawealthy and the politically well-connected, its far-reaching agenda to enlist ordinary Americans to its cause, and its desire for the utmost secrecy.

Powerful billionaires get together for a secret meeting to plan how to influence both the government and the public with giant PR, think tank and advertising campaigns. Why is there money in elections, Brooks asks. Because the return on investment is so incredibly high.