Sunday morning, we pulled up a chair, poured a cup of coffee and turned on CBS Sunday Morning to watch a rare event: Charles Koch doing a television interview.
Koch and his brother, David, rarely grant television interviews and, as we wrote last week, the brothers have yet to back a 2016 candidate despite playing active roles in the 2012 presidential and 2014 midterm elections. So, we were eager to hear Charles Koch’s perspective and political plans for the upcoming election.
CBS reporter Anthony Mason asked Charles Koch directly about the influence of dark money in politics.
Anthony Mason: Do you think it’s good for the political system that so much what’s called ‘dark money’ is flowing into the process now?”
Charles Koch: First of all, what I give isn’t dark. What I give politically, that’s all reported. It’s either to PACs or to candidates. And what I give to my foundations is all public information. But a lot of our donors don’t want to take the kind of abuse that I do. They don’t want these attacks. They don’t want the death threats. So they aren’t going to participate if they have to have their names associated with it.
It’s laughable to say all your money is disclosed while continuing to run and support a network of groups that purposely shield their donors.
Many organizations have detailed the vast network of Koch-backed organizations and its complex flow of money, including our friends at ProPublica and OpenSecrets.org, which estimated one in four dark money dollars spent in 2012 had links to Koch organizations. The network of organizations is so complex and has so many tentacles, it has earned the nickname “Kochtopus” from some media outlets.
It’s rather obtuse of Mr. Koch to ignore the source of frustration from average Americans who believe that the Koch political network is unduly influencing the American political system. Compared to the influence of millions of dollars, what is the value of a single vote?
To that end, Mason asks the obvious follow-up question.
Mason: Some people would look at you and say you’re a special interest.
Koch: Yeah, but my interest is, just as it’s been in business, is what will help people improve their lives, and to get rid of these special interests. That’s the whole thing that drives me.
Mason: There are people out there who think what you’re trying to do is essentially buy power.
Koch: But what I want is a system where there isn’t as much centralized power where it’s dispersed to the people. And everything I advocate points in that direction.
We would argue the opposite is true, that everything points to these billionaires being a special interest group since they believe they know better than others what American needs and are willing to spend money to make it happen. Why else would they spend millions in the political process if they didn’t have a special interest in having a larger voice than others in our political system?
The Kochs are certainly not alone, but they are among the select few pouring millions into the political process. We blogged about the other big names, and just this weekend The New York Times released this project detailing the 158 families financing the 2016 Presidential cycle. By our math, that means political money is coming from less than .00001 percent of the U.S. population. And that’s being generous.
There’s an old saying in American journalism: “Consider the source.” That’s something that American voters should have the opportunity to do when viewing political ads and considering which candidate to support. Void of that information, Americans can not make informed decisions during the political process, leaving the course of our nation in the hand of a few, self-appointed, special interest groups.