With the recent revelations about the so called Koch network, political donors, particularly those on the right, are no doubt feeling nervous. The existence of the immense network set up by the Koch brothers in order to fund conservative political candidate campaigns, was already widely acknowledged. However, it is not until now that politicians have actually given evidence that it was key to their political success. One thing that the Koch network has proved without a doubt is that it is not what you know but who you know.
The Koch Network
The Koch network is an impressive system set up primarily by Billionaire Industrialists Charles and David Koch that raised over $400 Billion dollars in the 2012 Presidential campaign. It is a vast web of non-profit groups backed up by a network of donors. In order to distribute large sums of money a labyrinth of limited liability companies that were affiliated with the non-profit groups were used. It uses groups such as the Business Lobby Freedom Partners as the core of the network. However, as it is still under U.S. Federal law, the Koch brothers along with other conservative donors must remain discreet backers. With the current federal individual contribution limits to each candidate at $2,600 it is easy to see how discretion would be required. But, with the recent announcement that Freedom Partners is to be turned into a so called super PAC, which can legally devote all of its money and attention to overt political campaigning, the campaign contributions look to increase.
Of course many of the campaign contributors may still wish to keep their identities private for either good or bad reasons. This is one reason the limited liability structure will remain as it can be used to mask a donor’s identity.
It’s who you know
The primary reason that the Koch network has sprung into limelight recently is that at a recent donors meeting in Dana Point, California Republican Senate hopefuls were all recorded directly attributing their rise to the Koch network. This will no doubt provide great fuel for the Democrats who accuse the Republicans of being corrupt and paid for by industry. But in regards to the Democrats they do not exactly have clean hands either when it comes to their sources of funding. What this kind of network and revelations do show is that it really is who you know.
For example, Iowa State Senator, Joni Ernst, said, "I was not known at that time,"
"A little-known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory. It started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network."
Congress Man Tom Cotton even said "Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas has played a critical role in turning our state from a one-party Democratic state building the kind of constant engagement to get people in the state involved in their communities,"
This was the second event that both Ernst and Cotton had attended. However, the following comments by Cory Gardner were an appeal for funds in order to win his senate seat in Colorado. "We’ll raise somewhere between $10 and $12 million in my campaign," Gardner told the crowd. "My opposition is going to raise somewhere between $15 and $20 million." This was his first event.
It is clear that many of these individuals’ funding will come directly from this group. In fact, from what Ernst says, the Koch network seems to be directly responsible for her election to the Senate. If you are a conservative candidate and you aren’t able to get access to this group you need to change that quickly. These candidates seem to show that it really is all about who you know.
As can be seen from the success and size of this intricate network, it does appear to have been responsible for Ernst’s election to the senate it is most definitely who you know that matters.