TV personality Joe Scarborough weighed in this morning on the political blood feud between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the billionaire Koch Brothers over the millions of dollars spent to influence the outcome of the 2014 mid-term campaign.
On Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, said on Morning Joe that it was “sad and pathetic” that Reid would call Charles and David Koch “un-American for pouring massive sums into Senate races when Reid and his Democratic supporters are doing the same.”
Scarborough pointed to a list of Super political action committees taking advantage of virtually unlimited restrictions on campaign contributions in the 2013-2014 cycle. Reid’s Senate Majority PAC was at the top of the list, with $32.5 million of independent expenditures.
That total eclipsed the $24.5 million reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nearest conservative rival to Reid’s Super PAC, the $16.3 million for Karl Rove’s American Crossroads/GPS and the $6.7 million of expenditures by Freedom Partners Action Fund, which is closely allied to the Koch Brothers far-flung political operations.
Back in February, Reid stepped up his attack on the two wealthy libertarian industrialists in response to ads being run by a Koch-backed group opposing the Affordable Care Act. In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid said the ads went too far and that Charles and David Koch were trying to “buy” America, The Washington Post reported at the time.
“It's too bad that they're trying to buy America, and it's time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone I can imagine," Reid said.
Since then, Democrats have called for a constitutional amendment to restore Congress' power to regulate campaign finance after the Supreme Court struck down several fundraising restrictions.
It is “sad and pathetic when somebody calls a person un-American, especially when they are bigger offenders of the action he defines as un-American,” Scarborough complained today.
Super PACs are a new kind of political action committee created in July 2010 following the outcome of a federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.
The Center for Responsive Politics says these new Super PACs could “raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.” As of last month, 1,185 groups organized as Super PACs reported total receipts of $359.1 million and total independent expenditures of $161.9 million in the 2014 cycle.
Hard Money, Soft Money
The 2014 midterm election has turned into a barnburner of a campaign, with literally billions of dollars of “hard money” contributed directly to House and Senate candidates and “soft money” coursing through SuperPACs and non-profit political advocacy groups that go largely unreported.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, there was a lot of focus on the big spending by conservative SuperPacs like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the Koch Brothers’ political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. Liberal groups were spending a great deal as well, but conservative group spending seemed to dominate the scene.
Now, with big Democratic donors like billionaire Tom Steyer in the mix, the two parties have reached parity in funding. And in the case of Super PAC spending, Reid’s Senate Majority PAC and the liberal NextGen Climate Action – with $11.7 million of campaign spending so far – are major players in the changing campaign finance scene.
But the Koch Brothers complex and far flung political advocacy network remains a hugely powerful force in politics.
Politico reported in June that political donors allied with the Koch Brothers’ political operations created Freedom Partners Action fund as “a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal.” The new independent-expenditure PAC aimed to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns – part of a much larger overall effort expected to total $290 million, according to Politico.
A half-dozen groups with ties to the Koch brothers have already funded almost 44,000 ads in battleground states, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity and the Kantar Media Group/CMAG, The Washington Post reported last month.
The six non-profit groups -- Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy Alliance, Concerned Veterans for America, the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Generation Opportunity and the 60 Plus Association – ran 43,900 TV ads from Jan. 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014. “Americans for Prosperity alone has run more than 27,000 ads, which is significantly more than groups like American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS -- groups with close ties to former Bush White House political Svengali Karl Rove,” according to The Post.
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