Why the Media Focuses So Much on the Koch Brothers—Explained in 5 Tweets

Yes, liberals spend a lot of dark money, but they’re pikers compared to Kochworld.

David Koch speaks at an Americans for Prosperity event on Aug. 30, 2013.Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images


Any time news breaks about the billionaire Koch brothers and their shadowy network of donors and advocacy groups, conservatives grumble that the media singles out the Kochs, that we reporters are unfair toward and obsessed with them while giving a pass to wealthy liberals like George Soros and Tom Steyer and the progressive donor club the Democracy Alliance. Koch Industries, the international conglomerate run by Charles and David Koch, keeps a ticker tracking the number of Koch mentions in the New York Times. The response to Monday’s revelation—the Kochs and a few hundred of their donor allies plan to spend an eye-popping $889 million on 2016 elections and policy fights—was no different.

But there’s a very good reason the media covers the Kochs so closely: Increasingly, the data shows, they’re the biggest outside money players in town. By a long shot.

Robert Maguire, a cracker-jack researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the flow of cash (disclosed and dark money) in American elections, lays out, in just five tweets, why exactly the media report on the Kochs so much—and why it makes perfect sense to do so.

In the 2012 campaign, Maguire shows, the Kochs and their network already ranked as one of the biggest outside entities:

The bulk of that cash was dark money—meaning the true source of the contributions was hidden. And the Koch network’s dark money spending made up a notable chunk of all reported dark money spending in the 2012 elections:

Yes, the progressive movement has its own donor club, the Democracy Alliance, whose members are secret and whose giving is anonymous. But the DA, as it’s called, pales in comparison to Kochworld:

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, Koch-linked dark-money spending has outpaced liberal dark-money spending:

And as you can see, the Kochs’ $889 million goal for 2016 more than doubles its 2012 budget. The figure exceeds the Republican Party’s campaign committee spending in 2012 and isn’t far off from what the Obama and Romney campaigns each spent in the last presidential race.

So there you have it. The Kochs and their allies—again, just a few hundred people hoping to raise and spend nearly $900 million in 2016—are in a different league than their liberal counterparts. Make no mistake: The Democracy Alliance and its state-level counterpart, the Committee on States, are absolutely deserving of tough reporting and serious scrutiny. But at this point, Kochworld is essentially its own political party, on par with the Democratic and Republican parties, and it should be covered just as rigorously.

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