I admire the Koch brothers for their willingness to match mouth with money. Their wealth and willingness to argue for conservative/libertarian ideas has progressives in a perpetual, whiny tizzy.
When reading this story, it’s worth remembering the two tremendous institutional advantages Democrats have:
- candidates who promise to do something, even something dumb, are an easier sell that those who say, “Sit back, hands off, let the free market work.” It’s like a doctor who refuses to prescribe pills he knows will not help and might hurt.
- the deep ideological bias among the mainstream media that favors Democrats. Part of this is sincere belief, part of news media’s bias toward novelty.
Kathy Birjandi was heading out the door with her two sons on a sweltering morning when she encountered a politely smiling duo from the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity on her porch.
“Ma’am, do you have time for a quick survey about the economy?” asked Carlos Muhletaler, a senior field director for AFP. Ninety seconds later, he had logged key details about the 45-year-old mom into an iPad app, including the fact that she considers herself a political moderate and has mixed feelings about the Affordable Care Act.
The information gathered by Muhletaler and a dozen AFP volunteers who knocked on more than 400 doors in Boca Raton on Tuesday instantly flowed back to the eighth floor of an office building in Arlington, Va., where a team of 80 engineers, analysts and data scientists is working to refine a massive voter database.
The summer canvassing is part of a mission that consumes the political network backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, which plans to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections. The network’s resources are financing a host of activities, including a campaign to derail the Export-Import Bank and efforts to reform the criminal-justice system.
But one of the prime objectives could have a direct impact on Election Day 2016: to create a permanent ground force powered by a vast trove of data, replicating the kind of infrastructure that helped President Obama win reelection.
Already, roughly 1,000 full-time staffers are working for Koch network organizations such as AFP, Concerned Veterans for America and the Libre Initiative — more than double the number four years ago, according to officials.
“One of the biggest things we learned and shared with our investors is that we can’t parachute in the last couple months of an election cycle with a bunch of activists into a new state and expect to have the same impact that President Obama had by staying in those states for four years and being invested in the community,” said Marc Short, president of Freedom Partners, the nonprofit business chamber that serves as the funding arm of the network.
If the ground expansion works the way officials hope it will, it could prove to be the network’s most potent weapon in 2016, helping the right deploy the kind of precise, tech-driven field operation that Democrats harnessed in the last two presidential contests.
But there are big question marks hanging over the well-funded push. One of the biggest: whether Freedom Partners can mobilize a broad grass-roots movement now that the controversial health-care overhaul has faded from the political front lines, and without the kind of galvanizing figure that the left had in Obama.
No matter the outcome, the ambitious undertaking spotlights how the Kochs and their allies have built a quasi-political party outside the traditional infrastructure, one made up of nonprofit groups financed with secret donations, free of campaign finance limits.
I’d ask the writer, what limits are there to media boosting a candidate by not pursuing unfavorable stories? To ginning up scandals over nothing (Bush firing US Attorneys. Valerie Plame) and playing down real scandals (IRS becoming a political weapon, Benghazi).