Harry Reid’s unhinged rants on the Senate floor about David and Charles Koch reflect not just one man’s paranoia but an empty strategy of demagoguery by a major political party. A new ad from the party’s Senate Majority PAC attempting to protect Mary Landrieu from the consequences of her support for Barack Obama’s agenda tried to shift attention in Louisiana to “out-of-state billionaires,” by which they did not mean George Soros or Tom Steyer. The ad claims that the Kochs support “tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas,” but as the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler deduces, practically nothing in that argument is true … including the that and the for:
Matsdorf cites the fact that ATR has a taxpayer pledge for candidates to “oppose any and all tax increases” and that ATR once ran a fact check blog post on an Obama speech that said that “companies don’t get tax breaks for moving anything overseas.” (One can argue over semantics, but Obama has a tendency to suggest this is a special loophole. Instead, it’s a standard moving expense deduction that is part of the tax code, whether you are moving jobs to Vienna, Va., or Vienna, Austria.)
But we could find no evidence that ATR ever took a position on this bill, which after all is supposedly the reason why Senate Majority PAC says that saving this “tax cut” is a central part of the Koch agenda. Indeed, Ryan Ellis, ATR’s policy director, told The Fact Checker: “I’ve never heard of that bill, so I can tell you with some confidence that we don’t have a position on it.”
Americans for Tax Reform did get a contribution from the Kochs’ organization, but it amounted to 1% of their contributions for the year — so this isn’t a Koch operation anyway. The Post’s own analysis of the reach of the Koch brothers called it an “outside ally,” not part of their operation, but SMP used it as the basis of their attack ad.
Needless to say, Kessler was unimpressed, giving Senate Majority PAC four pinocchios:
Upon examination, this claim crumbles into dust. The ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special “tax cut” but then it falsely asserts that “protecting” this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question.
Equally unimpressed is National Journal’s Alex Roarty, who wonders what Democrats think they’re accomplishing by stoking their own Koch habit:
A Quinnipiac University poll in January ranked, in order, the three issues voters cared about the most: the economy, the federal budget deficit, and health care. Not included on the list? Charles and David Koch.
And therein lies the dilemma for Democrats, who of late have turned the full fury and might of their political operation against the billionaire brothers from Kansas. …
Voters don’t like the outside interference, but their distaste doesn’t necessarily have the resonance to push voters away from the GOP. And even for all of the influence wielded by Americans for Prosperity and other Koch-affiliated enterprises, they’re still just outside groups in an election in which voters are still just choosing between Republicans and Democrats.
“There’s a trap in campaigns that’s called the Other People’s Money trap,” said Brad Todd, a Republican strategist. “Voters care about their money, not other people’s money. Anytime my candidate is talking about the voters’ money and my opponent is talking about other people’s money, I feel pretty good about our chances.”
It gets trickier for Democrats in individual races. Along with Begich, Sens. Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana each accepted money from the Koch Industries PAC in recent years. Blasting them now—all three are battleground races this year—risks making the incumbent look like a hypocrite.
That’s especially true when they’re hijacking the Senate on behalf of Thomas Steyer for an issue that is among the lowest priorities for Americans in this election cycle — or missing from the priority list altogether. When asked to rank their top priority, unemployment and jobs topped yesterday’s Gallup poll list, while environmental issues and global warming didn’t even make the list. Income inequality, by the way, polled 2% at the bottom.
They’re flailing, and the reek of desperation is only getting more obvious.
Addendum: Not everyone at the Post has the time to check facts:
— Byron York (@ByronYork) March 14, 2014