Happily watching a public falling out among political thieves is one of my more harmless diversions - particularly when it’s the right wing where such events are regular and always predictable. It’s happening again. This time, it’s the big guys. The really big guys. And a whole political party. And I don’t mean that jerk Trump. And it’s been a really big insider secret.
A couple of years ago, I noted in a previous column how the then-reclusive Kochsters were gutting the top level staff of the National Republican Committee. Charley and Davy wanted to step up their cancerous growth on the body politic. So, they went looking for talent. They settled on the top GOP staff and proceeded to lure many of ‘em out with big bucks. Really big bucks.
They nearly cleaned out the information technology office at the top. They also took several department folk who knew the ins and outs of mailing lists and operations of GOP field offices. They paid highly - read richly bought - a pollster or two. Poor ol’ Reince Priebus almost wound up alone.
They did one other - at the time - curious thing. Charley and Davy laid out some of their greenbacks to help what was left of the GOP crew develop some new computer software - programming that would identify such things as all state office staffs, workers - paid and unpaid - and a very snazzy voter identification system. Rience apparently agreed if only in an effort to stop the talent raiding and keep at least some of his staff intact. The deal was the GOP would do the development work and the Koch’s would pay the bill. For two years or so. Then they’d talk again.
Some months back, it was time for that talk. But Charley and Davy had other ideas. Apparently, in the original agreement, there was a clause allowing the Kochs to duplicate all that software and all the goodie information it contained. And guess what’s believed to have happened?
The Koch’s - who have more money than the national GOP AND Trump combined - and who can raise more money than the national GOP - now apparently have at least a working copy of all the computer files and all the voter info the national GOP thought it owned exclusively. It appears the stage is set for Charley and Davy to step up and over Reince’s body and what’s left of the NRC and go straight to voters with ad campaigns, direct mail, registration efforts and voter identification. Whoops! Wha’ hoppened?
The plain fact is the Kochs appear now even more in a position to become major and even more viable actors on the American political stage. They’ve got the bucks - they’ve got a new and higher public profile - and they’ve got direct access to millions of voters. Seems to me all this mostly defines what a political party is supposed to be. They now seem to be one!
The Kochs and all their various political fronts have been playing fast and loose with the truth for several years now. So have Priebus and his minions. Rience has dictatorially tried to limit debates, limit media access, pick and choose media “favorites,” stack the cards for who gets the most national GOP support. Hint: those running for office that sign “no tax” pledges, hold the line on abortion, help disenfranchise whole classifications of voters and generally see things his way.
But now, all the GOP office-holders - and would-be GOP office-holders - have a new voice in their ears. Make that “voices.” Trump. And Charley and Davy. Directly. Distinctly. With the background sound of dollars clinking. Dollars they own. Dollars they can give. Dollars they can withhold. More of ‘em than the national GOP.
It would seem the Koch boys have - or will soon possess - a parallel Republican Party. It would also seem the boys have reduced - or are about to reduce - the national GOP to National Republican Party Lite.
Now, some reading this may say “Look, Rainey. The National Republican Party is a recognized national political entity with a long history and lots of resources. These Koch guys may have big bucks but they’re just a couple of guys. And, while they may have some clout, they’re more like the tail on the elephant.”
Oh, yeah, sez I? Consider what a teenager with a bad complexion and an anti-social streak can do with his laptop in his basement in Cincinnati. One such teen can use today’s technology to infiltrate federal computers, bring large banks to their knees with a few keystrokes and tap into national security files. All with just a bit more knowledge about technology than the average bear. And the Koch’s ain’t your “average bears.”
With massive amounts of information they now apparently “own,” Charley and Davy can do a lot more than that Cincinnati kid. With their various front organizations, a heavy hand in the affairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - which has operatives in every state capitol - and with the political propensity of many political candidates to grovel for folks/companies with big bucks, seems to me the Koch’s are more scary now than they’ve ever been. Being “outed” by the media hasn’t reduced their clout. It’s just easier to see what that clout is and how/where they use it.
The public falling out of thieves. But it’s really more than that. It’s about the largest power grab in American politics in the last 80-90 years. And it almost got past us.
This is something that needs watching. Notice I didn’t say “fun to watch.” ‘Cause “fun” it ain’t!