Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How Much Influence Can You Buy for $900 Million?

Charles Koch has been raising hundreds of millions to shape the Republican primaries and then help the Republican nominee get elected. But he doesn't feel like he's gotten much in return:
He says he is “disappointed” by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, and resigned to having to support one with whom he agrees on only some issues. “It is hard for me to get a high level of enthusiasm because the things I’m passionate about and I think this country urgently needs aren’t being addressed.”

The Kochs’ political machine has presented all the candidates with a list of issues it wants on the agenda but, says Koch, “it doesn’t seem to faze them much. You’d think we could have more influence.”

So does the man that the left believes has too much influence in politics believe he in fact has too little? “I’m pleased that I can still speak and I’m pleased that it isn’t worse,” he says. “They haven’t nationalised all the industries like happened in the UK when the Fabians took over.”

I ask him to put his businessman’s hat on and to tell me whether he thinks his political spending is generating a positive return on investment. “I’m not confident,” he says. “I’d say there are some benefits. Ask me in 10 years.”
Koch is a libertarian whose agenda only sometimes fits with the Republican mainstream. He hates talk about climate change, which most Republicans agree with, and wants lower taxes. But he also wants a less aggressive foreign policy and less talk about social issues, especially homosexuality. His ability to move the party in those directions is very limited. Big money matters in American politics but I think it is a mistake to say that the billionaires are in control. Ordinary Republicans of the "God, gays, and guns" variety are still very powerful in the party.

And does Koch really lie awake at night thinking his company might be nationalized? Seems a bizarre thing to worry about in 21st century America.

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