Conservatives reject the notion that rich liberals donate more out of their concern for society than do their conservative counterparts like the Kochs. But Brock’s pitch also isn’t sitting well with some major liberal donors and operatives, who worry the anti-Koch strategy could backfire big time. It has not yet been proven effective at motivating key Democratic voting blocs like unmarried women and minorities, and liberal critics also worry it risks undercutting more important issues, smacks of class warfare and opens themselves up to hypocrisy charges.
“The Democrats’ problem is off-year turnout, and I’m not clear how emphasizing the Koch brothers gets more black and brown folks to the polls,” said Steve Phillips, a member of the secretive Democracy Alliance club of major liberal donors. “My sense for voters of color is that the issues of income inequality, housing, education, immigration reform, health care and criminal justice reform would resonate more.
So while big-money liberals scramble to match the unprecedented money plans being methodically prosecuted by Koch brothers’ political operation, they’re also grappling with more fundamental strategic questions — are we really that different from the Kochs and do voters really care?
If it’s not resolved efficiently, the debate could undermine a central piece of their strategy for 2014 and beyond, and send liberal donors to the sidelines indefinitely.
The partisan focus on the Kochs is also off-putting for another group of major liberal donors — those whose giving is, perhaps ironically, motivated by a desire to reduce the flow of money into politics.
“I think it would be much better to talk about the Koch brothers and Soros,” said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, referring to the billionaire financier George Soros, who helped start the Democracy Alliance. Cohen has spent heavily pushing a long-shot constitutional amendment to blunt the impacts of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that sparked a wave of big-money political spending. “I am dismayed at the way that Democrats are using it as a partisan issue.”