Someone–possibly an attendee, possibly a member of the hotel staff–audio taped a Koch-sponsored conference that was held in California last June. This, I take it, was one of the twice-a-year seminars that Koch puts on, by invitation, for conservative donors and others. Three Republican Senate candidates, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner, participated in a panel titled “The Senate: A Window of Policy Opportunity for Principled Leaders.” Whoever recorded the event gave the audio to a far-left web site that shared it with the Huffington Post, which wrote about the event here.
HuffPo tries to make something out of the fact that conservative donors support conservative candidates, but it is slow going. If you listen to the audio tape–I don’t recommend it–it is essentially impossible to make out what anyone is saying. Still, I am happy to take HuffPo’s translation on faith. So, for example, Tom Cotton uttered these ostensibly scandalous words:
Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas has played a critical role in turning our state from a one-party Democratic state [inaudible] building the kind of constant engagement to get people in the state involved in their communities.
That’s it? Seriously? And that is the best that HuffPo could extract from the audio!
The moral of the story is that when conservatives talk among themselves, they say exactly the same things that they say to other audiences. Unlike liberals. I have participated in two of the Kochs’s semiannual conferences, so I have a pretty good idea what goes on. The Koch seminars are extraordinarily high quality (despite my participation) and draw from the best in the worlds of politics, business and media.
There is little that is, or needs to be, secret about the proceedings. After I spoke at the Koch event in January 2012, I posted a summary of my talk on cronyism, with the slides that I used for the seminar audience, on Power Line. Personally, I would love to see the Koch seminars televised. They would be a wonderful source of education for those who otherwise depend on left-wing news sources.
The idea that it is somehow scandalous that conservative donors support conservative candidates, and the candidates appreciate it, is a non-starter even on the left. Thus, HuffPo itself notes:
Part of the reason Cotton, Ernst and Gardner appeared before the conservative donors was that deep-pocketed Democrats have been spending against them. A trio of environmental groups has spent heavily on Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s Iowa Senate campaign. The super PAC Next Generation Climate, created by hedge fund founder and dedicated environmentalist Tom Steyer, has spent $3 million in Iowa and roughly $1 million in Colorado, according to a super PAC official. Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic candidates, has spent $550,000 in support of Braley and an additional $1.5 million against Ernst, $2.6 million against Gardner and $1.94 million against Cotton, according to Federal Election Commission data. And more spending is possible: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has consistently outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee this election cycle.
“We’ll raise somewhere between $10 and $12 million in my campaign,” Gardner told the crowd. “My opposition is going to raise somewhere between $15 and $20 million.”
It is the Democrats who lead the way in political spending, and Republicans are always struggling to keep pace. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, a Democrat, covers the story–such as it is–but the Post’s headline is: “A bunch of Republican Senate candidates spoke at a Koch Brothers conference. So what?”
So what? A good question.