One of the generic political stories that has been told again and again over the course of the past year is the ground-level battles between progressive activists and the Koch Brothers -- those uber-wealthy, climate change-denying, union-busting heads of a major energy conglomerate. The Kochs are perhaps best known for big donations to the GOP, semi-secret conclaves with the bete-noires of the liberal set, and for being the kind of people who can get Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on the phone, lickety-split.
Now, you wouldn't think that there would be much affinity between the Kochs and the establishment Democratic Party. But you'd be wrong! Apparently, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee heard about the Koch Brothers and said, "Hmmm. Koch Brothers, eh? Does their money fold like everyone else's money? I can put their money in my wallet, you say? Okay, then we would like to have some of that money, please!"
And so, the DSCC solicited the Kochs for some campaign cash. Via Ben Smith, here is a Koch company executive's response to the DSCC's Patty Murray:
For many months now, your colleagues in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership have engaged in a series of disparagements and ad hominem attacks about us, apparently as part of a concerted political and fundraising strategy. Just recently, Senator Reid wrote in a DSCC fundraising letter that Republicans are trying to "force through their extreme agenda faster than you can say 'Koch Brothers.'"
So you can imagine my chagrin when I got a letter from you on June 17 asking us to make five-figure contributions to the DSCC. You followed that up with a voicemail* indicating that, if we contributed heavily enough, we would garner an invitation to join you and other Democratic leaders at a retreat in Kiawah Island this September.
I'm hoping you can help me understand the intent of your request because it's hard not to conclude that DSCC politics have become so cynical that you actually expect people whom you routinely denounce to give DSCC money.
Speaking of being cynical, do you ever find that sometimes -- in the early morning let's say, as you take your first gulp of fresh air and the low-slung sun, still creeping skyward, hits the corner of eye just right -- you receive this distant moment of clarity, in which you come to understand that in America, we have one party that serves powerful corporate interests unabashedly, and another party that seeks to serve the same interests, only more bashfully?
That's the impression I sometimes get! Anyway, I'm off to read some press releases from "No Labels," an organization that believes our system of governance is broken because people are not being sufficiently nice to one another.
UPDATE: Per David Catanese, the DSCC is saying solicitation letter was a "staff error." And they've sent back a snippy letter of their own:
Thank you for your genuine, heartfelt concern about our recent solicitation and your request for clarification. Indeed, the form letter and follow-up solicitation you received was a staff error.
However, the bigger and more troubling mistake is the long political history of your employer, the Koch Brothers. As a (former?) Democrat, perhaps your time would be better spent looking into their efforts to privatize Social Security or their opposition to expanding the children's health insurance program. Or maybe, you can post a list of all of the anonymous contributions they have made to right-wing smear campaigns across the country. If you'd like to share voicemails from all the shady groups asking you for millions of dollars, we'd happily listen to those as well.
So, I write to make it clear that your invitation was an error and has been rescinded.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
P.S.: I was impressed how quickly you responded, given how often you must be on the phone with Governor Walker of Wisconsin.
Ha, yes, I already made that joke. So, I guess after sending many past solicitations to the Koch's it just never occurred to anyone at the DSCC that maybe their database should be trimmed of people who were famously at odds with their constituents? I suppose it happens. (How Patty Murray ended up leaving a voicemail is a different question entirely.)