WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he's not afraid of the big, bad Koch brothers, and he'll do his damnedest to reveal them as a pair of profiteers bent on "buying America."
The Nevada Democrat has launched a personal campaign in recent days aimed at discrediting billionaire oil magnates David and Charles Koch, and the multimillion-dollar ad campaigns they fund to take down Democrats.
Asked at a roundtable discussion with reporters Thursday if he was at all worried about reprisals from two billionaires with a reputation for bare-knuckle tactics, Reid's response amounted to: Come at me, bros.
"I wish they would hire some private detectives to go after me. What a boring time they would have," Reid said. "I am one of the most boring people in the world. I don't care about being investigated by the best of them."
It's not that people haven't warned Reid that there could be consequences.
"I've been told by lots of people: 'Don't pick a fight. They're wealthy, they are very vengeful, don't do this. You're making a mistake.' But without being overly dramatic about this … I'm not afraid of them," Reid said, suggesting they couldn't hit him where it really hurts, in his home state.
"My goal in Nevada is to get one vote more than 50 percent," Reid said. "I can't please everybody, so if they want to come to Nevada and tell everybody in Nevada what a bad guy I am, some people agree with them already. So let them try to get over 50 percent."
Reid has said repeatedly on the Senate floor over the last week that the brothers are trying to buy America. Some estimates put their spending against Democrats at $30 million for this election year alone. Reid quipped earlier this week that the GOP is "addicted to Koch," a pun he said came from his wife.
On Thursday, Reid said he wanted to see if anyone in the GOP would buck that influence.
"My main goal today is to try to see if people can find a single Republican someplace out there who will raise an objection to two brothers who are trying to buy America," Reid said. "I'll settle for even a man or woman without much seniority over there -- anybody that will stand up to two individuals who stand for everything that I don't."
Reid was emphatic that while he opposes unlimited, anonymous spending in politics, in the case of the Koch brothers, his animus is personal, rather than based on what their activities say about the broader problems with campaign finance, or the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 that opened the flood gates for unlimited spending.
"I'm not perhaps as philosophical as you'd like me to be," Reid said. "I'm after the two brothers. They are two people who are obviously trying to buy America. They have the money to do it."
Charges such as Reid's are familiar to Koch Industries, which has a web page devoted to debunking claims mades against it and the brothers.
A spokesman for the Kochs said that Reid was way off base, and that what the Koch brothers are doing is using their constitutional rights to advance the causes they believe in.
“We look forward to the day when there can be tolerance and a civil dialogue about the future of our country," Koch Industries spokesman Rob Tappan said. "Unfortunately, Sen. Reid’s recent comments seem shrill and are divisive. We reject the notion that America can be 'bought.' It demeans voters and misses the point that people make up their own minds and vote accordingly."
Tappan continued, "We have no plans to 'mount a campaign' against Senator Reid, as he suggested, because we are not obsessed with Senator Reid, as he seems to be with us. Rather, we are focused on doing what we can to make the United States a country where all Americans can make their own decisions about how to improve their lives.”
Koch defenders also often note that the Kochs donate hundreds of millions to charities.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has accused Reid of being a hypocrite, noting that Reid is friends with billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged to dip into his own fortune to back candidates who will fight to address climate change.
"That is so desperate," Reid said of McConnell's charge. "Remember, he's not trying to buy America. He's concerned about climate change. That's a single issue. For him to talk about Tom Steyer -- Tom Steyer is not trying to buy America. He wants people to focus on the problems caused by polluting our environment. Tom Steyer is not building his own fortune like these characters. He's basically retired. They're not retired. They're pounding on. They want to pass Bill Gates, I guess."
Reid is not alone in his approach. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a campaign Tuesday aimed at protecting vulnerable Democrats from Koch-backed ads.
It's not immediately clear what sort of impact targeting the pair will have in the 2014 elections, or whether most Americans care, but Reid argued that it's worth making the argument, at least.
"People damn sure care, but they have to be educated like anything else, to develop a reason for caring," Reid said. "It's not going to hurt. What is going on has to be brought to the attention to the American people."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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