WASHINGTON -- Charles Koch's Wall Street Journal op-ed defending the millions he's thrown into the political system hit the Senate floor on Thursday, when the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee praised the mega-donor and read the entire piece into the congressional record.
NRSC head Sen. Jerry Moran represents Kansas, where Koch Industries is located. The business, which is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States, is run by Charles and his brother David.
"In Kansas, there's a company called Koch Industries that is a component of our state, its economy, and many, several thousand, Kansans work there. And unfortunately in the political discourse of our country, Koch Industries, its owners, are often subject to attack," Moran said in his Senate speech Thursday, before reading the op-ed in full.
But the brothers are more than just local business owners to Moran; they're also some of the most generous donors to conservative causes. Moran is responsible for making sure Republicans win back the Senate in 2014. His office did not return a request for comment as to whether that fact played into his decision to read the Koch op-ed on the floor.
In the 2012 elections, the political network backed by the Kochs raised at least $407 million, according to The Washington Post.
The Kochs have also been helpful personally to Moran and the NRSC, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Between 1998 and 2014, the Kochs and their spouses, employees and political action committee donated $71,550 to Moran. During that same time period, the Kochs and their family have given $263,662 to the NRSC.
Charles Koch's Wall Street Journal piece defended their political spending, saying they were simply fighting for "the principles of a free society." He also accused their Democratic critics of engaging in "character assassination."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been going after the Kochs' influence in recent weeks, labeling their actions "un-American" and saying Republicans are "addicted to Koch."
During a press conference on the minimum wage on Thursday, Reid criticized Moran -- although not by name -- for kowtowing to the Kochs.
"Most people here are familiar with the Koch brothers," he said. "I've helped make them a little more infamous or famous, and I'm glad I've done that. These two men are a pair of shadowy billionaires spending millions of dollars to rig our political system. And who does it help? Them."
"And by all indications, my Republican colleagues are falling all over themselves to help advance their self-described radical philosophy," he added. "Already, we've had one senator run to the Senate floor and he read, word for word, that op-ed piece onto the floor. Well, it's truly scary that the Republican Koch agenda and the Ryan Koch budget is just what they want: to make millionaires and billionaires even richer."
"No one can doubt that the Koch brothers aren't getting what they paid for," Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said.
Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, pointed out that while Moran didn't break any rules by praising a major GOP donor on the Senate floor, it does show the influence these individuals have in the political system.
"As just another indication of the power of big donors in our current culture (newly exacerbated by yesterday’s McCutcheon decision), today Sen. Moran chose to enter into the record Charles Koch’s op-ed in which he defends his massive spending in American politics," Gilbert said. "While the Senator has broken no rule by doing so, he is clearly making a statement concerning his support for one of the loudest Republican donors -- to an American public concerned with outsized influence of mega-donors, it is an unseemly message to say the least.”
At the end of Moran's floor speech Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who was presiding over the chamber, appeared to smirk at what had just transpired.
Watch Reid's remarks responding to the Koch oped and Moran's speech:
Watch Moran's full speech:
Paul Blumenthal and Mike McAuliff contributed reporting.