Media Demonization of Koch Money is Pure Partisanship

The media does not like people spending money to elect non-Democrats.   That is the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that all of their articles on "dark money" seem to focus almost exclusively on the Koch brothers (who to my eye are more libertarian than Republican).  One would get the impression that the Koch's are the #1 giver of money to election campaigns, but in fact according to they were #14 in 2014 and #49 in all elections since 2002.  Why wouldn't the media illustrate election-spending articles with someone in the top 10?  It's as if the sports media spent all its time talking exclusively about quarterback Ryan Tannehill (14th in 2015 in NFL passing yards per game) without ever mentioning Tom Brady or Drew Brees.

If the Koch brothers deserve to be excoriated for their election spending, then the organizations that give more than they must really be evil, right?  If one were cynical, one might think that the media ignores the top 8 or 10 because they mostly all give to Democrats.   Well, here is the list from 2014 via


Update, from a reader and via Instapundit:

Consider this: in 2013, the left wing Center for Public Integrity reported that “Four foundations run by [the Koch brothers] hold a combined $310 million in assets…” By contrast, the Ford Foundation’s endowment is more than $12 billion — about 38x larger than the Koch Foundations.

On a list of the top 100 US Foundations (by asset size), the Ford Foundation is #2. The various Koch Foundations don’t make the list, nor do they make the list of top 100 Foundations by annual giving.

Yet, the news media and transparency groups constantly harp on the Koch’s massive organization and its “insidious,” “dark money” influence on American politics, while almost completely ignoring the far larger left-wing political Foundations.

In part, this is due to the perception in the media that money from conservative/libertarian/free market leaning organizations must be tainted, while funding from left-wing Foundations is free of such bias. It may also be due to the fact that the left wing Foundations fund many media organizations — I’m looking at you, NPR, PBS, Washington Post, LA Times and others — sometimes even funding them to cover “[other people's] money in politics.”


Postscript:  If you really want dark, check out the website for hedge fund Elliott Management.   There is not a single byte of information in the publicly accessible pages, only links to contact forms.


  1. Dan Wendlick:

    The chart also neatly explains why right-to-work and agency shop rules in state and local governments are such hot-button issues with Democrats.

  2. xtmar:

    Three thoughts:
    1. I'm surprised how much the National Association or Realtors gives. Who knew that real estate agents are the secret electoral power? I would also guess that most of their money goes down ballot, but maybe not.
    2. They have weird accounting, as the totals given don't always equal the sum of liberals+conservatives. This is most obvious if you look at Bloomberg. Where did the extra few million go?
    3. I think the reason why the media demonize the Kochs is that they're two people, whereas the SEUI, AFT, and so on are all aggregations of people via their unions, while ActBlue and the Senate Majority PAC are basically bundling organizations with obviously political ends. I do agree that it's weird Bloomberg and Fahr LLC get a pass.

  3. Daniel Suraci:

    Re: 2. - Maybe independents? Bloomberg was one...

  4. jimcraq:

    Yep. Fahr LLC coordinates the political advocacy donations for billionaire Tom Steyer, an adversary to the Koch brothers, so he's OK.

  5. Robert B:

    I'm not so sure. There is definitely something some odd accounting gong. For example, according to the chart, Koch industries gave more to Repubs/conservatives than their total contributions...

    I'm sure there is a reason, but it is interesting.

  6. DaveK:

    Um... some of those numbers are weird... Like the Koch donation to Republicans being greater than their total donation.

  7. mlhouse:

    Exactly. If you want to know how the Democrats will respond,, check who donates to them.

  8. J K Brown:

    Well, part of it is that many of media have those "New York (City) values" or as Paul Graham has observed, NYC judges people on wealth. And guess who the richest person in New York state is? David Koch. That's really got to get under some NYC Progressive skin.

    Interesting in the union support for Dems. If you read Paul Graham's recent essay, The Refragmentation' you'll see the internal conflict in the Democratic Party. The unions represent the old conformity that started collapsing in the 1970s but the Dems also get a lot of support from those who benefitted from the collapse of the big conformist corporations. But then many of those Silicon Valley corps are hoping to return to the government supported corporation model themselves.

  9. LoneSnark:

    I suspect Democrats don't really mind establishment Republican doners all that much. The Republican establishment may want to change the allocation of government, but they certainly don't want to actually shrink it. The problem with the Koch is their libertarianism and their actual desire to reduce the member rolls of the public sector unions.

  10. Scott:

    I have to wonder what's up with the National Association of Realtors, with donations split 52/48. Are they cynically donating to everyone so whoever wins will owe them? Or are they possibly focused on local races where real estate issues don't necessarily line up with national partisan politics?

    Except the partisan breakdown is missing about $10 million from the total, so who knows if that ratio is accurate at all.

  11. Steven Aldridge:

    I asked a progressive and followed a gentle line of questioning with respect to said persons (Mr. X) objection to wealthy donors (ignoring the political party variable). Won't bore you with the details and will go straight to the conclusion.

    X: "Contributions by single wealthy donors should be limited, it is not Democratic to give one person so much influence." I then asked "Does this principle apply also to our economic system?". I could literally see the wheels turning while waiting for a response and was about to give up when it came. Not verbatim but this was the gist of the reply: "No, although everyone gets to vote with their money on whether a business succeeds or not there are higher powers that should intervene when the public interest is at stake". Don't have to spell out the "wow" factor on that one.

    Normally I would have proceeded with more questioning but wanted to implant a seed of doubt by not pursuing the argument too rigorously. I also made sure to compliment when I thought it was warranted and to eagerly solicit opinions. Wasn't being disingenuous, people fascinate me.

    Hamilton: ".. to retract an error, even in the beginning, is no easy task ; perseverance confirms us in it, and rivets the difficulty."

  12. Tom Lindmark:

    By and large the only intelligent donors on this list would appear to be the National Association of Realtors. You have to either be extremely ideological or stupid to give all your money to one party.

  13. mesocyclone:

    I have been amazed that the media seems to think the Kochs are conservatives. They are not - they are Libertarians. They support Republicans because they support what can win - otherwise they'd be helping Libertarians.

  14. mesocyclone:

    No, they go after the Kochs because the Kochs are not lefties, unlike SEIU or AFT or Soros (one individual) or the various Silicon Valley progressive billionaires.

  15. vsevolod4:

    Not only are there a dozen organizations which give more to Democrats than the Koch Brothers give to Libertarian causes, this doesn't even take into account money from the likes of Soros and Streyer.

    And, unlike anyone donating to either Democratic or Republican causes, the Koch brothers are "evil" in that they want Government out of our lives. They are even lobbying AGAINST Government programs and "crony socialism" programs that benefit Koch industries. Think about that. The Left's canard is that the Koch Brothers are buying favors from the Government with their money -- because the Left (and the GOP) can't think any other way. Fact is, the Koch Brothers are actually hurting themselves economically (unlike every other parasite on this list).

    Everyone else is lobbying for more money into their own pockets. But these "evil" Koch brothers are lobbying for the Gubmint to force less money into their own pockets. And for a corrupt crony oligopoly of Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, the media, labor unions, trial attorneys and a huge number of both for-profit and non-profit parasites who suckle at the Gubmint teat, this is a threat. And that';s why they need not to be vilified but applauded. Unlike anyone else on this list who is donating money in order to benefit themselves, they are the only selfless actors.

  16. xtmar:

    I'm sure that's a lot of it, but then why don't they go after Elliott or the other large donors?

  17. roystgnr:

    IIRC the OpenSecrets data above isn't a list of "how much and to whom does the organizations' leadership donate", it's a list of "how much and to whom does the organizations' membership (including leadership) donate". The claim about the Koch brothers isn't that they hired a group of people who in aggregate spend exceptionally highly on political influence, it's that they personally spend exceptionally highly on political influence.

    (this claim may also be factually incorrect or connotationally misleading, but the table above won't prove it)

  18. Noumenon72:

    That would explain why none of the individuals on this megadonor list are on this list.

  19. mesocyclone:

    It's easier to support their narrative if they have one easy to remember name for their not too bright audience.

  20. jhertzli:

    A few years ago, the left-wing skew at Renaissance Technologies was the cause of self congratulation on parts of the left. It's nice to see that it's reversed.

  21. naturaljag0ff:

    Great post & comments here...

    ...but no worries, all of the anti-Koch propaganda backfires anyways.

  22. naturaljag0ff:

    Regarding the NAR, they have an interest in supporting the 'winners', regardless of ideology...

    Realtors are faux-professionals who skim 2-10% of most RE transaction. Zero training, zero credentials, zero value-add. They are sanctioned rent-seekers, and they will bribe everyone necessary to maintain their scam.

  23. xtmar:

    I agree mostly, but I think there is some value added in the selling of a property versus others. I think that people (in general) undervalue the value of sales. Buy side realtors are harder to justify, especially if you're buying in town versus relocating, where they can offer some guidance on schools, neighborhood perks, etc.

  24. MJ:

    Regarding #2, I think in some cases a large share of the donations go to candidates in local elections, which are sometimes non-partisan (at least nominally). In that case, it wouldn't be clear which side was the beneficiary so it probably wasn't reported.

  25. MJ:

    Not necessarily. It depends largely on what you're trying to "buy" with your donation. The realtors don't have a clear ideological interest in what they do. Their donations seem simply intended to curry favor with whomever is in office at a given time. Without knowing for certain I'd guess most of their donations go to local candidates, in which case they should roughly match the ideological distribution of the country as a whole. That's one hypothesis, and one which seems to fit the data pretty well.

    Contrast this with with the AFL-CIO or the IBEW or any of the other union groups on the list. They are expecting very specific types of favors from the elected officials they support, and those favors are unlikely to be conferred by Republican candidates. Their behavior is unseemly, but in some ways entirely rational.

  26. stevewfromford:

    One reason the Kochs are singled out is they have chosen to start and manage organizations that aggregate money from hundreds of wealthy donors and thus "control" much more than is shown.