Koch brothers in mid­dle of Iowans’ fight for Se­nate

Race to test in­ter­est groups’ might

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

IN­DI­ANOLA, IOWA | Per­haps nowhere in the coun­try is Democrats’ or­ches­trated at­tack on the Koch brothers more de­vel­oped than in Iowa, where Se­nate nom­i­nee Rep. Bruce L. Bra­ley and his al­lies have gone to tremen­dous lengths to make them an is­sue for his Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Joni Ernst.

The more Repub­li­cans try to tie Democrats to Pres­i­dent Obama, the more Democrats bring up the Koch brothers, Charles and David — billionaires who give heav­ily to con­ser­va­tive and lib­er­tar­ian causes and cam­paign-re­lated groups.

Less than two min­utes into his open­ing re­marks in their first de­bate show­down, Mr. Bra­ley said that send­ing Ms. Ernst to Wash­ing­ton will mean giv­ing the Koch brothers another sol­dier.

“On is­sue after is­sue [state] Sen. Ernst has stood with the Koch brothers and their ex­treme agenda that is wrong for Iowa — from re­peal­ing the fed­eral min­i­mum wage to pri­va­tiz­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity to op­pos­ing the farm bill and Re­new­able Fuel Stand,” Mr. Bra­ley said.

The two traded barbs over the charge to­ward the tail end of the de­bate, when Ms. Ernst told Mr. Bra­ley that he is run­ning against her and re­minded the Demo­crat that he is be­ing funded by Cal­i­for­nia bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer, whom she called an “ex­treme en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist.”

Mr. Bra­ley coun­tered that come Elec­tion Day, “you’re go­ing to owe the Koch brothers ev­ery­thing.”

St­ef­fen Sch­midt, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Iowa State Univer­sity, said Democrats are turn­ing to the Koch at­tacks in Iowa in hopes of rais­ing ques­tions about Ms. Ernst’s trust­wor­thi­ness.

“‘Oil and Wall Street billionaires’ are not very popular in Iowa,” Mr. Sch­midt said. “So if you can paint a can­di­date to those evil, mon­eyed in­ter­ests, it can raise ques­tions about where your loy­al­ties are.”

But the jury is out on whether the at­tacks will res­onate with un­de­cided vot­ers.

Dave Kochel, a strate­gist ad­vis­ing Ms. Ernst, said that if Iowa is a test case for the crit­i­cism, Democrats are “get­ting a fail­ing grade.”

“It’s a spe­cial ob­ses­sion with [Se­nate Majority Leader] Harry Reid and Wash­ing­ton Democrats, but vot­ers in Iowa are look­ing at the two can­di­dates on the bal­lot,” Mr. Kochel said. “The truth is, there are so many out­side groups ad­ver­tis­ing in Iowa, vot­ers tune those sorts of mes­sages out.

“The GOP failed in 2006 us­ing the sim­i­lar ap­proach against George Soros and his out­side in­flu­ence,” he said, al­lud­ing to the deep-pock­eted Demo­cratic donor. “They can con­tinue with their Koch ob­ses­sion, but as Will Rogers fa­mously said, ‘If you find your­self in a hole, stop dig­ging.’ They should put down the shov­els.”

But Jeff Link, a strate­gist for Mr. Bra­ley, said re­search shows that the Kochs could be­come a drag on Ms. Ernst.

“We have seen that their name ID has in­creased rapidly, and that is only sur­passed by the rate at which their nega­tives are in­creas­ing,” Mr. Link said. “They are viewed very neg­a­tively by most Iowans.”

Mr. Link added, in almost the same words his boss used in Sun­day’s de­bate, “The mo­tives of the Koch brothers on things like the Re­new­able Fuel Stan­dard, wind en­ergy tax cred­its and pri­va­tiz­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity are very dif­fer­ent than the in­ter­ests of Iowans.”

Ac­tivists said the at­tacks have en­er­gized them.

“I know that some in the Koch fam­ily have al­ready con­trib­uted all they can to her. So, yeah, that both­ers me be­cause they don’t care about us,” said Anita Martin, a re­tired teacher from Knoxville.

Mrs. Martin also said that “a lot of peo­ple don’t even know what we are talk­ing about when we men­tion it” and oth­ers “don’t ed­u­cate them­selves.”

The Bra­ley cam­paign launched its lat­est at­tack less than 24 hours after The Des Moines Reg­is­ter re­leased a poll that showed Ms. Ernst had opened up a 6 per­cent­age point lead in the race and 49 per­cent said it is a prob­lem if Ms. Ernst has been groomed by the Kochs.

The poll, mean­while, co­in­cided with vis­its from Rep. Paul Ryan of Wis­con­sin, who head­lined a fundraiser for Ms. Ernst, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal, who voiced their support for her at an event spon­sored by the Iowa Faith & Free­dom Coali­tion.

“Iowa is ground zero to re­take the Se­nate,” Mr. Cruz said. “We are go­ing to re­tire Harry Reid as majority leader, and Iowa is go­ing to be crit­i­cal to that.”

Mr. Jin­dal said the at­tacks against the Koch brothers smack of des­per­a­tion on the part of Democrats.

“It is in their self­ish po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est to dis­tract us and try to talk about any­thing but the is­sues,” Mr. Jin­dal said. “’So many things that this pres­i­dent promised us just did not come true. So I think they are go­ing to try to dis­tract us and di­vert our at­ten­tion. I don’t think it is go­ing to work. I think the Amer­i­can peo­ple are go­ing to see through it.”

Mr. Reid, the Ne­vada Demo­crat who will lose his lead­er­ship post if Repub­li­cans win the Se­nate, pop­u­lar­ized the at­tacks against the Koch brothers. From the floor of the Se­nate, he de­clared, “I’m not afraid of the Koch brothers” and linked their po­lit­i­cal in­volve­ment to that of a cult.


Demo­crat Bruce L. Bra­ley raised the specter of the Koch brothers in a de­bate with Repub­li­can Joni Ernst. The Iowa can­di­dates are seek­ing a U.S. Se­nate seat.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.