Political Boogeymen: Have Mega-Donors Become Scapegoats For Systemic Corruption?

Adam Coleman

There are boogeymen in politics that bring fear and animosity to those that oppose their activities.

If you’re a Democrat, you likely despise someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene. If you’re a Republican, you take pride in your animosity for the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; you need someone to rally against, right?

However, other boogeymen have grown in infamy due to their detractors. These people have no governmental authority and aren’t elected officials: they are mega-donors.

When I was a Democrat, left-wing media outlets would talk about the notorious Koch Brothers. These multi-billionaires were supposedly the main financiers of a greater right-wing agenda to bend the political world to their will.

Left-wing propagandists in the media and politicians alike would repeatedly malign Republican proponents with the dastardly title of “Koch Brothers Funded” to give their audience an association with a barely seen, yet economically powerful boogeymen.

But are these attacks always accurate in their portrayal? Or, were they meant to give a false perception to a more ignorant audience?

Since the Supreme Court passed Citizens United, the rhetoric surrounding donors has become even more prevalent. But, it’s also a method to attack not only the donors themselves, but the politicians they often fund.

Today, the policies for which politicians advocate are nearly as important as the individuals who financially support them behind the scenes.

In an article published by “Nation of Change” titled “How Koch cash is bankrolling the effort to kill Big Tech reform”, they asserted Jim Jordan’s advocacy for Big Tech reform is partly due to his funding from Koch Industries:

“Jim Jordan’s ties to the Koch brothers date back to at least 2008, when he became the first member of Congress to sign onto the No Climate Tax pledge, an initiative of the Koch advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. Koch Industries PAC has donated $60k to Jordan since 2011—the maximum allowed for each of the last six elections—and he has been a featured speaker for at least one of the secretive Koch donor retreats.”

60k in 12 years seems like a lot of money, but is that money nearly as influential as this article makes it seem?

In 2020, Jim Jordan received $18,384,655 in total contributions and $21,167 of that money came from Koch Industries. This means that Koch Industries’ contributions for that election cycle counted for 0.11% of Jim Jordan’s campaign contributions.

Koch Industries is a major part of the political donor pool. But, even their activities are diluted by giving money to outside groups, rather than always making direct contributions to specific candidates.

Koch Industries ranked number 16 among the top contributions from organizations for all federal contributions. And yet, it is the most stigmatized donor from the political right.

The mistake people make about these major donors is they believe their aspiration is to play kingmaker, rather than simply wanting to play the game.

Many major donors such as Koch Industries and even Soros Fund Management are not supporting an individual – they’re supporting a system.

If they are Republican or Democrat, they are about throwing money into the donor ecosystem via PACs and Super PACs and seldom throw money directly behind a candidate.

I believe the influence of their money on an individual candidate is overstated compared to its impact on the overall system. Instead of highlighting the system of corruption that exists in D.C., the money a candidate receives from these economic boogeymen inevitably becomes a tactic to focus on a single bad actor and create guilt-by-association rhetoric.

Labeling political figures as “Koch-Funded” or “Soros-Funded” is merely a manipulation tool. The result is that people never question the status-quo financial behavior of the wealthiest industries and people in America.

It also provides a convenient cover for the multitude of low-profile donors who have just as much influence on elections throughout the country.

Politicians, even if well-intentioned, are still cogs in a system of financial dependency primarily funded by the elite.

It’s not about one rich man or corporation, but the 1%.

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