Did Billionaires Buy the 2014 Senate Elections?

by Reihan Salam

One of the more amusing subplots of the 2014 election cycle was Harry Reid’s fixation on the Koch brothers, the billionaire philanthropists and libertarian political activists who own one of the world’s largest privately-held companies. In recent years, the Kochs have broadened their portfolio from funding various libertarian causes to spending heavily on behalf of GOP candidates, and to rallying other right-leaning donors into coordinating their political efforts. They stepped up their efforts in 2014, and you can see why Reid was so exercised. Judging by his over-the-top rhetoric, you’d almost think he believed that if weren’t for the Kochs, he’d still be Senate majority leader. But was Reid right to suggest that the Kochs bought the 2014 the election for the GOP? Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University, carefully analyzes the claim that outside spending by wealthy conservative donors like the Kochs made a difference in the 2014 Senate elections, and he finds that it almost certainly did not. But I can’t imagine Reid has any regrets about making such a stink about the Kochs — I imagine it was a very effective way to get left-leaning billionaires and millionaires to open their wallets. 

 

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