Koch Industries has given $93,800 to Mitch McConnell (that we know of)

“I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you” 
–Mitch McConnell, in secretly recorded remarks at the Koch Brother’s  summer seminar.


In a report published just days after the release of a secret recording of Mitch McConnell at the Koch Brothers retreat where the Koch’s planned a , the Courier Journal’s Tom Loftus looked at how much money the Koch’s had given Mitch McConnell. The figure Loftus came up with was $65,800:

My research finds $40,800 in contributions from the Koch family and PAC to McConnell’s re-election campaign. But the PAC of Koch Industries has also given $25,000 this election cycle to McConnell’s own PAC, Bluegrass Committee.

That total may be a bit low. The total appears to be closer to $100,000 — or $93,800, to be exact. Loftus reports finding 10 contributions from Koch Industries to McConnell’s leadership PAC, the Bluegrass Committee, between 2009 and the present but unless I’m missing something, the number is actually twice that: Four checks in 2013, four checks in 2012, four checks in 2011, four checks in 2010 and four checks in 2009.

Quantifying how much money the Koch Brothers funnel to any candidate is difficult because they have set up their business and their political activities in an intentionally labyrinthine fashion, a set of interlocking 501c3, 501c4 and 527 organizations which sit alongside a group of LLCs and investment trusts. So, for example, James Martin — chairman of the heavily Koch funded “60 Plus Association” — wrote McConnell a check for $1,000 in May of 2012. Almost exactly one year later, the heavily Koch-funded American Future Fund wrote Mitch McConnell another check for $1,000.

W-kochnetwork A_Maze_of_Money


Tracing all their elaborate funding strategies and interrelated organizations is difficult by design; it is one way the Koch Brothers are able to cloak so much of their political activities. In addition, of course, there are untold amounts of money flowing from the Kochs to the McConnell aligned dark money group, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which does not disclose its donors, has spent at least $5.5 million on TV advertisements since June and is in a good position to spend $1 million more each week through election day — which is what they have spent to blanket the Bluegrass with anti-Grimes propaganda next week (see Sonka for more no that).

Leaving their dark money blackbag contributions aside, the Koch Brothers and Koch Industries appear to have given Mitch McConnell at least $93,800 in this election cycle alone. This includes the $2,000 mentioned above from allied organizations, and another $1,000 from a lobbyist in their Virginia-based “Koch Companies Public Sector” outfit. But still… that’s just $3,000 extra dollars and is likely only scraping the surface of what other money may be flowing from the many other tentacles of the Koch machine. The rest of that hundred grand is straight from the Koch spigot.

Here’s $83,400 from the Koch Brothers and their partners, given to Mitch McConnell and McConnell’s “leadership PAC” between 2009 and 2013:


And here’s the $10,400 the Koch family has given Mitch McConnell directly just this year:


And here, for fun, are the maxed-out receipts for Charles Koch’s contributions for Mitch’s Primary and General.

koch42314primary Koch42314general

Charles Koch can’t officially give Mitch any more money… but where there’s a billionaire, there’s a way! And this ideologically deranged billionaire is welcome to funnel as much money as he wants to the dark money groups that are currently bombarding Kentucky voters… like, say, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition.

At the secret Koch Industries retreat in June where Mitch McConnell was recorded, a small group of super rich men with combined wealth of about $100 Billion got together to discuss how to raise and spend half a billion to win the 2014 Midterm elections and another half a billion for the 2016 elections. At that retreat, Mitch McConnell pledged to shut down the government if re-elected, to block the raising of the minimum wage and declared the passage of a law that required a minimum of disclosure for campaign contributions as the “worst day of my life,” an admission that’s earned Mitch some well-deserved scorn.

Barr v. Jensen: Competing Internal Polls in Kentucky’s 6th District

That didn’t take long.

The Jensen campaign released an internal poll from Lake Research Partners this morning. That poll found Andy Barr ahead by 9%, a significant drop since March when they’d found Barr up 16%.

In response, the Barr campaign has released an internal poll of its own, conducted by the Republican pollster Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies. According to the Barr poll, Andy holds a 19% lead.

Barr’s internal poll claims he has a 53% favorable to 32% unfavorable rating. Jensen’s internal poll had a not dissimilar finding (50% to 34%) but what Jensen’s poll includes and Barr’s does not is that Barr’s job approval rating is inverted: 48% just fair/poor, 41% excellent/good.

The Barr poll also does not present findings on undecided voters. The Jensen poll has them at 18% of the respondents, with just 6% of those voters saying they would vote for Andy Barr today.

As discussed earlier, while Barr certainly holds the advantage in name recognition and out-of-state fundraising, and while he has a vested interest in declaring the whole thing over six weeks before election day, the race will come down to how the undecided voters break and how the U.S. Senate race breaks down. Ultimately, Barr is tied to McConnell and Jensen to Grimes… and in the 6th District, McConnell and Grimes are tied to the fates of Barr and Jensen. McConnell must tamp down Democratic turnout in the 6th to win, and Grimes must maximize her advantage in the 6th if she hopes to defeat Mitch.

These two competing internal polls present predictably competing visions of what is actually happening. The Barr poll paints a picture of inevitability and invincibility; the Jensen poll makes clear that against an opponent who’s got millions in contributions from Wall Street donors and special interests aligned with far right Tea Party groups, and despite little existing name recognition just six months ago, the Jensen campaign is beating the odds so far.

It’s also worth noting at this point that while Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies are both partisan pollsters, and that as such their results are likely skewed toward the candidate conducting the poll, one of these groups is rated “Accurate” and one is not.

That group is Lake Research Partners. In the 2012 elections, Lake was the third most accurate pollster, while Public Opinion Strategies was the third least accurate.


Here are the two competing polling reports:

Jensen Poll Barr Poll

And if you want to see the difference in messaging between these two campaigns, or just get to know your choices, here ya go:


EARLIER: Jensen poll shows Barr with single digit lead in #KY6 with 18% undecided 

Jensen poll shows Barr with single digit lead in #KY6 with 18% undecided [UPDATED]

A new internal poll from the Elisabeth Jensen campaign is out this morning and it shows the race tightening. The survey of 400 Kentucky voters in the 6th District from Lake Research Partners shows Republican Andy Barr receiving 45% to Jensen’s 36%. The same firm conducted a similar survey in March and this new poll indicates Jensen has cut Barr’s lead nearly in half. Barr was up 16% just six months ago but now is up only nine.

“Voters are tired of this do-nothing Congress,” Elisabeth Jensen said in a written statement, “and Andy Barr has no solutions other than to point fingers of blame.  I will fight against cuts in needed programs for seniors and children and make it my job to improve wages and bring more good jobs to Kentucky.”

The most interesting numbers came in the form of Barr’s job approval — and the large number of remaining undecided voters, 18%.

In the survey that was conducted over three nights September 15 to 17, just 41 percent rate Representative Barr’s job performance as good or excellent, and just 40 percent say Barr deserves re-election.   As many as 18 percent of voters are undecided in a race that has over six weeks to go.

Barr’s single digit lead is noteworthy, but not as noteworthy as the fact that he not only remains below 50%, he’s actually fallen three points since March while Jensen has closed the gap. Among the undecided voters, the poll results show, just 15% believe Andy Barr is doing a “good” job while 51% of these undecided voters believe Andy Barr is doing a “just fair/poor” job. Only 6% of these undecided voters — who, again, make up 18% of the respondents — would vote today to re-elect Garland H. Barr IV. 

There’s never been any doubt that this would be a difficult race but these numbers hold strong promise — if Jensen can keep up her pace and if establishment Dems continue to get on board, there’s a good chance for an upset in this race which many national Democratic groups wrote-off a year ago… before, more recently, realizing their mistake.

The 6th District has a large number of Democratic voters but turnout in midterm elections is generally well below that of general ones, and Jensen is a newcomer. Barr won by a narrow margin against an incumbent Democrat with a well-known name on his second attempt. The other factor here is that in midterms, voters at large don’t generally clue in to the races and the candidates until much later as the two campaigns sprint toward the finish through October. Jensen and Barr will have two debates, and presumably each will be raising their profile. Here again there are promising findings in the poll results — while only 17% of voters were familiar with her back in March, today 49% of voters are familiar with Elisabeth Jensen.

Andy Barr, who is deeply underwritten by Wall Street banks and mortgage and debt related investment firms, is in the stronger position for this last push as he has over a million dollars to spend on attack ads. But with large swaths of voters yet to make up their mind — or really get to know their choices — the 6th District remains an enticing pick-up chance for the Dems. If there are still some establishment Democrats who are choosing to overlook Kentucky’s 6th District, then they may be overlooking one of the few opportunities nationwide to score an upset victory.

That’s in part because of this: One of the biggest unknowns in the Barr vs. Jensen campaign is the U.S. Senate race.

How well McConnell and Grimes do in Lexington, especially, and throughout the 6th will likely determine how this race turns out. If Grimes can motivate large numbers of Dems and Independents to hit the polls that make pull Jensen up; at the same time, as we’ve argued for some time, with the right infrastructure and attention, Jensen could do a large service to Grimes by driving 6th District voters to the poll while Grimes tries to build her own support in Northern and Eastern Kentucky. If Grimes is to win her race, she’ll have to trounce McConnell in the 6th District — and Barr will likely use his Wall Street millions in a coordinated effort to stop that from happening.

We’ll see how it plays out.

From the release:

“Elisabeth is connecting with voters, and Barr just isn’t,” said Allan Rivlin, Jensen’s Campaign Manager.  “With all the money he gets from banking and finance industry lobbyists, Barr has been out-spending us, but his support is going down and Elisabeth’s is going up.  The poll tells us Kentucky voters are not impressed with Andy Barr’s efforts to protect the rich and put the needs of Wall Street bankers ahead of the needs of Kentucky families.   Elisabeth will stand up for women and families in Kentucky who want more jobs and better wages.”

Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by telephone using professional interviewers. The survey reached 400 adults in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, 18 years or older, who are likely to vote in the 2014 general election. The survey was conducted September 15th – 17th, 2014. The margin of error for this poll is +/-4.9%

***UPDATE: Barr v. Jensen: Competing Internal Polls in Kentucky’s 6th District

Alison’s Grandmother Returns (and this time she means business)

Alison Lundergan Grimes has one of the greatest strengths of any candidate in the country — a kickass grandma. While Elsie was a fixture earlier in the campaign in funny, highly effective ads, of late she’s been put in the background. But that ends today as Elsie comes out of retirement to explain that sometimes there is no retirement.

The ad is about 52 seconds of personal ‘get-to-know-you’ bio on Alison’s family in a moving build to a direct argument from Alison against Mitch McConnell’s record on Medicare. It is a welcome change in approach.

And it’s pissed Mitch McConnell off something fierce.

Elsie remains possibly Alison’s greatest communicator. One wonders if Alison were allowed to run a bit more free, a little bit of that Elsie fire might shine through — hopefully we’ll see that soon, but in the meantime, if Elsie wants to be the one throwing the punches at Mitch McConnell, that seems like a fight Mitch isn’t going to win.

And while serious Elsie was effective in the ad above, playful and funny Grandma Elsie should not be forgotten… the way to the heart and the mind is often best found through humor. After all, Mitch McConnell’s been looking for ways to empower grandma. He’s basically begging for it.

An earlier Elsie ad:

Voice of the Voiceless: In new campaign ad, Andy Barr stands up for oppressed bankers

This new Andy Barr ad is amazing — a put-upon twentysomething banker rides to Andy Barr’s defense. Andy Barr is the voice of the voiceless!

It effectively communicates several important messages:

  • This is Garland H. Barr IV’s core constituency.
  • If you are concerned about the widespread oppression of wealthy white male bankers, Andy Barr is your man!
  • If you or your family own a bank, Andy Barr will fight for you!

Now… you might be saying to yourself at this point, What’s the deal with the widespread oppression of bankers? 

That’s a really excellent question, and Andy Barr can answer it for you. You see, ever since the banking and finance industry collapsed the American economy in 2008 through predatory lending and the complex bundling of a debt-driven private sector economy thanks to the complete deregulation of the banking and investment markets around the turn of the century, bankers have really gotten a bad wrap. Because of the financial crisis they caused, people don’t trust them. And as Andy Barr makes clear, that’s all wrong! The financial crisis was actually a result of too much regulation, not the lack of it, and thus the oppression of America’s banking elite is wrong, too. We should actually blame poor people who were told by bankers that they could buy houses they couldn’t afford.

And if you think that Andy Barr’s new campaign ad above presents a possibly tone deaf vision of what is really happening in America today, that it treats Kentucky’s 6th District voters as if the most important single issue to them is that we must stop the violent Obamma oppression of young white male bankers, well then you haven’t heard Andy Barr discuss the topic of income inequality.

Income inequality, Garland H. Barr IV explains, is caused by government snooping on people and because rich people (like bankers?) can afford CPAs and lawyers.

Yes, that’s right! Because the government is spying on everyone, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Those damn lawyers and accountants ruin everything.

Oh… wait… something doesn’t add up here.

Andy Barr's top campaign contributors by industry.

Andy Barr’s top campaign contributors by industry.

These Dogs Don’t Hunt

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is by Rose Royce on Grooveshark

There’s an old saying pretty much everybody knows and it goes, “Put your money where you mouth is.”

It’s the same as ‘put up or shut up’ though in the Kentucky Senate race, the two sides have perhaps taken it too literally. Between McConnell and Grimes, experts predict as much as $100 Million will be spent trying to bludgeon voters on the path to victory. That would make the race the most expensive Senate campaign in U.S. history — and it takes place in one of the poorest states in the country.

For all the money being spent, the campaign has become largely devoid of specifics. The McConnell side, which has vastly outspent the other side and still has vastly more money to spend, has no particular record to run on or vision to offer. Mitch McConnell has been in Washington DC for thirty years, even Republicans in his home state hate him, and if you boil down the why of why he thinks he should be re-elected, it’s because he wants to be the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. The overriding message of the McConnell campaign is that his opponent, a thirtysomething woman, is actually Barack Hussein Obama in disguise. McConnell has little else to offer and his campaign materials don’t even try — they just repeat “Coal, Guns, Obama, Coal, Guns, Obama, Coal, Guns, Obama” as if that’s the platform of a statesman. The truth is, Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to talk about specifics because on the specifics he has been all over the place — McConnell’s been pro-amnesty, he’s been pro-troop withdrawal in Iraq, he’s been pro-free trade with China leading to a loss of 35,700 Kentucky jobs, and in his 30 years in the U.S. Senate 22,000 coal jobs have disappeared on his watch. The list goes on and it’s no wonder then that Mitch McConnell and his surrogates seem incapable of laying out their vision for the country or for Kentucky and instead simply attack, attack, attack. And it’s why time and again, Mitch McConnell has dodged reporters, refusing to answer questions about the specifics of his campaign and instead resorting each time to simple, dumb attacks. If you asked Mitch McConnell what time it was, he’d tell you that Alison Lundergan Grimes is actually Barack Obama in white face and in drag.

On the other side, Ms. Grimes has largely played along. While a series of ads over the summer playfully hit McConnell on a series of issues, of late that approach has begun to fade. While those ads utilized some welcome — and thus attention grabbing — silence in political advertising, the newer ones have swung toward the conventional with disembodied overly-distressed voices expressing troll-like concern for a series of issues which, at the end of the day, don’t actually matter that much and are, on balance, being defined by her opponent. Rather than putting forward her personality or making her own case to the voters of Kentucky who, again, predominately despise Mitch McConnell, the Grimes campaign is holding the debate on McConnell’s terms and on the issues of McConnell’s choosing.

A friend in the lamestream media asked me recently if people were starting to write the obits on this race and I told her if they were that would be a mistake. There is certainly still time. In any race, you’ve gotta pace yourself and you’ve gotta know when to make your move. In this race, the McConnell campaign has dropped something like $30 million already and all that appears to have bought them is a point or two lead in the polls. While it appears to this point that the Grimes campaign has been disciplined in keeping to a vanilla script devoid of much content or grander vision, it is likely that they have some plan for the next six weeks leading up to Election Day. If there was a time to sprint, that time is now at hand. But while they may have that sprint planned out, the McConnell campaign still has a bottomless pit of dark money to blow through over the same period.

It’s in McConnell’s interest to keep this race as stupid and issue-less as possible. So long as the two sides are debating the merits of issues they already agree on, McConnell keeps winning. For the past six weeks, the campaign has mostly been about who loves coal more, who has a more profound disrespect for the President of the United States and who between the two of them is more pro-gun (spoiler alert: they’re both unwaveringly in favor of letting mentally deranged people carry military-grade semi-automatic weapons into large crowded public places).

In the Kentucky Senate race, these two campaigns have taken that old saying to heart, Put you money where your mouth is, and as of this writing they seem to be spending that money on a back-and-forth series of ads that say very little and they seem to think that replaces actually talking about whatever it is they stand for. In their latest round of ads, the two sides seem to have replaced the ‘money’ in that old saying with ‘guns’ — and the only thing voters will learn from these two competing ads is that while Alison Lundergan Grimes and Barack Obama have both actually fired a gun, there’s no evident proof Mitch McConnell ever has.

This sort of tit-for-tat ad bickering is where this Senate race currently rests. The conversation exists on a plane of McConnell’s strength and McConnell’s response is predictably brutal. While the Grimes campaign has so far run a relatively error-free race, they also haven’t done much to chip McConnell’s armor. So long as the conversation remains on McConnell’s terms, it’s unclear whether they can. And so long as the ad campaigns exist on that level, it’s absolutely clear that Mitch McConnell has the resources to bash Grimes back down.

The calls for Alison to emerge and start throwing punches have grown stronger in the past few days, but those calls are nothing new. Voters vote for believability — even if they hate the person. If they believe that candidate at least means what he says, no matter how stupid it is, they’re more likely to trust trust that candidate. That means setting forth a vision, and telling a story. At the same time the gun ads above were being released, a video of Bill Clinton in Iowa demonstrated exactly what Grimes needs to do.

In that Iowa speech, which clearly overshadows the competing gun ads in both content and impact, Bill Clinton demonstrates how to effectively frame an issue, tell a story, hit an opponent powerfully in their weak spot — and he even makes clear the point above: Voters vote for believability, even if they hate what you stand for so long as they know where you stand.

They’ll be in this for you when you need them. They may make mistakes. They may do things you don’t agree with. But you will not have to worry that if you elect them, 30 years from now they will actually stand up with a straight face before a bunch of rich out of state donors and say the saddest day of my life was when I couldn’t take it all from you and keep it a secret.

That ability to tell a good story and effectively deliver a broader vision is a skill not everyone has. Bill Clinton, obviously, is a great communicator. But Mitch McConnell is a product of such story telling as well — even if he didn’t do the telling. His 1984 hound dog ad is renowned. Directed and conceived by Roger Ailes, now the man behind FOX News, the ad effectively delivered a blow to McConnell’s opponent in a race in which McConnell, despite a series of positive ads, remained behind {see the New Yorker for that story}.

Another revolutionary ad campaign that told a good story and launched its candidate toward victory was Paul Wellstone’s Green Bus ads in his 1990 election and his epic 2-minute documentary ad:

Currently, the two campaigns are engaged in a war of attrition. There’s no narrative structure, the two candidates simply define each other in the negative and disagree about topics on which they agree, while continuously refusing chances to actually debate each other on the issues.

That refusal to debate, which McConnell is most guilty of, like the warring attack ads all serves to help McConnell. The less voters know about Grimes the better for McConnell. The less voters have to listen to McConnell’s twisted, self-infatuated worldview, the better it is for Mitch McConnell. And the more brain damage the ad makers can afflict upon the electorate, the more voters will be turned off of the whole process, the fewer voters will show up and, again, the better it is for McConnell. With unlimited amounts of money to spend, Mitch McConnell could put out three idiotic ads every single day from now until election day and still have money left over.

Times a-wasting to flip that script — and while it’s safe to assume that flip is coming, it’d better if it flipped sooner rather than later. The Grimes campaign has lately moved away from its more interesting messaging from earlier in the campaign and this last attack leaves a head scratching impression that it was a bit muffled and unnecessarily rushed (“…thought Duke basketball players were UK.”?) and most importantly, not advancing a message but simply meeting Mitch on Mitch’s ground.

True leadership leans into the wind.

It’s pretty clear at this point that ads like that are unlikely to do the trick — them dogs don’t hunt — and if the race continues as it is, with the two campaigns insulting voters’ intelligence at every commercial break, it may be safer to turn off your teevees, avoid the whole mess, and just watch a good movie instead.