Koch Brothers Not As Big A Deal As Democrats Would Hope

Koch Brothers

If the opening months of the 2014 campaign are any indication, Democrats intend to make the Koch Brothers a central focus of their campaign against the GOP this year. Indeed, the libertarian-oriented politically active brothers have been something of a bugaboo on the left since the 2010 midterms and have garnered more attention on MSNBC than one might expect for the relatively private owners of a multinational company. For all of the vitriol directed at them from the left, though, it doesn’t seem like most Americans neither know who Charles and David Koch are nor care to the time to learn about them:

WASHINGTON — More than half of Americans have no idea who the Koch Brothers are, according to a new poll released Tuesday morning.

Democrats have spent a large amount of time in the last few weeks posturing Charles and David Koch, the billionaire oil tycoons who donate significant amounts of money to conservative causes and candidates, as the sort of bogeyman of the Republican Party. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even blamed them in part for Russia annexing Crimea.

But according to a new bipartisan George Washington University Battleground Poll, that strategy may be less than fruitful. The poll shows 52% of Americans still don’t even know who the Kochs are and another 11% have no opinion on them.

“Trying to make the Koch brothers into that red meat is going to be about as effective as what we tried to do for several cycles with George Soros,” Republican pollster Ed Goeas told reporters during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

As far as Reid’s numbers go, the poll shows 25% of Americans don’t know who he is and another 16% have no opinion on him.

That suggests Reid, someone many Americans don’t care much about, going on the Senate floor multiple times a week to decry the actions of the Kochs, who a majority of Americans have never even heard of, may not be the most effective strategy for protecting a Democratic majority in the Senate come November.

This isn’t entirely surprising. It’s quite often the case that partisans on both sides of the political aisle manage to convince themselves that one issue or another is so manifestly important that it is guaranteed to lead to success if made the focus of the next election campaign. For Republicans, it’s issues like the Benghazi attack, Fast & Furious, and the IRS targeting, all of which have seemingly ground to a halt with little proof of any White House involvement. Democrats, meanwhile, seem to be haning their hats on the Koch Brothers. If this poll is any indication, they’re likely to have as much success with that as Republicans did with their issues in 2012.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tillman says:

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even blamed them in part for Russia annexing Crimea.

    That’s just hilarious. The “Mitt Romney doesn’t pay any taxes” schtick was at least intriguing, but this one is flat-out hilarious.

    Reid’s trying to get the media to do a job for him without being overt about it, and is failing miserably. Feinstein “exposed” CIA wrongdoing on the Senate floor, and next to no one talked about that. People care about the Koch brothers as much as they care about George Soros.

  2. Gustopher says:

    I don’t think people need to understand who exactly the Koch brothers are.

    Something along the lines of “So-and-so has received $2M of ads from these shifty billionaires. What does so-and-so owe them?” has a decent potential.

  3. Neil Hudelson says:

    Well, to be fair, there are very few pressing issues out there. Outside of immigration reform, campaign finance reform, energy, the environment, labor issues, and increasing access to healthcare, I can barely think of any issues that a Democrat can run on.

    Or, succinctly, “Aww, the Democrats have found their George Soros.”**

    Post edit: Saw that Tillman beat me to the punch.

  4. ernieyeball says:

    From GreenPeace:

    Koch Industries Background
    Koch Industries is owned and controlled by brothers Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch. According to 2010 Forbes rankings, the Koch brothers are tied for fourth richest American at about $25 billion each–more than Michael Bloomberg, George Soros and Jim and Alice Walton of Wal-Mart fortune.

    I know that if my brother and I had that much money all our charitable donations would go the Hare Krishna’s Legal Defense Fund and Girl Scout Cookies.

  5. Pinky says:

    I hate the Koch brothers and George Soros and Emmanuel Goldstein so much!

  6. Andre Kenji says:

    But Democrats don´t use the Koch Brothers as a campaign issue. They use them to raise money!

  7. JWH says:

    Are Democrats saying that Republicans are just Koch-er Spaniels?

    If one of the brothers donates to a candidate, but not the other, does that candidate go off half-Koched?

    In the recent debate over drug legalization in Colorado, was there a Koch-roach?

  8. JWH says:

    Are you saying Democrats’ allegations are just a Koch-amamie story?

    Will we hear about this on the Six-O’Koch News?

    And … I’m out.

  9. @Pinky:

    But Emmanuel Goldstein was originally pro-IngSoc and only got the hate after he stopped being sufficiently loyal. Better analogy for that is the “EVERYONE SWITCH PLACES!” situation going on with Nate Silver now that he predicted Republicans might take the Senate.

    Suddenly all the Republicans think he’s god and the Democrats are all whining about skewed polling.

  10. C. Clavin says:

    I imagine this is the logical extension of your comments on the Occupy crowd.
    Remember…your endless posts on drum circles.
    Yet here we are and Inequality has become a major discussion.
    Again today you are missing the big picture…the issue isn’t the Koch Brothers but Inequality and the outsized political influence that the rich purchase…and if you are going to put a face on Inequality who better than these clowns? Whether the typical citizen knows them or not, the Koch Bros are the poster children of Inequality…born rounding third and headed for home. (I imagine the typical citizen doesn’t know who Harry Reid is either.)
    Maybe America doesn’t know who they are…but they should.
    These Libertarians…in typical right-wing hypocrisy…take millions in Corporate Welfare.
    They are the Tea Party…they founded, funded, and organized it.
    Between a complex array of fronts they spend millions to influence elections across the country…including the recent one in FL which Jolly won….all told they spent almost triple what the major Unions combined spent on elections in 2012.
    They are among the biggest polluters of our air and water.
    And they flout the law with impertinence…we need to hope they don’t win their crusade to de-regulate everything because who knows what the f’ they would do then.
    The Koch Bros are a symbol of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party…a couple of guys who were lucky enough to be born to the right parents…who are seemingly incapable of understanding that…and intent on pulling the ladder up behind them. I’ll credit them with their philanthropy…but it doesn’t do enough to wash off the stench.

  11. wr says:

    Doug’s doing nothing but acting like a Democratic consultant from the pre-Clinton era — “Hey, we’ll throw some ideas out there, but if it doesn’t take off immediately we’ll abandon it and try something else!”

    Because that’s how you win elections!

  12. al-Ameda says:

    But according to a new bipartisan George Washington University Battleground Poll, that strategy may be less than fruitful. The poll shows 52% of Americans still don’t even know who the Kochs are and another 11% have no opinion on them.

    Yes but we know that 27% (or over half of Republicans) know exactly who the Kochs are.

  13. KansasMom says:

    We have a real chance, maybe not a great chance yet, but a real one, of knocking off Gov Sam Brownback and the Koch brothers are a big reason why. We know who they are out here. They’ve seen their corporate taxes slashed to 0% while the state Supreme Court has told the legislature to increase funding to our schools by a couple hundred million $. Moderates and Democrats are a majority in Kansas and we are finally coming back together. This will be a fun midterm in the Sunflower State.

  14. jd says:

    Just because folks can’t identify them in a lineup doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. People don’t know a lot of things that are important to them. Take Miranda Rights. There’s a lot of sad sacks in jail that wouldn’t be there if they’d known their rights. Of course, if crime shows were played by actors pretending to be people who knew their rights, it would be incredibly boring TV: prosecutors having to do actual drudge work.

  15. Neo says:

    @Tillman: They don’t call them “low information voters” for nothing

  16. Rob in CT says:

    The Koch brothers are excellent examples of what’s wrong with the Right, actually, and the more the Dems can hammer the point, the better.

    These are people who (pay others to) extol the virtue of the free market and meritorcracy and such, while promising that a Right-wing libertarian setup would be better for us all (hah!). They inherited massive amounts of money/assets from daddy (not meritocratic at all, that) and they run a huge fossil-fuel based business empire and fund lots of opposition to doing anything about our impact on our environment. Their ideology is all about protecting their own wealth and power. Which is really all “Conservatism” is about. Protecting the wealth & power of the wealthy and powerful. It’s a simple point, really, but it has to be made, because there’s lots of propoganda out there that tries to convince people that water ain’t wet.

    And yeah, sure “the Left’s Soros” works if you want. The Right seems to get some mileage out of it (fundraising, anyway, not sure if it directly moves votes. But the money indirectly helps move votes, so there’s that).