Charles Koch and Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, speak during an interview at the Freedom Partners Summit on Aug. 3, 2015 in Dana Point, CA. 
Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/The Washington Post/Getty

Charles Koch’s curious case for ‘less money in politics’

The Koch brothers’ campaign investments were back in the news yesterday, with the Huffington Post pointing to an annual tax filing posted Tuesday on the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce website, reporting that the “main arm of the political network operated by billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch raised $126 million in 2014 and distributed millions to more than 20 other groups active in last year’s midterm elections.”
By any fair metric, when one political network, operating outside the major parties, can put $126 million to use in a midterm election cycle, the impact is bound to be significant. At the same time, of course, this raises legitimate concerns about a small number of powerful, wealthy donors having far too much influence over who wins elections – and who doesn’t.
Yahoo News sat down with Charles Koch this week and asked him a good question. Pay particular attention to the billionaire’s answer.
Q: Campaigns have become so expensive now, Charles. Is there too much money in politics and is it because rich people are putting too much money into politics?
KOCH: No, it’s because of corporate welfare. It’s – why are 6 out of the 10 most prosperous counties around Washington, DC? The estimates are there over $5 trillion out of a $15 trillion economy that goes to corporate welfare including a trillion and a half in the tax code. So that’s the problem with the money. And so, the more money, the better to change that and get the politics out of people’s lives. That’s what we’re trying to do: put some money in so there’s less money in politics.
I listened to this a few times, trying to fully appreciate Koch’s argument. Asked about the outsized influence of mega-donors, one of the Koch brothers argued that when he and his network “put some money” into campaign politics, the end result should be “less money in politics.”
It seems as if Koch agrees that less money in politics is a worthwhile goal, except when he’s the one influencing American elections with his checkbook.
If this dynamic seems familiar, it’s probably because it’s popped up before. Charles Koch did an interview with CBS last month in which he insisted that he and his brother are trying to “fight against special interests.”
When the interviewer noted that many might consider Koch and his business enterprise to be a classic example of a special interest, the billionaire added, “Yeah, but my interest is, just as it’s been in business, is what will help people improve their lives, and to get rid of these special interests.”
Not to put too fine a point on this, but no one ever sees their own priorities as “special.”
Charles Koch simply doesn’t recognize any contradiction between wanting less money in politics, even while pumping millions into campaigns, just as he wants to do battle against special interests, willfully unaware of how that same label might apply to him.
It’s not a perspective we see often.