February 17, 2014

OpenSecrets,org Shows Koch Campaign Money Dwarfed by Dozens of Other Groups, Misclassifies Many As ‘On the Fence’

The web site OpenSecrets.org has done a great deal of useful work. Especially helpful are its lists of high-dollar political campaign donor organizations.

The web site’s 1989-2014 and 2012-specific lists, to name just two, demonstrate that the hyperventilating on the left and in the establishment press about the eeeevil Koch Brothers is completely out of line:


Imagine that. Koch Industries is way down in 59th place in the past 25 years and 77th place in 2012.

This makes at least the following people look really dumb:

  • The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson, who claimed earlier this month that Democrats “Have No Real Equivalent” of the Koch Brothers.
  • Evan Halper at the Los Angeles Times, in late December celebrated the idea that liberals might finally have an “answer to the Koch brothers” in billionaire envirozealot Tom Steyer.
  • Bloomberg Businesweek reporter Joshua Green, who had the same idea about the left needing Steyer to neutralize the Koch brothers in April of last year.

To those who suggest that the Koch figures don’t capture all of their involvements, I have two comments. First, prove it. Second, show a grand total which comes even close to ActBlue during the past quarter-century (also note that ActBlue has only been around since 2004) or the National Education Association last year (over five times as much spending listed as the Koch Industries amount).

Astute readers will note a big problem with the 2012 list, namely that the NEA is listed as “on the fence” politically, when it is just about as far left in supporting “progressive” candidates and causes as a group can get. That problem continues down the list with other unions on that 2012 list. One can also make the case that some of the companies listed tilt right.

Since many reporters, including the relatively inexperienced, rely on it for guidance on organizations’ political postures, I would suggest that OpenSecrets.org fix this obvious problem right away. Reporting on campaign contributions is bad enough without giving journalists a ready-made “But I got it at OpenSecrets.org” excuse.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


UPDATE: NB received an email from OpenSecrets.org in response to this post —

… We definitely appreciate Tom’s use of our data, but would like to point out that we prefer to be cited as “OpenSecrets.org” or the Center for Responsive Politics, in order to avoid confusion with a South African group that actually goes by “Open Secrets.”

Additionally, in response to Tom’s claims that we miscategorized the NEA as “on the fence”: the party split percentages in political donations (and therefore the tilt) only take into account the money that is categorizable by party. All of the money going to liberal outside groups and 527s is excluded from the percentage of money leaning “Democratic”, and vice versa for the “Republican”-leaning funds. Unfortunately, this gives the appearance that the NEA is on the fence. We will be revising this display to clarify their leanings soon.

I have honored the organization’s request, and have changed the post’s title and its name within the post to conform to it. I welcome the group’s review of its partisan categorizing process.


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