Markos Moulitsas: Bad math for the Kochs

Markos Moulitsas: Bad math for the Kochs
© Getty Images

As of a few weeks ago, groups affiliated with the Koch brothers had already aired 44,000 ads attacking Democrats, most on the subject of the Affordable Care Act. You’d think billionaires would focus their political “investment” in a manner that would bear huge dividends, but thus far, the Kochs’ big bet appears to be a loser. 

Charles and David Koch’s obsession with 
“ObamaCare” certainly isn’t resonating. Despite spending tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars attacking the new healthcare law, people have essentially tuned out their efforts. 


The ratio of anti- to pro-Affordable Care Act (ACA) ads is likely more than 1,000-to-1. No outside political group is defending the law on the airwaves, and just a handful of candidates have — briefly — done so. Yet when the Kaiser Family Foundation asked poll respondents whether they saw more ads in favor of the ACA, more opposed, or about the same on both sides, only 20 percent said they saw more ads opposed to the law. Half the poll respondents say they couldn’t remember seeing any anti-ACA ads, and nearly a quarter claimed they’d seen an equal number from both sides. 


What’s more, according to a Brookings Institution study, the more anti-ACA ads a state saw, the higher the state’s enrollment was in insurance options provided by the law. So, perversely, the Kochs may have helped generate the gangbuster signups seen during the ACA’s initial enrollment period. 

But how about the millions of dollars the Kochs have spent against Democratic candidates? Remember, the entire purpose of negative advertising is to drive down a candidate’s favorability ratings. And in that, the Kochs have failed.

As of July, the Koch brothers had spent $6 million attacking Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters in Michigan. Yet in the Huffington Post polling aggregate, Peters has improved from 39 percent of the vote in January to 47.3 percent today, far outpacing his Republican rival. Meanwhile, Peters went from a favorable/unfavorable rating of 19/13 in a February EPIC-MRA poll to 28/24 in late August. In comparison, Republican Terri Lynn Land, facing nowhere near the kind of barrage Peters has, went from 28/13 to 33/37. 

In North Carolina, conservative groups spent $17 million in ads attacking incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina MORE through the end of June. Of that, Koch groups accounted for about $9 million. Yet according to polling from the conservative Civitas Institute, Hagan’s favorable/unfavorable ratings climbed from 38/45 in January to 41/39 at the end of July. The best spin for the Kochs is that their flood of negative advertising had zero effect. But it may well have made Hagan more popular. The Huffington Post polling composite now shows Hagan up with a 45 percent to 42 percent lead over Republican Thom Tillis, her largest margin since the HealthCare.gov fiasco. 

And in Iowa, the Koch brothers had spent more than $7 million by the end of August attacking Democratic Senate nominee Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE. According to polling by Suffolk University, Braley’s favorability ratings went from 34/27 in April to 41/35 in August. And according to the Huffington Post polling composite, while Republican Joni Ernst enjoyed a small lead through June and July, Braley has since eked out a small lead of his own.  

It’s the same story virtually everywhere the Kochs and their friends are dumping money. If this is their idea of a good investment, it makes you wonder how they’ve managed to keep all that money they inherited.


Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.