Koch brothers David (left) and Charles Koch. (Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press)
By Carla Marinucci
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 – Updated 9:40 am
The billionaire Koch brothers’ intention to spend nearly $900 million on conservative candidates and causes in the 2016 election cycle will unleash a tidal wave of cash that will swamp the political landscape even in solidly blue California, experts said Tuesday.
When it comes to spreading money around, the spending plan that industrialists Charles and David Koch unveiled Monday will put the brothers and an estimated 300 conservative mega-donors in their network on a plane now occupied only by the country’s two major political parties.
“It is staggering,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s not a pebble in the pond, it’s an asteroid in the ocean.”
The cascade of conservative cash is “an amount we could not have fathomed 10 years ago,” Levinson said. Not even California and other strongly Democratic states will be exempt from its effects, she said.
“It will change the tenor, the narrative of the debate and what we talk about,” Levinson said.
One race certain to be affected by the Kochs’ money, she said, is the contest for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, even though no prominent Republican candidates are on the horizon.
“No race is run in isolation, and to the extent the discussion about tax cuts and immigration reform happens in Ohio, candidates get asked about it in California,” Levinson said.
Dan Newman, a partner in SCN Strategies, the political consulting firm working with Democratic Senate candidate and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, noted that the Kochs have been active in California in past elections — including funneling millions in 2012 into a pair of initiative campaigns.
Harris and the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission reached a 2013 settlement fining two nonprofit political groups a total of $1 million for violating reporting laws in disbursing Koch-related money in 2012 against the tax-raising Proposition 30 and for Proposition 32, which would have limited labor unions’ political spending. This month, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity political action committee filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles, claiming that Harris’ office had violated the group’s First Amendment rights by demanding a list of its 2012 donors.
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