Harry Reid's Campaign Against Donor Secrecy Has Scared More Donors Into Secrecy

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Not a day goes by when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn't talking about Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who backed a network of conservative nonprofit political groups that raised $400 million through anonymous donors in 2012. The Koch brothers have since turned their attention to the midterm elections, launching millions of dollars in ads against vulnerable Senate Democrats. Reid criticizes their vast, anonymous spending, and those attacks have now driven other big GOP donors underground.

"We’ve heard from donors that they don’t want to get 'Koched,'" a top Republican operative who works with outside groups told Matea Gold at The Washington Post. These donors are now choosing to put their money towards nonprofit political groups that do not disclose their donor lists. Gold explains:

The trend can be seen at the prominent GOP super PAC co-founded by strategist Karl Rove, American Crossroads, which discloses its donors to the Federal Election Commission.

The group, which hauled in $117 million during the 2012 election, has raised $9 million so far this cycle, including just $266,000 in April.

At the same time, group officials said, donors are more interested than ever in supporting Crossroads GPS, a sister organization with a tax-exempt status that allows it to keep its donor list private. The two groups recently kicked off a $10 million television advertising campaign against vulnerable Senate Democrats — $8 million of which was paid for by Crossroads GPS.

So Reid's long campaign against secrecy has unfortunately scared donors into more secrecy. His spokesman Adam Jentleson wouldn't comment on this unintended result of the anti-Koch campaign, but he did note that increased donations to nonprofit groups underlines "why we need a constitutional amendment to state clearly that money does not equal speech." At the very least, Reid's done a good job of making the Koch brothers seem like bad guys to voters. Republicans have tried to lob similar attacks at Democratic donors like Tom Steyer, but those haven't been as successful. 

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Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh posits that we should be worried about more than just verbal attacks from Reid. On his radio show Wednesday, Limbaugh compared the Nevada Democrat to UCSB shooter Elliot Rodger: 

This irrationality that Harry Reid has with the Koch Brothers – Koch Brothers responsible for global warming, Koch Brothers responsible for everything in politics ... Harry Reid hates and resents the Koch Brothers every bit as much as Elliott Rodger hated women. I see the signs. I see the irrationality. I see the red flags. The danger signs are clear as a bell with Harry Reid. Somebody needs to do something.

Limbaugh did not offer his thoughts about anonymous political spending at the time. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.