The GOP Has a New Enemy: Wealthy Donors (to Democrats)

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On Monday, the Republican National Committee contributed a community post to Buzzfeed criticizing Democratic donor Tom Steyer, reaching that huge, all-important voter demographic made up of Americans who care about campaign finance but also like things to be explained to them with Nelly GIFs. 

On Tuesday, the RNC followed up by posting a "Missed Connections" entry on Craiglist from Steyer, or "Billionaire4Candidates," looking for Democratic candidates who want to "kill the Keystone Pipeline and completely abandon other significant job-creating projects."

In April, Steyer (who is, indeed, a billionaire) pledged to support anti-Keystone candidates with his largely self-funded super PAC during the midterm elections. In an open letter, Steyer wrote,

We stand ready, willing and able to support those members who have been threatened because they had the courage to stand up for our children and oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.

So yes, Steyer is a billionaire anti-Keystone activist, and the RNC doesn't like that. But campaigning against him because he wants to spend millions of dollars on an issue is a new strategy for Republicans.

Democrats have long attacked the GOP for its wealthy donors — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made it his mission this year to bring up the Koch brothers whenever possible. In the past, Republicans have criticized these attacks by Reid and others as fanning the flames of class warfare, but now they're ready to call out Democrats for using high-powered billionaire donors, too. It's "hypocrisy on Steyeroids," the RNC claims. Michael Goldfarb, a consultant to major conservative donors, tells Kenneth Vogel at Politico, "The left has been demonizing our donors for years, but their own people are really exposed on this, so we're doing the same thing." 

The real question is, will voters care? Democratic attacks on the Kochs have had mixed results, so far. Campaign finance just isn't a sexy issue, and photoshopping Steyer's head onto a musclehead's body isn't going to change that. (Which the RNC did for the Buzzfeed post. See right.) 

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But Republican groups and conservative-leaning reporters are committed to continuing a campaign against Democratic mega-donors like Steyer and George Soros through the midterms. Vogel reports that two Free Beacon reporters, as well as the opposition research group America Rising, staked out a meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a club for wealthy Dems, last week. They were hoping to find dirt on the donors in attendance. Free Beacon editor Matthew Continetti told Vogel, "People in the media are fixated on the Koch network, they’re fascinated by Sheldon Adelson, but they don't scrutinize a Steve Mostyn or a Warren Buffett or a Jeffrey Katzenberg in the same way. That’s a hole that we’re trying to fill." America Rising president Joe Pounder promised, "In the coming weeks, America Rising will be dedicating more resources to spotlighting these donors and the Democrats who sell out for campaign cash." 

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