Some lies just won’t go away. In February the Washington Postpublished an article with the following headline: “Why There’s No Democratic Version of the Koch Brothers’ Organization.” It was the umpteenth attempt to explain, in a particularly simplistic manner, how the millionaires and billionaires who donate money to the Democratic Party are nothing, absolutely nothing, like those meanie cancer research philanthropists Charles and David Koch.
The author, Reid Wilson, interviewed “Democratic strategists who deal frequently with high-dollar donors,” and these Democratic strategists told him, strategically, that their high-dollar donors are better than Republican ones. “For the Koch brothers, electing the right candidate can mean a financial windfall,” Wilson wrote. “Democratic donors revolve more around social issues.” On the one hand you have petty, greedy rich men, and on the other you have committed liberals willing to sacrifice for causes they believe in. The morality play writes itself.
Now, these liberals are not totally selfless, Wilson cautions. They are human beings; they have egos; they seek affirmation. “Donors like being recognized for their philanthropic gestures.” Hedge-fund billionaire and radical environmentalist Tom Steyer, for example, “cooperated with the New Yorker when it wrote a profile of him last year.” Charles and David Koch, though, “didn’t cooperate when the magazine took a look at their political activities,” presumably because “no one needs to send the message that the better-known Koch brothers are there for Republican candidates.” So that’s why the Kochs didn’t talk to Jane Mayer.
Does Reid Wilson believe in Santa Claus? His willingness to suspend disbelief when confronted with the image of a mythic creature—the un-self-interested liberal—suggests as much. The words “labor” and “union” appear nowhere in his article, despite the fact that unions are 6 of the 10 top all-time donors recently compiled by OpenSecrets.org, despite the fact that unions spent some $4.4 billion on politics between 2005 and 2011. (Incidentally, every member of the OpenSecrets.org top ten either leaned Democratic or split money evenly between the two parties. The Democrats are not hurting for money.)