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Democrats Call Koch Industries 'Extreme,' but Justify Taking Their Money

4:47 PM, Mar 24, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Ben Smith reported this morning that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising email, signed by Harry Reid, that tries to ride the anti-Koch bandwagon. Here's the relevant part of the email:

Senate Democrats are fighting back each and every day. But with only a slim four-seat majority, we have no margin for error. If Republicans can knock just a few bricks free from our firewall, they’ll force through their extreme agenda faster than you can say “Koch brothers.” With the GOP on the attack and with 23 Democratic-held seats to defend, we have no time to spare. We must act now to keep our majority standing strong. I need your help!

The DSCC must raise $150,371 by our March 31 FEC deadline to keep the Republicans at bay.

Smith notes the DSCC got about $30,000 from the Koch family in the last election cycle. He also reported back in September that a limited number of Democratic candidates have also received Koch money, including sitting senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. New York's Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, also received $1,000 from Koch Industries in the last election.

I called the offices of Schumer, Landrieu, Pryor and Nelson to ask about this money and whether the senators plan on giving any of that money back. Landrieu's chief of staff Jane Campbell returned my call, saying there was a difference between the Koch brothers' individual contributions (and those of their independent expenditure groups) and contributions from KOCHPAC, the political action committee of Koch Industries.

"The senator did not get money from the Koch brothers," Campbell said. The money from KOCHPAC, she said, is from individual Koch Industries workers in Louisiana. "It's their voluntary gift," she said. Campbell did not say Landrieu plans on returning the at least $10,000 she received in the last cycle from KOCHPAC.

The PAC, of course, still bears the Koch name and is administered as the political arm of Koch Industries. If Koch money is in support of an "extreme agenda," as Harry Reid suggests, then shouldn't Democrats should return the money? On the other hand, the energy industry is a vital part of the Louisiana economy. KOCHPAC's contribution to Landrieu is a small fraction of the $455,650 oil and gas interests donated to Landrieu in 2010. It's hardly surprising or uniquely interesting that an energy company like Koch Industries is giving money to Landrieu.

Still, it's a confusing game the Democrats are playing. Why is some Koch money bad while other Koch money is good?

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