HuffPo's Stein Claims Clintons Need to Win Lotto to 'Catch Up' With Koch Brothers in 2016

Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday, Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein worried that the Clinton political machine would be unable to compete with funding from Charles and David Koch during the 2016 presidential campaign: "I mean, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton will be scratching lotto tickets, I think, for the next week just trying to catch up with the $889 million that the Koch brothers are going to put in here."

Stein was reacting to a Washington Post article detailing how much money the conservative benefactors were planning to spend in the next election cycle. He proclaimed: "Just put this in historical perspective, the $889 million that they're going to spend – and I'm not sure why they didn't round up to 890 – but the 889 million they're going to spend is more than all the presidential candidates in the 2004 races spent combined, that was about $720 million."

Moments later, liberal commentator and Wall Street financier Steve Rattner argued that no such network of wealthy donors existed on the left:

On the Democratic side, where I spend my time, we don't really have anything quite like this. I think when you look at the numbers for 2014 you saw that the Democrats were able to be competitive financially, but in a much more diffuse kind of decentralized way. And I would predict that the Democrats will be competitive again financially this time, but, again, in a different way than by having somebody like the Koch brothers with $889 million to spend.

As MRC Business reported, top liberal donors have contributed billions to a variety of left-wing causes in recent years. During the 2014 midterms, environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer spent $100 million to try to push the climate change agenda.   

On Morning Joe, Stein wrapped up the segment by warning against the Koch money:

...a lot of these entities being set up by Koch brothers – not the super-PAC, but the 501c4s – we won't know who the donors are. People write monumentally-sized checks and the public will never actually get a sense of who's writing those checks. So, you know, that's the one element that I think needs to be discussed a little bit more in detail because for campaign finance reform advocates that's the scariest part of it. It's not necessarily the size of the money, it's the lack of transparency around it.

Here is a full transcript of the January 27 exchange:

7:34 AM ET

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: The political network led by the Koch brothers has put a price tag on its spending plans for 2016. The operation is poised to pump in a whopping $889 million ahead of the next White House election. That's a lot of money. That's more than twice the amount the groups raised during the last presidential campaign. As The Washington Post put it, "The Koch network is now challenging the official political parties for influence when it comes to everything from get out the vote operations to technology and resources." Joe, that's a big, big impact.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: That's a very big impact. Sam Stein, there are a lot of big donors, including Charles and David Koch, that made no secret of the fact they didn't like how the Republican Party had spent their money in the last elections. They certainly were angered, as a lot of people were angered, by what the official Republican Party did, what Karl Rove did, what others did. And after 2012, they basically said, "We're going to take matters into our own hands. We're going to target ourselves because you people don't know what you're doing."

As I hear this, though, I'm reminded of that phrase that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We see this. There's always an ebb and flow. In 2008, Barack Obama the first to raise over a billion dollars. John McCain didn't have enough money to campaign. You knew it was only a matter of time before something like this would arise on the right. Just like you know this is going to – I'm sure Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton aren't going to sit back scratching their heads as we go to 2016.

But this is a whole new ball game. Ans it's not just Democrats that have a reason to worry, it's the Republican National Committee and the establishment Republican Party in Washington, D.C.

SAM STEIN [HUFFINGTON POST]: Yeah. I mean, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton will be scratching lotto tickets, I think, for the next week just trying to catch up with the $889 million that the Koch brothers are going to put in here.

But the broader point, obviously, is that there's a ton of money coming into the political system. And you're absolutely right, Republican Party is going to have to react to this as well. A lot of messaging is going to be done outside of the Republican Party. A lot of the investments in candidates will be decided outside of the Republican Party apparatus. Essentially what the Koch brothers entities have created is a third political party.

Just put this in historical perspective, the $889 million that they're going to spend – and I'm not sure why they didn't round up to 890 – but the 889 million they're going to spend is more than all the presidential candidates in the 2004 races spent combined, that was about $720 million. So we've seen an exponential growth, triggered in large part by President Obama's decision in 2008 to get out of campaign finance public funds and then the Supreme Court decision, obviously, with Citizens United.

SCARBOROUGH: Steve Ratner, that really was a turning point when Barack Obama had said that he was not going – that he was going to take public funds. He decided not to. He was able to raise – and any politician would have done the same thing – he was able to raise over a billion dollars. It changed the game forever. Then Citizens United came along, changed it even more.

But what's interesting here, I can tell you as far as Republican donors go, this is also sort of the free marketplace of ideas and also the free flow of money. Karl Rove's not going to be getting a lot of this money that the Kochs are going to get. The RNC's not going to be getting a lot of the money that the Kochs are going to get. A lot of this is not new money to politics. A lot of this is going to be a transfer from Republican establishment figures in Washington D.C. that tried and failed. And people say, "Well, I gave Karl Rove a lot of money in '12, I gave the RNC a lot of money in '12, and they failed miserably." Look what the Kochs did in 2014 – which their track record was remarkable – they're transferring the money there.

STEVE RATTNER: Yeah, I think the point that you and Sam have both made about this becoming, in effect, a separate political force, is absolutely right. And you saw the Koch brothers beauty contest the other day where everybody paraded in front of them to try to get their support. And it – so it's changed the dynamics of the Republican Party.

On the Democratic side, where I spend my time, we don't really have anything quite like this. I think when you look at the numbers for 2014 you saw that the Democrats were able to be competitive financially, but in a much more diffuse kind of decentralized way. And I would predict that the Democrats will be competitive again financially this time, but, again, in a different way than by having somebody like the Koch brothers with $889 million to spend.

STEIN: And let me just – can I just add one thing, which is that one of the elements we're not discussing here is that while money to the parties and to the candidates is transparent, you have to list the name of the donors, a lot of these entities being set up by Koch brothers – not the super-PAC, but the 501c4s – we won't know who the donors are. People write monumentally-sized checks and the public will never actually get a sense of who's writing those checks. So, you know, that's the one element that I think needs to be discussed a little bit more in detail because for campaign finance reform advocates that's the scariest part of it. It's not necessarily the size of the money, it's the lack of transparency around it.

BRZEZINSKI: We're going to get-

SCARBOROUGH: Well, and again, Mika, obviously this is something that Democrats are going to be doing as well. They haven't done it as effectively as Republicans did in 2014, but as I said at the beginning, there is always – for every action there's always in politics an equal and opposite reaction. Expect hearing over the next several months a Democratic response to this.

STEIN: Yeah.

Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Campaign Financing Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Huffington Post MSNBC Morning Joe Video Koch brothers Steve Rattner Sam Stein Hillary Clinton

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