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The Big Donors Behind the Shutdown

David Callahan

The big donors behind the crisis in Washington are finally being called out by the mainstream media. Yesterday, the New York Times had a major investigative piece about how the Koch brothers and other major conservative donors pushed the Republican Party toward its current extreme strategy of trying to stop Obamacare.

I have been saying the same thing for some time, citing the key role played by the Club for Growth in threatening House Republicans with electoral retaliation at primary time if they don't go all out on Obamacare.

But the Times' story breaks new ground by spelling out exactly how deep pocketed donors are using their clout with Republicans in Congress. These donors have made defunding Obamacare a litmus test and have directed intense fire, in the form of TV and Internet ads, against Republicans seen as not falling in line behind this push. 

This stands in contrast to the usual narrative about the government shutdown, along with debt ceiling brinksmanship -- which is that it's all driven by far-right base voters and their reps in the House. (With some blame also given to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.)

The fact that a handful of super wealthy donors have helped to shut down the government and threaten a default crisis is yet another reminder of the immense power of money in our political system. This is a timely reminder, too, since the Supreme Court will soon be hearing a challenge to federal campaign contribution limits. As saturated as our political system is with money now, things could easily get worse thanks to the Roberts Court. 

Another thing that was so disturbing about that Times piece was the sheer determination of a few wealthy donors to stop millions of Americans from getting healthcare coverage. 

It can be tempting to think that the demonization of the Koch brothers has gone too far, that nobody can be as bad as the super heated rhetoric about the Kochs might suggest. Yet by the Times' account the Kochs are spending millions of dollars to scare people away from using Obamacare and stop states from extending Medicaid as part of a broader campaign to stop this already enacted law from going into effect. 

What kind of multi-billionaires use their money to prevent people of modest means from getting healthcare coverage? That would be the Kochs, as well as other wealthy donors to their organization, Freedom Partners.