Thursday, June 11, 2015

Koch brothers and Republican Party Go to War With Each Other

Illustration: Tom Cocotos for Yahoo News
Perhaps the so-called Republican Party establishment is belatedly realize that the Koch brothers are power mad and greed driven megalomaniacs.   Add the GOP's foolish previous pacts with the Koch brothers and its creation of the Frankenstein monster known as the Christofascist/Tea Party base of the party and the establishment has done much to destroy the GOP as a sane and respectable political party.  Time and time again the GOP establishment has looked at short term expediency with no though about the adverse impacts down the road.  Now, it is uncertain how these twin monsters can be defeated.  Yahoo News looks at the war with the Koch brothers.  Here are highlights:

The Republican National Committee’s data arm last year called it a “historic” occasion when it struck a deal to share voter information with the Koch brothers’ rapidly expanding political empire. 

It was an uneasy d├ętente between the party committee, which views itself as the rightful standard-bearer for the GOP, and the behemoth funded by Charles and David Koch, which is free of the campaign finance restrictions that bind the RNC and plans to spend almost $900 million in the 2016 election cycle to elect a Republican to the White House. 

Party leaders, including the current chief digital officer for the RNC, hailed the deal as an important step forward in the GOP’s attempt to modernize itself. 

But after the fall midterm elections, the deal was allowed to expire without being renewed. Since then, relations between the two sides have soured, turning into what one Republican operative described as “all-out war.” 

The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over — some even say control of — the GOP.

“I think it’s very dangerous and wrong to allow a group of very strong, well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone to have control over who gets access to the data when, why and how,” said Katie Walsh, the RNC’s chief of staff. 

The fight between the RNC’s chairman and the political operatives affiliated with Charles and David Koch over who controls the rich treasury of data on likely Republican voters has raised fundamental questions about what role the party’s central committee — even under the best management — can hope to play in the age of super-PACs. And it raises an even more fundamental question of how you define a political party. 

Priebus believes the RNC is the proper custodian of the Republican Party’s master file on the nation’s electorate, which is used as a starting point for campaigns, who then use that information to build lists — called voter universes — of the people in a state or district that they want to target for both turnout and persuasion. Volunteers and donors are also targeted for recruitment using such lists. 

The core issue, from Priebus’ point of view, is one of loyalty and allegiance. The RNC is a permanent entity, committed to the Republican Party without question. The Koch network is too independent from the party to be trusted with possession of the GOP’s most valuable core assets. If the Kochs — whose political history is steeped more in libertarianism than it is in any loyalty to the Republican Party — decided next week to use their database to benefit only their massive multinational corporation, they could do so. 

The RNC, Walsh said, “has one job: to elect Republicans.” 

Some in the Republican Party agree with Priebus’ point of view, believing the issue of allegiance to be fundamental. Others in the GOP, even some in highly consequential positions, think Priebus and the RNC are crying wolf.

And the problem for the RNC is that while it has political data going back roughly two decades, you need more than just data in order to be the data hub for a political party. And that is where the RNC has fallen short.

In 2013 the RNC promised to build a next-level system called Beacon. But so far Beacon is being used by only a small handful of state parties, Walsh said. About 40 state parties are still using the RNC dashboard that Beacon was built to replace, GOP Data Center, which was designed a few years ago by a company called FLS Connect. The most common complaint from those who do not like Data Center is that it is not easy for the average volunteer or field staffer to use. 

The RNC has signed data-sharing agreements with most of the 2016 candidates or likely candidates. And the RNC — as it did in 2014 — is trying to discourage campaigns and state parties from signing up with i360, according to numerous conversations with people who have knowledge of such conversations. This was a tactic that irritated many people in 2014. But Walsh, the new chief of staff, appears to be setting a different tone that admits past shortcomings and focuses on the philosophical argument that the GOP’s data should be housed at a party committee, not at a private business empire.

The RNC is now confronting the Kochs more openly than before, by having Walsh speak on the record for this article and by making other key players available for interviews. Their decision to take their dispute with i360 public shows the level of alarm inside the RNC at the growing clout of the Koch political empire. They have concluded that the Koch political machine wants to replace them and to essentially become a shadow party.  

The GOP establishment just doesn't grasp the fact that when you make a deal with the Devil, the Devil is going to want a very high price in return.  Shortsightedness and cynical beliefs that the monster can be controlled have proven wrong over and over again. 

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