Harry Reid’s reelection is more than two years off, but the Koch brothers’ political machine is already methodically laying the groundwork that will be used to try to take him out.
The efforts in recent months have been largely subterranean, but they are unmistakable. A handful of nonprofit groups in the vast political network helmed by allies of the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch have established or expanded permanent ground operations in Reid’s backyard. Focused on wooing key demographics like Latinos and veterans, they’ve also paid for ads assailing the Senate Democratic leader.
Intensifying and complicating the competition is that allies of Reid and the Koch are assiduously courting the wild-card donor who could dictate the terms of his race, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He is a friend and constituent of Reid’s, but sources say Koch operatives raised more than $20 million from him in 2012, and they’re working to secure additional funding.
The high-level jockeying on both sides is particularly striking given that there is so little top-tier political activity in Nevada this fall. Both camps insist they’re focused entirely on the policy repercussions of 2014 midterm elections across the country. But it’s hard not to detect an intensely personal tension underlying the Koch-Reid dynamic.
While there’s been some speculation that Reid might retire rather than run for reelection if Democrats lose control of the Senate this fall, the 74-year-old, in interviews with POLITICO, seemed almost giddy about the prospects of facing down the Kochs in 2016. So fixated is Reid that for a time this summer he kept on his desk in the Capitol a cartoon clipped from the pages of a July issue of the New Yorker magazine depicting a Scout leader reading from a book to his troop sitting around a campfire. “Run everybody, run for your life,” the leader says. “It’s them, it’s the Koch brothers.”
Reid has used the Senate floor as a forum for a months-long anti-Koch campaign, during which he’s called the brothers everything from “un-American” to “radical” and has worked to turn them into national poster children for a Republican Party that caters to the interests of the very richest while ignoring those of the middle class.
SOURCE: KENNETH P. VOGEL and BURGESS EVERETT