Harry Reid has a serious Koch problem

Like all children of the ‘90s, I spent most of my time in school being hectored by reformed children of the ‘60s.

We took endless health classes with the sole purpose of chiseling “no drugs or alcohol” onto the sides of our frontal lobes. The teacher would play some video where likeable young teens were depicted at a party chugging beer and taking molly, before adjourning to their cars and driving five feet into an inconveniently placed redwood. As the somber credits rolled, we were encouraged to seek help for anyone who might have an addiction, lest they suffer the same fate.

With that agitprop still weighing on my mind, I’d like to discuss Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Lately the Senate majority leader has been triggering my D.A.R.E. radar. He has a problem and I think it’s time for an intervention.

Reid’s addiction manifests itself in repeated references to the libertarian Koch brothers on the Senate floor. And he tokes a lot, man. Last month the Washington Free Beacon counted 134 times that Reid had mentioned the Kochs, usually to accuse them of manipulating Republicans or blame them for global catastrophes.

The GOP has long opposed raising the minimum wage. But when almost every Senate Republican voted against cloture for a bill that would have hiked it to $10.10 per hour, Reid had another theory: “If Americans are searching for an answer, they should look no further than Republicans’ billionaire benefactors, the Koch brothers.”

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked the IRS for its coercion against conservative non-profit groups, Reid, like O.J., found the real culprit: “The abuse here is not the administration’s enforcing the law, but folks like the Koch brothers pretending to be social welfare organizations.”

Reid then took his fetish to the Internet, unveiling a section on his website called “The Facts About the Koch Brothers.” It’s filled with ominous tidbits like “The Kochs want even more tax breaks for themselves” (as opposed to most Americans who are clamoring for their taxes to be raised). Reid also blasts the Kochs, on his taxpayer-subsidized website, for receiving taxpayer subsidies.

Given all this Koch-bashing, Republicans must have been grateful when Vladimir Putin shifted attention to foreign policy. But then Reid materialized at the podium and accused the Koch brothers of influencing the Republican position on Ukraine. He more recently spied Koch fingerprints on the new House committee investigating the Benghazi attack.

In addition to their frequency, Reid’s attacks on the Kochs are also notable for their bizarre invective. The Nevada senator has said the brothers are “about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayman al-Zawahiri didn’t make the cut, apparently.

Reid also attacked those who had lost their health insurance or jobs due to Obamacare, calling their stories categorically untrue. His evidence? The “multi-billionaire Koch brothers,” of course.

If all this is true, then the Kochs are at the head of a vast global conspiracy the likes of which only exists in the stagnating minds of late-night George Noory listeners who don’t make it past the call screen. And to be fair, the Kochs are powerful financiers. They’ve donated hundreds of millions of dollars over the years—to political groups, yes, but also to hospitals, colleges, and the arts. Most of us have benefitted from their philanthropy, whether we’re aware of it or not.

After a group of liberal academics signed a letter protesting the Catholic University of America’s acceptance of a Koch grant, CUA did a little digging and published a devastating response: “So widespread and, on balance, non-controversial has been the [Koch] Foundation’s support for higher education that we wonder whether the 15 signatories realized, before they endorsed the letter, that their institutions are ‘guilty’ of the same association they chastise The Catholic University of America for.”

Whoops! It seems even mildewing Stalinist professors can’t escape the Kochtopus.

Reid will continue to snort his Koch lines at the Senate podium (while his party benefits from other billionaires like Tom Steyer), but it’s unlikely to make much of a difference. The Kochs aren’t on the ballot this fall and voters tend to care more about candidates than their funders.

The right’s George Soros bashing in the aughts might have won the news cycle on a few occasions, but it never really moved the needle. Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 because the Iraq war went south, not because Democrats had a loony Hungarian tycoon in their corner.

Still, Harry Reid, worth between $3 and $10 million with all manner of shady land and investment deals in his past, probably gets a nice high crusading against the rich. Attacking the Kochs, calling Tea Partiers “anarchists,” the lies about Mitt Romney’s tax returns…these are all symptoms of an acute political hackery addiction.

It’s time for him to admit he has a problem and check into rehab. Or better yet, retire.


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