MoveOn and 2014

It appears that is afflicted with the same obsessive-compulsive disorder as Harry Reid, fixating on the Koch Brothers as big, evil, corporate donors who pull the strings in elections and virtually every aspect of our daily lives. According to the latest MoveOn email below, the documentary Citizen Koch was set to air on PBS but then was abruptly canceled.  Connecting the dots, they claim that PBS did not want to air movies critical of large donors like the Kochs, who donated about $23 million to the public broadcast entity.

The Kochs are indisputably the scapegoat for the left for all that is wrong with capitalist America and, thus, are fittingly the object of their collective ire. Emails distributed from leftwing groups, like, rail against the brothers, large corporations and their influence on American politics -- vis-à-vis the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

If the left confines its outreach to hardcore supporters -- progressives, Occupiers, radicals, true believers in the press, intelligentsia and pop culture, and devout interest groups focused on illegal immigrant rights, so-called women’s issues, income inequality and social justice -- then I believe the 2014 and 2016 elections will be a bloodbath for the left and significantly favor Republicans. For the most part, these rants against the Koch brothers fall on deaf ears in the public at large, but do serve as a “dog whistle” to raise money from the 1% crowd and their big donors.

But we shouldn’t get too cocky or underestimate the ability of the left to cast their extreme progressive positions as kitchen table issues. They are expert at taking talking points on income inequality, racism, women’s issues, global warming, and the minimum wage, and parlaying them into appeals that reel in gullible voters -- the way they did in 2012.

The average voter is focused on jobs that allow them to pay the bills, fund their children’s education, afford quality health care, and, as issues abroad unravel any sense of security at home, on leaders who will keep this country safe for their progeny.  Battling distractions like the Koch Brothers or esoteric Supreme Court cases like Citizens United that they do not fully understand or never heard of, is like a cat swatting at invisible insects.

Still, with the power base available to the left, the monies they raise, their cutting-edge technology, the web of organizations they have woven between education, pop culture, academia, religious organizations, and activist groups, American voters could easily buy into the narrative that Citizens United unfairly shifts the balance of power in elections towards Republican donors like the Koch Brothers, who not only control our thought processes and how we vote, but dictate all aspects of our lives with a flick of their checkbook.

If the left is cocky and sticks to this narrative -- appealing only to progressives and 1% types -- they will lose hands down. But if they take these issues to the broader public and repackage them as kitchen table issues with the big, bad, Republican wolf huffing and puffing to knock down their houses, well, then we better have a battle plan and be prepared to strike preemptively.  To win, Republicans must go on offense and focus on kitchen table issues and conservative solutions -- and do so in a language that resonates with voters -- bolstered by a proven track record of success in states with Republican governors.

This focus on the Koch Brothers could be to our benefit if they are willing to play the sacrificial lamb and let the progressives continue to do what they do best: act like the jackasses they are and pound relentlessly on the Koch Brothers-Citizens United narrative. Yes, it will be difficult to stomach all of the invectives hurled towards the Koch family -- especially for the Kochs -- but, by mentioning them at every turn to voters who could care less, the left leaves a void that Republicans can swoop in and fill by talking  directly to the people about their real concerns.  This way, we just might be able to turn the jackass into a gift horse.

Dear MoveOn member,

If you're concerned about the power of the Koch brothers, you've got to hear this new podcast.

It's the inside story of the documentary Citizen Koch, which was supposed to air on PBS—before executives yanked the film out of fear of upsetting the billionaire Koch brothers. (By the way: It turned out David Koch had donated $23 million to PBS.1)

As you might expect from a couple of documentary producers who helped Michael Moore make Fahrenheit 9/11, the directors of Citizen Koch didn't take this lying down. The story of how it all happened, and what happened next, will inspire you.

Thanks for all you do.

–Ben Wikler


P.S. Don't use iTunes? No problem. You can listen to the podcast on the web, tune in via Stitcher (an Android and iOS app), or subscribe via RSS. Send us email (we read every one!) at And if you like the show, be sure to subscribe and post a review on iTunes!

P.P.S. Want to see Citizen Koch when it comes out this June? To find out whether it's showing near you, or organize a screening in your area, head over to


1. "A Word from Our Sponsor: Public television's attempts to placate David Koch," The New Yorker, May 27, 2013

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