How the Koch brothers' $889 million pledge helps Democratic fundraising

Democrats aren't scared of the fundraising power of the conservative Koch brothers.

Story highlights

  • Democratic fundraisers focused on 2016 were not shocked by reports that the Koch Brothers would raise and spend $889 million in 2016
  • "I think we all expected we would be up against an enormous amount of money and now we have proof," said one fundraiser
  • Instead, the Democrats plan to use the figure in as many pitches to deep-pocketed Democratic donors that they can

Washington (CNN)The Koch brothers -- longtime Republican funders and Democratic boogeymen -- reportedly told donors at their annual retreat on Monday that they plan to spend $889 million during the 2016 election cycle. The staggering sum caused some small heart palpitations for people who want to rid politics of money and cries of unfair "oligarchy" from politicians.

But according to multiple Democratic fundraisers with their eyes on 2016, the news was not that surprising and in some ways makes their job easier.
"I don't think it was surprising to many of us," said a Democratic fundraiser. "I think we all expected we would be up against an enormous amount of money and now we have proof."
    To put it more simply, the fundraiser -- who did not want to speak on the record because their planned fundraising efforts are not yet public -- said: "Tom Brady is going to throw a lot of passes on Sunday and Richard Sherman is going to try to intercept them. The Kochs are going to spend money in 2016. Well, yeah."
    The Koch brothers, who own the second-largest private company in the United States according to Forbes, loomed large in the 2012 presidential election cycle by spending just under $400 million to elect Republicans. Democrats, including President Barack Obama, regularly bashed the duo as a corrupting force in politics.
    On Monday, similar calls could be heard from outspoken members of Congress.
    "In the last presidential election Obama and Romney raised about $1 billion each. The Koch brothers, the second-wealthiest family in America, now say they will raise nearly $1 billion for the 2016 elections," said independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. "When one family can raise as much as an entire party, the system is broken. This is oligarchy, not democracy."
    Behind the scenes, those same statements were not alarming Democratic fundraisers. Instead, those same fundraisers said the Koch announcement was helpful in a way, because it gave them a specific number they can now take to donors and makes it easier for them to convince deep-pocketed Democratic donors to dig as deep as they can.
    Most 2016 groups are already having conversations with some of the wealthiest Democratic donors. Although the party is not expected to be able to raise money comparable with the Kochs and other Republicans -- in 2012, 67% of super PAC money came from conservative groups, according to the The Center for Responsive Politics -- there are hopes that wealthy Democrats like George Soros, Tom Steyer and others will step up to the table.
    At the tip of this Democratic spear is Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC with ties to both Obama and Hillary Clinton, the prohibitive favorite for the Democrats' nomination in 2016. The group has long been seen as the party's response to big Republican donors and that won't change in 2016.
    Paul Begala, a top strategist at the PAC, drew a distinction between the Kochs and Priorities in response to the brothers' fundraising goal.
    "A Republican president would roll back environmental protections, worker protections and consumer protections which would benefit the Kochs and their corporations," Begala said. "At Priorities USA Action, none of our donors stands to reap monetary benefits from electing a Democrat president. ... Still, we believe there are a great many patriots who will put the national interest and broader economic growth ahead of narrow, selfish interests."
    As for whether Priorities will use the Kochs' fundraising number in pitches to donors, Begala put it this way: "Will we talk about the Koch brothers' attempt at a hostile takeover of the government of the United States? Stay tuned."