What do the Koch Brothers Want?
How much have they spent?
It is estimated that the Koch brothers are poised to spend up to 300 million dollars into the next election cycle, and this is likely a low estimate. There really is no telling how much "dark money" will be poured into elections all over this country.
At the presidential level, there really isn't much danger of the influence of dark money upon the electorate. History has shown over and over that the major elections can only be bought to a point, and the electorate will do what the electorate does. If all that money being poured into elections mattered, Barrack Obama wouldn't be our president, right now. It is not the large elections where a huge wad of money makes a difference. No, it is the smaller elections,where candidates are always strapped for cash, where wads of money can overpower candidates that can't compete with the amount of signs, flyers, robocalls, and paid staff that such money buys.
So, let's just presume the Koch brothers are not able to truly influence a national election much, and that they are savvy enough to know that. Let's give them that much credit.
What do they accomplish with all that money spent?
At the Local Level
So, you want to do some drilling, but there are all these pesky local laws stopping it. Solution? Buy a few politicians into office that share your point of view. Does this work?
No. No, that's illegal and far more risky than it is worth. In fact, local laws are generally quite favorable to the mineral extractors of the world, and if the profits of the company are any indication, they are not hurting.
So, maybe a few local judges and state legislators will be won, who share the Koch brothers belief in libertarian/fascism, right?
Maybe. Local elections can be difficult. I doubt the Koch brothers will be able to make a red judge happen in a blue district, but they might be able to influence a primary election a little bit to encourage a redder judge to be elected over a more moderate candidate.
None of these individual cases seem to make much of a difference, though, considering the vast sums of money pouring into the coffers of dark money organizations.
Should Congress Act to Stop the Influence of Money on Politics?
Moving All Talking Points to the Right
One of the most interesting phenomena of local elections is that they can be very polarized compared to national ones. In presidential politics, first candidates appeal to the broad base of one party, then to the broad base of the whole electorate. Candidates that are better at first positioning themselves to the center of a party election will win their nomination. From there, the candidates position towards the center of the populace, moving the "goal posts" of their positions into moderation to align with the general electorate. Generally, the more skilled a politician is at this second step, the more likely they are to wind up in the white house.
The Koch Brothers, being no fools, are not interested in influencing one man, even if that man is the president. What they seem to be doing is creating a flood of noise on one side of issues that seems to create a sense that there is "more there" as far as the public is concerned. Media spin doctors attend to their ridiculous place as talking heads on cable news networks, funded by Koch money. And, what happens is the debate, as it exists, moves right.
Individual elections are pointless. Influencing them too much with money where there's a direct correlation will likely only lead to the regulations that dark money does not desire. But, in actual fact, the country has been pushed so far to the right that people who used to vote conservative have shifted democrat if only because they are holding positions that used to be standard stuff for the conservative party.
Example: By howling up and down about death panels and the evils of Obamacare, GOP pundits have managed to shift the goal posts so far to the right that an idea out of a Republican Thinktank - i.e. insurance exchanges - is the radical liberal position!
This is happening across the board. Democrats are drilling for oil, selling state and national parks, firmly sending our young men and women to wars all over the world, and all the while, the goal posts have shifted so far to the right that we are calling their actions liberal!
In other words, the real goal of the Koch brothers isn't to fund an individual election. The goal is to change the climate of elections such that their righteous libertarian positions are no longer the fringe.
It's beautiful to observe in action, honestly. If "Liberal Media" was actually liberal, they'd be able to pull off the same neat trick.