Updated: Buying Out Democracy

Post Election Day update: Some national down-ballot state news such as this may get lost in the storm after Trump’s shocking win:[Democrats suffered some of their worst down-ballot failures on election night in the secretary of state races, the low-profile but quietly influential office that oversees elections in each state.

The GOP flipped four seats. Three were open seats: Missouri (Jay Ashcroft), Montana (Corey Stapleton), and Oregon (Dennis Richardson). The Oregon contest was the most surprising, with the GOP winning their first statewide office in more than a decade.]

What  are the Koch Brothers are up these days?  Well, we know the Kochs aren’t paying to woo Vermont voters to build a coal plant in the state. State Sen. Joe Benning (R) humorously suggested a clever headline-grabber what-if thought experiment to drive home his point about the level of outrage there might be were it the “evil” Koch Brothers offering payments to Vermonters to build a coal plant — rather than Iberdrola’s  wind power generating facility.kochbrosbucktalk

Of course the Kochs spend their time and political money   ($900 million in campaign 2016) much higher up the policy food chain than mere voters.

So then what are the Kochs up to these days ?  I mean in addition to running thousands of dollars worth of ads in Vermont supporting Benning’s fellow VTGOP legislative candidates through their Republican State Leadership Committee.

Well, according to the NYTimes.com, the ultra wealthy conservative Koch Brothers, the Republican State Leadership Committee, and other lobby interests are setting their sights on secretaries of state — the people in charge of impartially running elections.

The targeting of secretaries of state with campaign donations, corporate-funded weekend outings and secret meetings with industry lobbyists reflects an intense focus on often overlooked ballot questions, which the secretaries frequently help write.

The ballot initiatives are meant to give voters a direct voice on policy issues such as the minimum wage and the environment. But corporate and other special interests are doing their best to build close ties with the secretaries because a difference of even a few words on a ballot measure can have an enormous impact on the outcome.

This is of particular importance in states that regularly hold direct-vote ballot initiatives on policy issues. And Koch’s RSLC involvement may take this to a new level:  Republicans have turned to initiatives to push their agenda as a counter to liberal activists, according to an internal party memo.

“Ballot initiatives will not be the left’s mechanism for gaining power and advancing their agenda when voters have already rejected them,” said the memo, from the Republican State Leadership Committee, in February 2015 as the group prepared fund-raising efforts. “It’s time for conservatives to take back that power by rejecting their efforts and promoting our own.” NYTimes.com

Ironic as hell that big money is using the ballot-initiative/referendum process to do an end-run around legislatures. But the penny-wise Koch Brothers may figure it is a lot cheaper and more efficient to buy/influence with a few Secretaries of State than feeding friendly herds of state legislators.

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