How Koch Overspending Produces Conservative Operative Inflation

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 6 2014 2:49 PM

How Koch Overspending Produces Conservative Operative Inflation

If you've got it, flaunt it.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Matea Gold has a great piece about how the Koch brothers invested $400 million into 2012 election advocacy while using a variety of pass-through entities to somewhat obscure the extent and location of their spending. This infographic lays it out.

Something I'm interested in is how little they actually got for their money in terms of GOP election victories. Obama held the White House, Democrats held the Senate, Democrats made gains in the House, etc. One problem here is simply diminishing returns. A $50 million ad buy simply isn't going to be twice as effective as a $25 million ad buy. But I wonder if all this Koch money isn't also unleashing an inflationary dynamic.


Sean Sullivan had an interesting item in the Post back in December about how the Romney campaign paid seven different people more money than the highest-paid Obama staffer. An interesting issue here is that the market for high-level political operatives doesn't work like a normal labor market. Apple could try to poach server-side software people from Facebook to improve iCloud, or Google could snag hardware designers from Apple to make better-looking devices. But a Republican presidential candidate isn't going to raise pay and induce liberals to defect. Romney is bidding for staff in a labor market that's composed largely of other conservative candidates and entities. When the Kochs spread hundreds of millions of dollars around dozens of conservative operations, part of what they're doing is giving each of these outfits the financial resources it needs to compete with other conservative outfits for skilled political operatives.

The result is a kind of financial windfall for The Professional Right without necessarily leading to any commensurate increase in the effectiveness of the conservative movement as a whole.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company


The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.