Republicans Are Accidentally Making Money for the Mega-Donor Who Wants to Beat Them

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 10 2014 8:58 AM

Republicans Are Accidentally Making Money for the Mega-Donor Who Wants to Beat Them

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Tom Steyer laughs all the way to the stage of the Democratic National Convention.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans and conservatives have spent four years defending their financial benefactors from the "puppetmaster" attacks of the left. The left's only turned up the heat; Harry Reid has used two weeks of Senate speeches to condemn Charles and David Koch and their support for Republicans. At CPAC, Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie glommed on to the bait, defending the "great Americans" who merely wanted a voice in politics.

But this isn't usually how campaigns against rich donors are answered. It's a sort of Kaiju-vs.-Jaeger situation—there needs to be a rival "evil billionaire," ripe for demonization and accusations of hypocrisy. From 2003 to, well, now, conservatives attacked George Soros' investments in Democratic causes. Much more recently they've learned to attack Tom Steyer, an environmentalist who dumped millions into 2013's elections to blunt Republican momentum. Steyer spent $8 million to wear down Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia's gubernatorial race. Cuccinelli tried to shame Democrats for taking this money from a job-killing Keystone-hater. Voters didn't care.

Now, according to Politico, Steyer is going to push up to $100 million into the 2014 elections. Republicans will quickly learn to demonize him. In the meantime, they're going to be making him richer.

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How? Well, Republican campaigns at several levels have been using the services of Piryx Inc., which has developed the crowdfunding tool Rally. In 2013 the RNC paid $84,000 to Piryx. The NRCC paid $33,000. Before that, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign paid out more than $3 million to Piryx.

Like I said, though, Republicans are largely paying Piryx for the Rally product. As anyone can see on Rally.org's website, Tom Steyer is an investor, just like Obama campaign veteran Andrew Bleeker and No Labels mastermind Mark McKinnon. In 2013, while Ken Cuccinelli was being hit by $8 million of spending from Steyer, his campaign was spending $100,000 on a product Steyer invests in.

Now you can see why Republicans keep making stabs into Silicon Valley, to find their own talent. In the meantime, they're paying Democrats for their tools.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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