The Koch Brothers don’t care about your constituents, Senator Kavanagh


It’s not often that I’ll praise AZ Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) for something, but he appears to be engaged in a good faith effort to address a complaint that people in his district have brought to his attention numerous times. Per Howie Fischer:

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, has introduced legislation to create a political “do not call” list available to all Arizonans. Those who don’t want the automated spiels could sign up to opt out.

Politicians who ignore the list could end up being hauled into court by the Attorney General’s Office.

But under SB 1196, the most a court could do is issue an injunction – one he conceded a politician could ignore without fear of additional penalty. The measure contains no financial penalties for violators.

Kavanagh said, though, he believes most politicians and the consultants whom they hire will honor the law if for no other reason than they really don’t want to tick off voters.

“The last thing they want to do is send their candidate’s robocall to somebody who hates them,” he said. “Then that person votes against their candidate.”

The legislation is designed to supplement the National Do Not Call Registry which applies to any program to sell goods or services through interstate phone calls. But it does not limit calls by political organizations, charities or pollsters.

I think it’s actually possible to implement something like this without invoking empty prosecutorial threats of any kind. Simply allow voters to opt into the list and make the list available to candidates. It would be on them to abide by it or not. I agree with Kavanagh that some candidates might not want to antagonize people who hate robocalls.

But Fischer notes that the bill would not apply to out-of-state groups doing robocalls.

Kavanagh acknowledged his proposal has a huge loophole: It would not apply to the dozens of out-of-state special interest groups that already have shown they seek to influence Arizona elections. Kavanagh said, though, there’s little he can do about it, any more than the state has been able to force those out-of-state groups to disclose their donors.

I’m not sure what the exact ratio of local to out-of-state robocalls in Arizona is but my own experience is of a lot of calls in recent years coming from national groups, such as several calls our household received this last cycle from an education reform group urging us to vote for both Eric Meyer (D) and Mary Hamway (R) for State Rep in LD28. (Uh, no sorry, we single-shotted Meyer.) National robocalls tend to be more issue-driven and obnoxiously push poll-y than local ones.

Which is not to say they don’t always work! Voters claim to hate political messages (ads, mailers, calls, etc.) in the same way they claim to hate all forms of consumer advertising and sales contacts. But telemarketers fought the Do Not Call list vigorously precisely because they were raking in billions by having telemarketers smile and dial or with pre-recorded messages. Similarly, the Club for Growth, which has been robocalling Republican primary voters for years, has never been bothered by the prospect of annoying them. It’s all about getting their words into enough ears and there’s no real law barring well-funded political groups from doing that.

This is why, assuming Sen. Kavanagh could even get his nice gesture for his constituents passed, that national loophole probably renders Kavanagh’s efforts meaningless since 2016 promises a deluge of national money, at least some of which will be directed to a barrage of robocalls in addition to endless TV ads and other sorts of propaganda. In case you missed this big story, read it and let the wave of nausea wash over you:

The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.

The figure, which more than doubles the amount spent by the Republican National Committee during the last presidential election cycle, prompted cheers from some in the GOP who are looking for all the help they can get headed into a potentially tough 2016 election landscape.

But while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC…

…In the run-up to 2012, the RNC spent $404 million, while it dropped $188 million during last year’s midterms. To be sure, the RNC’s spending was supplemented by congressional campaign arms, but one reason the Koch operation has an edge over the traditional party apparatus like the RNC is that the Kochs and their operatives don’t have to spread cash across the entire GOP political landscape.

Rather, they’re able to pick their spots, funding initiatives targeting specific slices of the electorate — such as Hispanic voters, veterans or millennials — or specific issues that jibe with the libertarian-inflected conservatism of the billionaire industrialist brothers.

From what I understand, much of the Koch money will be devoted to the upcoming Presidential election but several million will also be going to Congressional, state, and local elections. So I’m sorry to tell you this, Kavanagh constituents and everyone else, but you had better brace yourself for a whole bunch of robocalls.

3 thoughts on “The Koch Brothers don’t care about your constituents, Senator Kavanagh”

  1. My aim is to get some restrictions enacted. If injunctive relief does not work, I will add penalties. If I cannot control out of state callers, I will run for the office of president.

  2. I see your point, TS. There is a danger of needlessly discouraging potential voters but two guys spending nearly a billion dollars to attempt to buy an election is big news that needs to be brought to people’s attention. My hope is that, as in 2012, they waste most of it on the Presidential race.

  3. I appreciate all of your articles but I’ve been wanting to throw this out to our leadership and reporters for a while. One of the reasons that I heard from people who were not intending to vote this last cycle is “my vote won’t matter. The rich have bought the election.” I think our own press about the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors have made people feel helpless to fight big money. If a voter feels their vote won’t count, then they won’t bother to vote. What voters want to hear is not how bad the situation is but ‘here is how we will beat them!’ Voters need positive knowledge of why their vote really matters and why the Koch brothers money won’t matter. Terry Goddard’s campaign to shine the light on dark money is a good start. We need a lot of press about that and about other great movements to nullify the money coming in. Think of us as needing a vaccine against the money.

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