Scoop: Koch Industries PAC drops $5K on LaMalfa — shows how politics is no longer local

The infamous Koch Brothers — out of Witicha, Kansas, no less — are donating $5,000 to Doug LaMalfa’s campaign as he seeks to be our new Congressman, according to federal election filings.

It is a stark reminder that “all politics is no longer local”; rather, big money interests are “politically hijacking” small communities such as ours to further their own national political agenda and ideology — but not necessarily our more pragmatic interests as constituents.

LaMalfa’s largest contributors include the “leadership” PACS such as the Koch Brothers’, as well as oil & gas (Exxon Mobil, $5,000), healthcare (AMA, $10,000); insurance companies (New York Life Insurance, $10,000), tobacco (Reynolds America, $2,500) and the like.

PAC contributions comprise 34 percent of LaMalfa’s donations and large contributions total another 40 percent. Small contributions (from the likes of local political blogger Todd Juvinall) are just 4 percent and other is 23 percent, according to (Todd got to boast about his grip-and-grin session, ranch BBQ and photo “opp” with Doug and House Speaker John Boehner, though — and he’s donated another $125 since).

The big-money, out-of-town influence on our local politics underscores what I’ve written before: Our elected representatives don’t represent “we the people” in the way our forefathers had imagined. Instead, they merely represent a rigid political ideology and special interests that seek to influence national politics by lining up small-potatoes Congressman such as ours.

Our county alone is a diverse bunch — “purple” if you will: The south county and Penn Valley are conservative — with strongholds in the planned communities of Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines. But Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in the cities of Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee.

In addition, most of our problems require a nonpartisan mindset to address — roadways, sewers, water, broadband, drug use and so on. They are more pragmatic than taking an ideological stand on Roe v. Wade.

In foothill communities such as ours, however, we are being “played” by big money interests from out-of-town — like the Koch Brothers — who want to use our electeds as political “pawns” to help satisfy a rigid national agenda.

This is what’s leading to gridlock in Congress — and the lowest favorability ratings in history. This rigid ideology also can prevent us from landing needed government funding at the local level.

Tom McClintock, a carpet-bagging conservative who lives in Elk Grove, but still represents us in the foothills, epitomizes the trend. Tom — a lifelong politican — raises his money out of Orange County and from conservative national PACS.

Then he lands in our little burg and spouts off about dumping the “left-wing” clerk recorder at a tea party rally. Or he writes a letter supporting a local broadband initiative but not before bashing the funding program as “one of the most ill-advised acts ever passed.”

For the record, Tom also receives contributions from AT&T. I interviewed McClintock when he was first elected, and he had little understanding about the issues that local voters cared about — right down to the Dorsey Drive intersection.


Now Tom is bidding us farewell, thaks to redistricting. But his likely replacement, Doug LaMalfa, is cut from the same cloth.

Doug is an affable fellow. We visited at length once while we both waited to march in the Fourth of July parade in Grass Valley a few years ago — him in a Gran Torino, us in a convertible decorated with grapes.

To his credit, LaMalfa’s family runs a business — a rice farm in Richvale. Yup, he receives farm subsidies from Uncle Sam. And yup, you can argue whether flooding Central Valley rice fields is prudent use of our precious water supplies in California. But unlike McClintock, at least LaMalfa’s family runs a business.

Still, the big money PACS are all over Doug like a cheap suit, making him look like just another political pawn controlled by out-of-town interests. The federal filings are here, and the Open Secrets analysis is here.

The big-money interests have helped LaMalfa raise $727,000 up to September 30, according to OpenSecrets. His Democratic opponent Jim Reed has only raised $135,000, according to the report. Unlike LaMalfa, 40 percent of Reed’s donations come from small contributions — not 4 percent.

This scenario is being played out in communities all across America.

Besides LaMalfa, Koch Industries contributions alone to House republicans totalled $1.2 million for the 2012 election cycle, compared with just $23,000 for House Democrats.

This chart shows the dramatic spike in political contributions from Koch Industries — more than $2.4 million in 2012 compared with almost nothing in 1990.

I’ll hope for the best. But it’s hard to see how LaMalfa will reach across the aisle to come up with any compromise legislation beyond a rigid ideology. He’ll just wind up pounding sand, like so many of our elected representatives nowadays.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

10 thoughts on “Scoop: Koch Industries PAC drops $5K on LaMalfa — shows how politics is no longer local”

  1. The plutocrats, not the people are dukeing it out. Voters are just play things. I’m amazed there isn’t a huge movement to back public financing of campaigns. Well, democracy is a process that ensures the people get the government they deserve.

  2. This isn’t new. During the last election, the local tea party received an anonymous donation of $10,000 the week before the election for use in local elections like clerk/recorder. There isn’t a huge movement for change because most people aren’t aware how serious the situation really is. The media is not going to make an issue of it because they make tons of money on election ads. One study found that TV stations routinely jack their prices up as much as 25% during election cycles. They are not going to bite the hand that feeds them ice cream and gravy so the public remains in the dark.

    1. When it comes to “digging deeper,” The Union is a joke. It’s one reason publications such as “Moonshine Ink” have thrived in our region; now celebrating 10 years. Alternative publications such as the Chico News & Review are doing well too.

  3. Jeff: Do you know what the Union’s circulation is now? What the trends are? What the trends in advertising buys are?

  4. Well, I think the buys trend toward hearing aids. They say the circulation is holding steady at around 15K, but that also can include new “digital” subscriptions to offset the loss of print subscriptions, so it’s kind of murky. More transparency is in order, that’s for sure.

  5. There is no such thing about local politics if there is natural resources to be exploited. This is the very point those who oppose public financing don’t get. The Koch’s could literally attempt to buy every seat in the Senate, House, and White House in an election, and they would still be billionaires.

  6. PUBLIC FINANCING is the answer which means we will all be Dead before that happens. Until the masses take to the street because it gets soooo bad they literally can no longer take it, enjoy the show, as Wanda wrote you get the democracy we deserve.

  7. Seems to me getting elected here could be quite simple if the Union ran a story titled: DO YOU WANT THE TEA PARTY MAKING LOCAL DECISIONS FOR YOU?

    The story itself would cover those lendorsed by the local or county or state or region (local story first). The story would also detail the tea party positions local, again, first, or FED/STATE ISSUES THAT HAVE LOCAL INPACT.



    Call it a public service, if you will.

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