Three. That’s the number of times Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid mentioned his favorite political targets, the billionaire Koch brothers, in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held Tuesday.
Reid was testifying at the hearing, which was held to address a constitutional amendment to overturn the controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling.
“My Republican colleagues attempt to cloak their defense of the status quo in terms of noble principles,” said Reid, a Democrat from Nevada. “They defend the money pumped into our system by the Koch brothers as free speech.”
Two Democratic senators, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado, are sponsoring the amendment, which is backed by 40 other Democrats, to overturn the Citizens United ruling.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in that case allowed organizations such as unions and corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to nonprofit political groups.
Republicans largely favor the ruling, seeing it as a matter of free speech. Democrats believe it is undermines the principles of democracy, by, they say, allowing money to unfairly influence elections.
Reid testified for 10 minutes before mentioning billionaire libertarian donors Charles and David Koch.
“I defy anyone to determine what the Koch brothers are spending money on today politically,” he said. “They have all of these phantom organizations.”
“They must have 15 different phony organizations to pump into the system to hide who they are,” he railed, calling the businessmen “the two wealthiest men in America, interested in their bottom line.”
“The American people reject the notion that money gives the Koch brothers, corporations or special interest groups a greater voice in government than a mechanic, a lawyer, a doctor, a health care worker,” said Reid.
Reid’s focus on the Kochs, who operate Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kan., is not new.
By one count, the Nevada Democrat has mentioned the duo 134 times on the Senate floor. Earlier this year, he called them “unAmerican” after a group the Kochs support aired ads opposing Obamacare.
Reid’s focus led Republican Kan. Sen. Pat Roberts to comment last month that Reid was suffering from a “Koch addiction.”
In his testimony, Reid told a story about his 1998 Senate race against Republican John Ensign. Reid ultimately won the race, but said that he was bothered by the money floating around in the race.
“I hope that did not corrupt me, but it was corrupting,” he said of the experience.
When the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law passed in 2002, Reid said “it was like taking a bath.”
“I felt so clean.”
And with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote in favor of Citizens United, it was “back into the sewer.”