This is How the Party Decides

According to Politico, Donald Trump has lost the Koch Brothers primary. The Kochs have declined to let Trump buy into their campaign dataset and have kept him off the agenda of campaign gatherings they host.

They don’t like him, and it matters.

And it can’t just be that they have money. Even if Trump is not worth as much as he claims, he’s not lacking for money. What he’s lacking are the political resources. The gatekeepers of those resources are people for whom politics is not a whim. The Kochs built their influential network with money, but also with time and energy. Trump turned his initial stake into a real estate empire. The Kochs have invested their money in politics.

Trump has responded by petulantly complaining about how the party leaders would take his money, but now they want nothing to do with him. Well, yeah. Money is important in politics, but it’s not the only thing. Some donors are also players. Others are just suckers.

This is essentially what we say in The Party Decides. Some party leaders, including informal leaders who do not hold any particular office, have resources that candidates need. We discussed cases of candidates coming to campaign in a state and finding that all the important campaign staff were working for their rivals. Seth and Greg and I also have treated campaign mailing lists as party resources.

Does this mean that the Kochs are the party? Well, yes. Not all of it, but they are important in the party. I think it’s likely that the trajectory of campaign finance regulations have empowered the money players in the party. But that’s nothing new. The balance of power in the party shifts. I don’t think the Kochs are kingmakers, but they are more than just money guys.

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

Hans Noel

Hans Noel is an assistant professor of government at Georgetown University.