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Tea Party Group Fires Latest Shot in Koch War

By Steve Tetreault for the Las Vegas Review Journal

WASHINGTON – A tea party group has fired the latest shot in the Senate war over the Koch brothers.

Tea Party Patriots filed a Senate complaint on Monday against Sen. Harry Reid, saying the majority leader from Nevada was using his office to “unlawfully and unethically” target private citizens, namely billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

The complaint sent to the Senate Ethics Committee was similar to one filed in April by the Republican Party of Louisiana. It said Reid was improperly using his taxpayer-funded website and Twitter account to launch attacks against the Kochs.

The Louisiana Republicans have not received word from the Senate on the status of its complaint, according to executive director Jason Dore. The Ethics Committee did not comment.

In the new complaint, the Tea Party Patriots also cried foul that Reid allowed the Capitol Visitor Center to be used as a venue for a May 20 screening of “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition,” a film critical of their business practices.

It said calls for donors at the event “demonstrate that Senator Reid intended the event to function as a fundraiser,” which would violate rules against fundraising in a federal building.

The tea party group also charged Reid scheduled an all-night Senate talkathon on climate change in March as a nod to Tom Steyer, a billionaire and Democratic donor who had hosted a fundraiser attended by Reid a month earlier.

“This is a blatant example of a powerful Washington figure deciding that it is his prerogative to bring the full weight of his office against private citizens or organizations with whom he disagrees and, conversely, rewarding those who make major contributions to his favored candidates and political party groups,” said the complaint signed by Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots national co-founder.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson shrugged off the complaint, saying Tea Party Patriots was a Koch front group that has received $200,000 in grants from the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit funded by the brothers.

“We are shocked – shocked! – that a publicity-seeking, extremist tea party group which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers’ secret bank would attempt a frivolous publicity stunt to distract from the Kochs’ efforts to rig the system for billionaires like themselves,” Jentleson said.

Reid has attacked the Kochs steadily for the past several months, part of a strategy to light fires under Democratic voters this fall by making the billionaires the bad guys in a battle over economic equity.

At various times, the Senate leader has called the Kochs “un-American,” and has accused them of “trying to buy America” by working against Democrats as a way to loosen federal regulations and increase profits. The brothers are major funders of Americans for Prosperity, which says it has budgeted $125 million to spend on campaigns against Democratic senators this year.

Generally, Reid has welcomed return fire from the Kochs and their conservative supporters as a way to keep the brothers in the headlines.

On the day of the movie screening, Reid defended the use of the Capitol to show the Koch brothers film, a documentary by Robert Greenwald.

“There’s nothing that’s ethically wrong with our going to talk about some documentary,” Reid told reporters. “The man that has produced this documentary has produced seven other documentaries about the Iraq war, Afghanistan war, about the Koch brothers.”

GOP complaints at the time “show how (the Koch brothers) tentacles are in every part of the Republican congressional establishment.”