Koch is abundant and low value: how the super-rich are buying American politics

In Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, he advances a theory that as the rich acquire a critical mass of the national wealth, they are able to influence policy in ways that diverts even more of the national wealth to their benefit, getting even richer, and giving them more opportunities to buy policies that increase inequality.

But Piketty is a little vague about how wealthy people can buy policy outcomes; it's kind of "something-something-campaign-contributions and think-tanks."

But as we enter a kind of Ragnarok-style showdown between the super-rich and the rest of the nation(/world!) in 2018 and 2020, very concrete examples of the process are emerging.

Richard Uihlein, an "Illinois shipping magnate," is a kind of low-rent Koch brother, and his specialty is GOP primaries in which one of the candidates is a hard-line neofeudalist who favors policies like lowering/eliminating the minimum wage, banning unions, and other Ayn Rand fanfic.

Because so many of these races are not competitive — they're so gerrymandered that the GOP candidate always wins — the real race is the primary, not the election; by backing these hard-liners, Uihlein is ensuring that their fringe ideology becomes mainstream; as Trump has shown, it doesn't matter how odious the Republican candidate is, the Fox-News-watching idiocrats and bootlickers and temporarily embarrassed millionaires will always show up to vote for them.

Uihlein's checks come in amounts once unheard of for individual donations to a single race. In addition to giving direct contributions to candidates' campaigns, he donates to super PACs working to boost their candidacies and edge out primary opponents by blanketing local TV markets with advertising.

"Dick Uihlein is kind of setting the tone for these primary races and shaping the contours of what the anti-establishment conservative donors follow," said one Republican consultant who requested anonymity because he has represented candidates who oppose Uihlein's efforts. "He seems to be the big fish right now."

And yet Uihlein, 72, cuts an understated figure, personally avoiding the spotlight and saying little publicly. Neither Uihlein nor his Pleasant Prairie, Wis.-based company, Uline, one of the nation's largest packaging and shipping-supply sellers, has a media representative. Requests for an interview through an informal family representative and the company were not answered.

Meet the little-known 'big fish' megadonor setting the tone for GOP primary races [Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Michael Scherer/Washington Post]

(via Marginal Revolution)