One of the most under-reported stories of the 2016 election is the impact of the Koch canvass machine. For instance, American for Prosperity, the Koch backed canvassing group, likely played a major role in swinging the 2016 election in Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
$125 Million Canvass Operation
In 2015, the Koch Brothers announced that they would give Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch Canvass, $125 million to influence the elections, part of a $990 million election year investment to win the Presidency and down ballot races. That money quickly shifted to the Senate and further down the ballot upon the nomination of Donald Trump.
According to Daily Kos, the Koch Brothers and their network focused substantial money on the door-to-door Koch canvass. For example, the network funded organizations that hired about 1,200 employees across 36 states to protect the Republican Senate majority. The new door to door operations, combined with the Kochs’ voter database, targeted five million unlikely Republican voters.
Some of the best get out the vote campaigns I’ve seen have resulted in a 1-2% bump in turnout. That was the difference in the race in Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The Koch canvass the coattails that swept in Trump where the margins were tight. In fact, Trump’s lack of ground game certainly did not create coattails that helped down ballot races.
Koch Canvass Saturated 36 States
A study (granted, not scientific) by Working America included reflections on the substantial door-knocking infrastructure of Americans for Prosperity. In other words, “Working America’s canvassers found, despite the story line that ‘Trump didn’t have a ground game,’ that the number of Trump voters who told canvassers they’d been contacted by Trump campaign was close to the number of Clinton voters who said they’d be reached by the Clinton campaign.” In addition, Working America canvassers found more AFP literature on doors than they expected. (This echoes Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol’s influential take on the institution gap between progressives and conservatives.)”
Creative New Ways for Progressives to Get to Scale
Saul Alinksi famously said that “Power goes to two poles: to those who’ve got money and those who’ve got people.” Put another way, there are two types of power in Democracies: organized people and organized money. At Progressive Power Lab, we organize both. While we aren’t matching the Koch network’s $125 million dollars, one of our partners, Membership Drive, has demonstrated how progressive canvass operations can generate funding to bankroll ballot initiative petition drives.