October 10, 2011; Source: Politico | Remember how Karl Rove (George W. Bush’s political adviser) and the Koch brothers (the really big money behind much of the right wing electoral machine) worked relatively hand-in-glove for the 2010 campaign through their respective arrays of “independent” 501(c)(4)s, PACs, and 527s?  Apparently, now the establishment Republican Rove and the ideologically libertarian Koch brothers are drifting apart.  

Apparently the Koch brothers machinery aims to spend $200 million in this election cycle, almost as much as the $240 million expenditure planned by groups organized by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.  The division seems to have gelled over the federal budget negotiations, with Rove’s team supporting Speaker John Boehner’s attempts to reach a compromise and Koch’s system, particularly Americans for Prosperity, calling on the House Republicans to take a harder stand against President Obama. 

On the left, there is an image of these conservative groups working in ideological lockstep, and some might even see this Politico article about Rove vs the Koch brothers as a conspiratorial story plant.  But it’s not.  There are multiple ideological divides on the right, reflected no more clearly than in the Tea Party’s upending of establishment Republicans such as Utah’s Bob Bennett. These groups do communicate, however.  The Rove and Koch organizations–Rove’s American Crossroads,  Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, and the American Action Network and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Limited Government, and the 60 Plus Association–held twice-a-month meetings during the 2010 election cycle, the libertarian, issue-oriented Koch groups were apparently uncomfortable all along with Rove’s Republican Party focus.

It is naive to imagine that the right wing is some sort of political monolith compared to the politically variegated left.  Like all of the nonprofit strategic alliances, the parties in the Rove/Koch political dynamic are sometimes competitors (such as in their initiatives targeting Latino voters, the Koch brothers’ foundations capitalizing the Libre Initiative in contrast to the Hispanic Leadership Network of the American Action Network), sometimes close partners (in their recent ad campaigns against anything that President Obama utters). 

One wonders if the anti-establishment tendencies of the Koch brothers’ apparatus might keep the campaigns of libertarians such as Ron Paul and Rick Perry (though the two Texans don’t like each other at all) alive despite having little chance of winning the Republican nomination or even providing them with the capital for a quixotic third party run.  Just think of Rove’s frequent television appearances fulminating against Christine O’Donnell who upended Mike Castle in the primary and guaranteed that Joe Biden’s senate seat would remain Democratic.  Already sputtering about Perry, Rove might lose his marbles if the Koch campaign apparatus of “independent” 501(c)(4)s leads to a third party splinter candidate.  —Rick Cohen