The left's fascination with the Koch brothers has exceeded the degree at which most psychotherapists would describe it as something resembling paranoia. To the opponents of the free market agenda, the Kochs have become the source of all that is questionable, disagreeable, or evil.
The latest iteration of these fears comes from Virginia state Sen. Don McEachin, who accused Charles and David Koch of being behind an effort to "rig" the commonwealth's electoral map by changing the way its presidential electors are allocated.
Under the U.S. Constitution, each state receives the same number of presidential electors as there are total members in its delegation to the U.S. Congress. Virginia is currently allotted 13, awarded on a "winner take all" basis, meaning the candidate who wins the popular vote for president gets all the electoral votes. One member of the Virginia Legislature has openly proposed changing the process and moving to a constitutionally-acceptable Nebraska-style system where electors are apportioned by congressional district with only the two electors representing the two U.S. senators going to the winner of the statewide popular vote.
Under that system, in Virginia in the last election, Obama would have received two electoral votes for carrying the state and four more for carrying the Second, Third, Eighth, and 11th Congressional Districts for a total of six. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who carried the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, and 10th Congressional Districts would have received seven.
It's an intriguing idea, one that has enough constitutional merit to make it worth debating. It would certainly change the landscape of presidential elections, putting a lot more states in play for both parties if each thought something was to be gained by campaign in states they currently write off. Republicans would once again have a reason to spend time and resources in New York and California while Democrats would find it necessary to campaign in Texas and Georgia. Under the current rules, the opportunity costs for "the other party" to campaign in those states are simply too much to make it sensible to do so.
It might also be that the nature of campaigns and policy proposals would change. A presidential election where the bigger states' electors at least were awarded on the basis of congressional district and statewide popular vote total rather than popular vote alone might lead to more consensus and less polarization.
For all that however, there is absolutely no evidence at all that the Koch brothers are responsible for the idea being introduced in Virginia or any place else. Moreover, in his hysteria McEachin fails to mention that his own Democratic Party introduced the same idea—many times—in the Virginia Legislature during the period in which it seemed no Democrat would ever again carry the commonwealth for president.
Think "hysteria" is too strong a word? Well, when McEachin says the Kochs should "get out of Virginia" does he mean they should take the nearly 1,600 Koch Industries jobs that are in the commonwealth with them? There are a lot of states that would like to have that many jobs suddenly needing to be filled, not to mention the nearly 6,000 additional jobs the company estimates exist because of the downstream multiplier effect. Is McEachin really suggesting Virginia has those jobs to lose, at a time when national unemployment—currently at 7.9 percent—may be starting to creep up all over again?
McEachin's outburst against the Kochs also ignores that it is the Democratic Party and its liberal allies who, since the presidential election of 2000, have also been pushing an alternative to the way presidential electors are chosen. It was they, in the aftermath of Bush vs. Gore, who came up with the idea of an interstate compact that would award a state's electors to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of how that state may have voted for president. It's an effort that, according to some sources and media reports, uber-liberal "philanthropist" George Soros is backing.
In trying to upend the result of the 2000 election Democrats proposed a reform that is not only arguably constitutional, as the Nebraska-style system clearly is, but is almost clearly unconstitutional and a violation of the framers' intentions when setting up the federal government. McEachin's rhetorical assault on the Kochs should not to be taken too seriously; it's the Democrats' repeated attacks on the constitutional system that should be.
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Corrected on 2/1/2013: A previous version of this blog misstated the election that prompted Democratic efforts to change the Electoral College. It was the 2000 election.