Coralville and Small-Town Democracy: 3, Koch Bros: 0

Abby Zimet

The winners

Small good news on the Kochtopus front, where an aggressive effort by Americans for Prosperity to swing local elections in a small Iowa town as part of a national move by some 35 Koch chapters to lay the groundwork for the 2014 elections met with hostility, unwanted attention, frequent rejection of what residents called Koch "lies and propaganda," and failure on all electoral fronts. The campaign to unseat three incumbents in tiny Coralville, which centred on the town's debt, came complete with dirty tricks that one critic deemed "almost hilarious." All three won anyway. The Koch cover has been so totally blown that Joe Biden called the winners to congratulate them on beating the Koch machine.

This level of outside involvement in a nonpartisan city election is unheard of, said Sue Dvorsky, a Coralville resident who was chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party from 2010-12.

“To me, it’s money in search of a problem,” she said of Americans for Prosperity’s participation. She later added, “This just feels wrong.”

It is allowed, though. A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United opened up political spending to outside groups like Americans for Prosperity.

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“Every time I go to a debate or anything, I’ve tried talking about the budget, and then they just go, ‘Koch brothers, Koch brothers, Koch brothers,’" said one candidate, who actually agreed with many Koch positions but still wished they “would just go away.”

The losers

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