Billionaires David (pictured) and Charles Koch are offering millions of dollars in campaign support to House Republicans who refuse to support a healthcare bill backed by President Donald Trump. | AP file photo

Billionaire Koch brothers go shopping for politicians

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Follow @csteditorialsIn the old days, bribery was done in secret. Now billionaires try to buy politicians right out in the open, like bidding on cows, while giving lip service to high ideals.

We can’t think of a time when money has played a more blatant role in possibly killing a single piece of major legislation.

The sweeping health care bill President Donald Trump failed to move through the House Thursday is a miserable piece of work. It would deny basic insurance to tens of millions of Americans who now are covered, and it would hurt older Americans the most. But the way in which the bill went down, for the day and maybe for good, should make every American ill. It’s a bad way to kill a bad bill.

First President Donald Trump threatened to “go after” any Republican who did not support the bill, which was unseemly, but in the normal way. Presidents and party bosses will do that.

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But then the billionaire Koch brothers, elected by nobody, came along on Wednesday and offered millions of dollars in campaign donations to any House Republican who refused to vote for the bill, which the brothers despise about as much as they despise Trump. Charles and David Koch could do that thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened a spigot of money — no limit on donations — from super-rich people shopping for buyable politicians, of which there is always a glut.

This is no unintended consequence. People who care about democracy — the quaint notion that the voices of ordinary people should not be drowned out by the bellows of oligarchs — told us Citizens United would lead to this. Now it has come to pass.

The Koch boys tried Wednesday to dress up their bribery with high-minded words, saying they wish only to support “principled lawmakers” who stand firm for a better health care bill that gives people “the choices and control they want.”

But Charles and David know, as we know, that an awful lot of those “principled lawmakers” would have turned on a dime had the brothers thrown their millions the other way.

When big money flies, it’s hard to know who’s standing on principle and who’s shouting “sold!”

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