Billionaires like the Koch Brothers and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are discovering there's an additional price to pay for their hefty spending on political activity -- their popularity.
According to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, just 10 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of wealthy conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch, while 21 percent have a negative impression.
Another 49 percent say they're either unsure or don't know who these men are. (Yet to put that percentage into perspective, the poll finds a similar number of Americans say the same thing about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the more high-profile politicians in the country.)
Meanwhile, 18 percent of respondents say they have a positive opinion of the anti-gun advocate Bloomberg – who served three terms as the country’s most visible mayor – versus 26 percent who have a negative opinion of him.
A year ago, Bloomberg’s numbers were in positive territory, 24 percent favorable vs. 20 percent unfavorable.
These numbers come amid stepped-up political involvement by these billionaires – and stepped-up counterattacks.
The Koch Brothers, through their outside group Americans for Prosperity, have spent a reported $30 million in TV ads hitting Democratic candidates in key Senate contests.
An example: “Millions of people have lost their health insurance. Millions of people can’t see their own doctors,” a woman says to the camera in an Americans for Prosperity TV ad targeting Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “Obamacare doesn’t work.”
And Democrats have fired back. “The out-of-state billionaire Koch Brothers funded the fight to let flood-insurance premiums soar, helping the insurance companies” goes a TV ad in Louisiana by the Democratic group Senate Majority PAC.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also has taken to the Senate floor to denounce the Koch Brothers on a regular basis.
As for the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent Bloomberg, he recently announced that he would spend some $50 million to mobilize voters who feel strongly about pushing gun control. The National Rifle Association has responded. "Stay the hell out of our gun cabinets because this freedom is not for sale," the NRA’s top lobbyist said last week.
Strikingly, the NBC/WSJ poll shows that the highest name identification – and highest negative ratings – of the Koch Brothers comes from Democratic respondents. And that raises the question: Are the Democratic counterattacks against the Kochs intended to fire up the base? (If so, it appears that has worked so far.) Or are they to persuade swing voters? (If so, that looks like a reach.)
Bloomberg’s numbers suggest that his organization might not have a lot of crossover appeal, especially when his name is attached. According to the poll, Democrats have a net-positive view of him, 25 percent to 15 percent.
But Republicans (10 percent to 38 percent) and independents (19 percent to 28 percent) have net-negative opinions of the former New York City mayor.