By Ed O’Keefe
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats accused Republicans on Thursday of holding up aid to the new Ukrainian government and sanctions against certain Russian officials in hopes of getting the Obama administration to end plans for a proposed regulation that would dramatically change how nonprofit groups engage in political activity.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday that Senate Republican leaders had demanded that the Internal Revenue Service delay new regulations against nonprofit political advocacy groups in exchange for including long-sought reforms at the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, in legislation providing aid to Ukraine.
In doing so, Mr. Reid said, Republicans were more interested in helping their campaign donors, including billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who are bankrolling conservative political groups helping GOP congressional candidates. “It’s hard for me to comprehend how with a clear conscience they could say, ‘Ukrainians, we probably can’t help you because we’re trying to protect the Koch brothers,’ ” Mr. Reid told reporters Thursday. “And not only that, they’re saying to the American people that protecting the Koch brothers is more important than helping our country.”
Mr. Reid has devoted considerable time in recent weeks to direct attacks on the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars through their super PAC on television ads attacking incumbent Democrats.
In a separate speech Thursday, he said the brothers “may spend hundreds of millions of dollars rigging the political process for their own benefit. And they may believe that whoever has the most money gets the most free speech.”
The dispute means that Congress is unlikely to approve a new U.S. aid package to the Ukrainian government and sanctions against Russian authorities before leaving Friday for another weeklong recess.
The inaction comes as eight U.S. senators plan to travel Thursday night to Ukraine to meet with that nation’s political leaders, and as Russian troops began massing on the Ukrainian border just days before a referendum Sunday in Crimea over whether the region should split from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
World financial markets also teetered Thursday as the standoff intensified.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 200 points in late-afternoon trading Thursday.