The Koch brothers’ powerful donor network spent $129 million in 2014, more than five times what in did in the previous, non-election year.
A new IRS filing released on Tuesday reveals the vast and well-funded reach of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an umbrella organization that billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch established to funnel cash from wealthy conservatives across America into politics, lobbying and their pet causes.
During the 2014 cycle, the group raised $126 million and spent $129 million. That contrasts to the $36 million it raised and $22.3 million it spent during the previous year, when there were no national elections.
In the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, however — a contest Charles Koch described as the “mother of all wars” — Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce raised $256 million and distributed almost $236 million to various conservative advocacy organizations.
These grants included $115 million to the Center to Protect Patients Rights, an anti-ObamaCare group.
Unlike the political action committees that specifically raise and spend money on behalf of candidates, Freedom Partners Chamber of
Commerce is classified as a trade organization. This distinction allows it to raise money without disclosing its donors, leading to it being described as the “Koch brothers’ secret bank.”
The Koch network also created a super-PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund for the 2014 election cycle that raised $29 million and spent $24 million helping
Some of the super-PAC’s largest donors include the brothers, hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, Texas oilman Paul Foster and billionaire Wisconsin roofer Diane
And although the Koch network is spending at an extraordinary scale, its lack of transparency is now unremarkable.
An increasing number of organizations designed to influence electoral politics use the 501(c) section of the tax code to obscure their donors’ identities.
In the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Marco RubioMarco RubioBudowsky: Why Warren masters Trump Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ Five ways Trump’s convention was a success MORE has come under intense scrutiny for his allies’ use of a “social welfare” nonprofit that critics charge exists solely to promote Rubio’s bid for the White House.
The group’s recent filing reveals in only the broadest terms what the organization has spent.
Of the $129 million Freedom Partners spent last year, the group says $20 million went to “nondeductible lobbying and political expenditures.” A further $7 million was spent on “political campaign” activities.
The Koch network dispensed $88 million in grants last year, up from $19 million the previous year.
Of those grants, about $22 million went to Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a group credited with fertilizing the Tea Party movement. AFP regularly runs attack ads against
Democrats running for office and against President Obama.
The Koch-backed network also gave millions to groups that share a dedication to conservative causes and free-market principles: $16 million to Concerned Veterans for America; $5 million to the National Rifle Association; $6.5 million to Hispanic outreach group The LIBRE Initiative; $14 million to youth grassroots group Generation Opportunity; $2.4 million to the American Energy Alliance; and $100,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, led by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
Liberal activists and Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSuper-PAC targets Portman on trade Dem leader urges compromise on FCC set-top box plan Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (Nev.) in particular — have attacked the Kochs personally, and this is why they say donors do not want their identities revealed.
Reid describes the brothers as “un-American,” and in the 2014 campaign cycle Democrats portrayed the brothers as greedy industrialists who were purchasing Republican politicians to serve their fossil fuel agenda.
Their multibillion-dollar private company, Koch Industries, is an industrial giant with products ranging from petrochemicals to paper. Critics say the Kochs want to gut environmental regulations to give themselves a free pass to pollute.
The Kochs contend that they maintain high corporate standards across the board. They also refute charges of hypocrisy by telling critics that they are against all forms of welfare, including corporate welfare. The Kochs have also been working closely with the Obama administration on criminal justice reform.
Neither Koch brother has spent a penny so far on the Republicans running for president, but the Koch network plans to spend close to $900 million on its various activities during the 2016 election cycle.