The Koch Network Spent $100 Million This Election Cycle

Democrats tried to turn the money against the GOP, but Republicans rode the funding to victory nonetheless.

Nov. 4, 2014, 6:35 p.m.

The two groups at the heart of the Koch broth­ers’ polit­ic­al net­work spent a com­bined $100 mil­lion on com­pet­it­ive races in 2014, spokes­men for the or­gan­iz­a­tions tell Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity, a non­profit or­gan­iz­a­tion that serves as the Koch broth­ers’ flag­ship polit­ic­al en­ter­prise, spent $77 mil­lion on com­pet­it­ive Sen­ate and House races, said spokes­man Levi Rus­sell. That total in­cludes $56 mil­lion from AFP on TV, ra­dio, and di­git­al ads and dir­ect mail, and an­oth­er $21 mil­lion on grass­roots ef­forts from their state chapters.

Free­dom Part­ners Ac­tion Fund, a su­per PAC, is slated to spend $25 mil­lion by the time the cycle fin­ishes, said spokes­man Bill Riggs, in­clud­ing the $2.1 mil­lion it has re­served for the run­off Sen­ate race in Louisi­ana.

The pair worked in tan­dem this year: AFP bom­barded the TV air­waves early in key Sen­ate races to co­in­cide with the botched im­ple­ment­a­tion of Obama­care, soften­ing up many Demo­crat­ic in­cum­bents be­fore many of their cam­paigns had even kicked in­to gear. The groups’ stag­ger­ing spend­ing fig­ures will be cred­ited with help­ing Re­pub­lic­ans cre­ate what is shap­ing up to be a wave elec­tion for the party.

“The biggest de­cision stra­tegic­ally that we made was go­ing so early with our ad ef­fort,” said AFP Pres­id­ent Tim Phil­lips. “When we launched last year, it was prob­ably un­pre­ced­en­ted for an off-year cycle. I don’t re­call any­one spend­ing tens of mil­lions in early Septem­ber through Me­mori­al Day in an off-year.”

By the sum­mer, AFP had switched its em­phas­is to its grass­roots net­work while Free­dom Part­ners star­ted spend­ing heav­ily on the air.

Demo­crats tried to make the Koch broth­ers a center­piece of their cam­paign, a move that eli­cited cri­ti­cism but one party strategists vowed would make Re­pub­lic­ans look like pup­pets of a pair of selfish bil­lion­aires. Nobody railed harder against them than Harry Re­id, who took to the Sen­ate floor earli­er this year to ar­gue they were try­ing to “buy our demo­cracy.”

That strategy will likely be heav­ily scru­tin­ized by Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ives as they try to de­term­ine how the party suffered such deep losses. It’s un­likely Re­pub­lic­ans will of­fer the same scru­tiny to the Koch net­work.

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