Koch Brothers Group Budgets $900 Million for 2016 Elections

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. — During a meeting Monday at the Rancho Mirage Ritz-Carlton, the Koch brothers’ political organization, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, released a budget of $889 million to fund the group’s activities ahead of the 2016 presidential race.

The budget includes expenditures on both presidential and congressional races, and would be financed by donors as well as David and Charles Koch.  Freedom Partners spends money — both directly and by channeling through associated nonprofits — on small-government advocacy and electioneering.  Planned activities for 2016 include advertising, data-gathering, and grassroots activism.

The Kochs and their advisers have already built a strong political operation that includes a state-focused issue advocacy group, a data and analytics firm, and affinity groups aimed at veterans, Hispanics, and young voters. During the 2014 midterm election cycle, Koch-affiliated organizations spent roughly $290 million in efforts to defeat vulnerable Democratic senators and place the upper chamber under Republican control.

The fundraising target indicates that the Koch brothers intend to turn their network into a concerted effort that could eclipse the size and scope of national political parties. The proposed $889 million is more than double the nearly $400 million the Republican National Committee spent during the 2012 election cycle.

But unlike the parties, the Kochs’ nonprofits do not have to disclose their donors, making it nearly impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs and how much comes from other donors.

The budget is a harbinger of the network’s largest drive in history to influence legislation and campaigns across the nation, leveraging the new Republican-controlled Congress and conservative dominance of state governments to push for libertarian principles such as deregulation, tax cuts, and limited government. The numbers also indicate the beginning of what may be the most expensive election year in history.