Koch Bros. and George Soros: How America’s High-Profile Political Donors Compare

Recently, IVN published an article about the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a political action network headed by Charles and David Koch, and its decision to budget nearly $900 million leading into the 2016 election cycle. The amount represents an unprecedented amount of money from a single group.

Many readers felt that the Koch brothers were unfairly singled out for their efforts, as they are not the only billionaires immersing themselves in broad networks of political activity. While the Kochs use their riches to advance libertarian causes, George Soros is their progressive counterpart.

While the purpose of the initial article was meant only to inform readers about breaking news, the call for comparison is fair, and more information is provided below.

Charles and David Koch head Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest private company, with an estimated annual revenue of $115 billion. The Koch brothers are tied at number 7 on the Forbes top billionaires list with $41.5 billion each.

George Soros is the chairman of Soros Fund Management, a hedge fund with a value of roughly $13.4 billion. He sits at number 25 on the Forbes list with $24 billion.

The Koch brothers, Soros, and their respective companies have spent millions upon millions of dollars on politics, from political organizations and committees to think tanks.

 

Political Action Committee (PAC) Spending (2000 to 2014)

Koch Industries: $16.03 million

Soros Fund Management: $0

Lobbying Expenditures (2000 to 2014)

Koch Industries: $97.95 million

Soros Fund Management: $260,000

Open Society Policy Center (Soros-Funded): $42.55 million

Individual Donations to Federal Candidates, Parties, and PACs (1989 to 2014)

Koch Brothers: $2.58 million

George Soros: $1.74 million

Individual Donations to 527 Organizations (1989 to 2010)

Koch Brothers: $1.5 million

George Soros: $32.5 million

Totals

Koch: 118.06 million

Soros: 77.05 million

All figures are courtesy of OpenSecrets.org.

 

Of course, these figures reflect expenditures that can be directly tied to Soros and the Kochs, and account for a small fraction of total expenditures. In addition to direct contributions to political candidates, parties, and committees, Soros and the Kochs have funded a variety of political think tanks and advocacy groups that are not required to disclose the identity of their donors.

The Koch network includes the Cato Institute, Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, the Reason Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Libre Initiative Trust. The Soros network includes the Open Society Institute, the Center for American Progress, the Democracy Alliance, and the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

As tracking donations to nonprofits and think tanks is incredibly difficult, it is not possible at this time to quantify which ‘side’ dominates this area. The only thing that is certain is that both networks have invested a great deal of money in American politics — billions, in fact — and will continue to do so.