A rare look inside the Koch brothers political empire

The labyrinthian design of the political network backed by the Koch brothers and their fellow conservative donors serves several purposes, but one of the biggest is to ensure the privacy of its financial backers. As we detailed last month, the money flows through a complex maze of tax-exempt groups and limited liability corporations, creating multiple barriers that shield the identities of the donors. Such anonymous contributions should be allowed, Charles Koch has argued, to protect people from the attacks that he and his brother David and their company have fielded. Critics say the Kochs and their allies seek to influence elections without accountability.


Following the Koch Brothers political empire.

Now a document published by Mother Jones provides a rare glimpse inside the closely held network. The spreadsheet -- apparently left behind by a guest who attended a recent Koch-sponsored donor seminar at a resort outside Palm Springs – lists the names of more than 40 top donors, along with the senior Koch officials they met with during the three-day conclave.

This is not the first time we’ve learned the names of some of the Koch network donors. But the document reveals the vast resources of the group’s backers, which includes top corporate executives, hedge fund billionaires and longtime Republican financiers. Several of those in attendance also have been top contributors to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove.

Among the notable attendees identified were:

*Papa John pizza chain founder John Schnatter

*Kenneth Griffin, chief executive of Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel

*Debra Waller, chief executive of Jockey International

*Silicon Valley real estate investor Carl Berg

The spreadsheet shows the personal attention that the Kochs and their operatives lavish on donors. Charles Koch was scheduled to hold one-on-ones with at least nine contributors, including private equity investor John Childs and TRT Holdings co-founder Robert Rowling, who were set to have sessions with him at the “Koch residence.” Many donors also met with senior staff at Americans for Prosperity, the major political arm of the network, which is in the midst of a huge campaign against vulnerable congressional Democrats. Top officials with Freedom Partners, a new tax-exempt business league that funds AFP and the other nonprofit groups, also were set to be in some of the meetings.

"It has long been reported that AFP participates in the Seminar,” said AFP spokesman Levi Russell. “It's a great assembly of organizations and individuals who support free-market solutions, and includes some of the greatest job creators in the country. AFP is proud to be a part of it.”

A spokesman for Koch Industries declined to comment, and officials at Freedom Partners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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