It wasn't exactly a secret that Democrats were hoping independent Greg Orman would unseat Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in November. The real unknown was the extent they were willing to go to help him.

Now we know the answer: At least seven figures' worth of (quiet) spending through a strategy that has been used before.

Thanks to a review of campaign finance reports by Huffington Post and Bloomberg last week, we know that Senate Majority PAC, which is run by former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), sent about $1.3 million late in the race to a pro-Orman super PAC called Committee to Elect an Independent Senate and $151,000 to a second pro-Orman group, Kansans Support Problem Solvers.

The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group that backs mostly Democrats, also gave to Committee to Elect an Independent Senate.

Why did that information surface only after the election? Because of the timing of Majority PAC's donations. The groups gave the money in late October, ensuring the disbursements would not hit publicly accessible Federal Election Committee reports until after Nov. 4.

Others have tried something similar. Remember Todd Akin, the 2012 Republican Senate nominee in Missouri who cost his party a seat after he said that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy? The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which had distanced itself from Akin, nonetheless sent $760,000 late in the race to the Missouri Republican Party.

The money was apparently used to run ads helping Akin.

Orman ended up losing to Roberts by about 10 percentage points. But the race was closer than that for most of the fall. And Orman — who left the door open to caucusing with both parties — was viewed as a wild card who just might help Democrats preserve their majority.

They lost that majority, of course. And they would not have kept it even if Orman — who enjoyed a boost after the Democratic nominee conveniently dropped out at the last possible minute — had won.

But the Democratic spending paints the clearest picture yet of the quiet support that Democrats lent Orman.

The assistance had to be quiet. With Roberts claiming daily that Orman was a closet Democrat masquerading as an independent, it would have fueled those attacks had it surfaced sooner. As it turned out, those attacks proved potent anyway.

Orman played no part in the outside spending decisions, because candidates and super PACs are barred from coordinating. And Republican donors also gave to the groups backing Orman.

But it's clear — now more than ever — that national Democrats wanted to see him win and used stealthy tactics to try to make it happen.