The Washington Post

The Koch Brothers have funded 44,000 ads in the 2014 election

Image courtesy of Center for Public Integrity
Image courtesy of Center for Public Integrity

A half-dozen groups with ties to libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have funded almost 44,000 ads in battleground states ahead of this November's midterm elections, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity and the Kantar Media Group/CMAG.

The six non-profit groups --  Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy AllianceConcerned Veterans for America, the Freedom Partners Chamber of CommerceGeneration Opportunity and the 60 Plus Association -- have run 43,900 television ads from Jan. 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014. Americans for Prosperity alone has run more than 27,000 ads, which is significantly more than groups like American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS -- groups with close ties to former Bush White House political svengali Karl Rove.

North Carolina's Senate race, which is widely regarded as the linchpin in the fight for control of the world's greatest deliberative body, has seen 8,600 ads funded by Kochworld alone. That's 1,700 more than the second most targeted state of Louisiana. (The top 5: North Carolina, Louisiana, Iowa, Michigan and Arkansas.)

Those numbers are absolutely breathtaking -- and speak to breadth and depth of spending by the vast Koch network on the midterms. (Check the bottom of this post for a detailed look at the various tentacles of Kochworld.) Americans for Prosperity alone is projected to spend $125 million on the midterms, according to a memo obtained by Politico, and the total budget for all six groups will likely be substantially higher than that.  Starting tomorrow, we will get a far more detailed look at what these non-profit organizations are spending since all outside groups spending money on political races have to disclose those expenditures starting 60 days before the general election. That's tomorrow. (And, yes, prior to tomorrow all non-profits like Americans for Prosperity and the Democratic-aligned Patriot Majority USA didn't have to disclose anything about what they were spending on races.)

Democrats, not surprisingly, leapt on the new report as another sign that the Koch brothers were trying to buy the election. "It’s clear now more than ever that GOP Senate candidates are counting on the Kochs to continue pouring millions into attack ads on their behalf," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky.  The new CPI report comes on the heels of reporting by Huffington Post's Sam Stein last week about a Koch conference attended by a number of high-profile Senate candidates who pledged varying levels of fealty to the brothers and their organization.

These two developments will add fuel to a fire that Democrats -- led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- have been stoking for months.  It remains very much an open question as to whether two donors -- even two so willing to spend so heavily -- can be made into a winning campaign issue for Democrats. What's entirely clear from the CPI report, however, is that if Republicans retake the Senate majority in 61 days time, the Koch brothers will have played a critically important role in it.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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