The secretive political network of conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has aired more than 43,900 television ads this election cycle in an attempt to help Republicans take control of the Senate in the upcoming November election.
That amounts to nearly one out of every 10 TV ads in the 2014 battle for the Senate according to a new Center for Public Integrity analysis of data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG, an advertising tracking service, covering spending from Jan. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2014.
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The total includes the six most active nonprofit groups in the Koch brothers’ coalition: Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy Alliance, Concerned Veterans for America, the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Generation Opportunity and the 60 Plus Association.
Their prominence has led to denunciations by Democrats, and praise from Republicans, as they’ve bombarded incumbent lawmakers with negative ads and exulted conservative challengers. No other right-leaning coalition has been as active.
Even the two main big-money committees co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove — American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — have only aired about half as many ads to date as these six Koch-connected groups.
In all, Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ flagship political operation, alone has aired more than 27,000 ads in a combined nine battleground states — accounting for about one out of every 16 ads across all Senate races, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.
Koch-connected groups reportedly intend to spend $290 million to help Republicans make gains in Congress this November. Thus far, Kantar Media/CMAG spending estimates indicate the groups have invested at least $14.5 million. This amount is undeniably a conservative estimate, as it includes only TV ad buys — not production costs or expenditures related to radio ads, online ads, direct mail, canvassers or other activities.
These so-called “dark money” nonprofit groups are not required to disclose their funders to federal election regulators, unlike candidates, parties, political action committees and super PACs.
And although election-related advocacy can’t be the “primary purpose” of these groups, they’ve nonetheless established themselves among the nation’s most powerful political forces.
In Alaska, the Koch-backed Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce has accused Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of “standing with insurance companies” by supporting President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
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This story is part of Buying the Senate 2014. Whether Republicans control both chambers of Congress squarely depends on Senate races in a handful of states. Click here to read more stories in this investigation.
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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.