The political network overseen by billionaires Charles and David Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by an outside group to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.
The goal, announced Monday at the Kochs’ annual winter donor retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., would effectively allow the Kochs’ political organization – Freedom Partners – to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican parties. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million.
The network’s $889 million budget for 2016 includes spending on the presidential election and congressional races, and it would be financed by donors as well as the Koch brothers themselves.
The Kochs – who operate Wichita-based Koch Industries – and their advisers have built a robust political operation that includes a data and analytics firm, a state-focused issue-advocacy group, and affinity groups aimed at young voters and Hispanics.
Conservative donors recruited by the Kochs – hundreds of whom joined them in California this weekend for three days of issue seminars, strategy sessions and mingling with rising Republican stars – represent the largest single concentration of political money outside the two established parties, and one that has achieved enormous power within Republican circles in recent years.
Now their network will embark on its largest-ever drive to influence legislation and campaigns, leveraging Republican control of Congress and the party’s historic dominance of state capitols to push for deregulation, tax cuts and smaller government. In 2012, the Kochs’ network spent just under $400 million, an astonishing sum at the time.