Koch Brothers Launch $125 Million Spending Spree for Midterms, Beyond

Friday, 09 May 2014 08:50 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Charles and David Koch will use their political action committee to unleash at least $125 million on a grass-roots broadcasting and data operations for conservative candidates in the 2014 midterm elections and have outlined a longer term battle vision.

The expenditure by the conservative billionaire brothers' Americans for Prosperity will be aimed at boosting free market candidates while hammering Democrats, and the vast expenditure will alone exceed the combined total spending of all of the official party organizations in the 2012 elections, Politico reported.

The funds are expected to transform the organization's already sprawling field operation and deploy a new "closed-loop data system in which volunteer and membership information is automatically updated" for access by phone bank workers and canvassers going door to door with the latest technology, such as tablets.

Beyond the 2014 elections, the move is designed to jump-start a longer term operation to expand the influence of conservatives into new states and broaden the movement's base of support to include millennials, Hispanics, and low-income voters, an aim the Republican Party has been vexed about achieving as a condition of its survival.

The group has spent more than $35 million on ads attacking vulnerable Democrats in key Senate and House races, including those of Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The organization's communication was intended to update major donors about the results of an extensive analysis it conducted of how and why Democrats outmaneuvered Republicans in 2012, and to reassure key backers who may have had lingering doubts about the organization's ability to deliver concrete victories going forward.

Specifically, the letter outlined the "tough and painful lessons" learned in the last cycle, including an insufficient data system that caused delays in updates and data inaccuracies during critical phases of organizing efforts; having been outmanned by the left-wing activists, as well as Obama's campaign; and deficiencies in message targeting for major issues to key demographics and constituencies.

The memo said AFP has used the analysis to develop "a sophisticated new media message-testing strategy to target specific demographics in specific locations we need to move on our issues," according to Politico.

The memo also said that campaign advertisements will "place great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak," while convincing voters that free market, low-regulation policies will "create the greatest levels of prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, especially for society's poorest and most vulnerable."

"We consistently see that Americans in general are concerned that free-market policy — and its advocates — benefit the rich and powerful more than the most vulnerable of society … We must correct this misconception," the letter said, according to Politico.

Other Koch-backed nonprofits are also ramping up their operations. The LIBRE initiative, for example, will focus on educating Hispanic communities about the values of free market principles while hiring field directors in areas concentrated with Latinos in the Southwest.

Generation Opportunity, the brothers' youth advocacy group, is focusing on staffing up across the country — including posts for state directors, events directors, digital staffers, and volunteer coordinators — to "engage the millennial generation to advance free market principles by growing grass-roots networks that will supply advocates and local community volunteers," according to Politico.

And there has been aggressive recruitment of data developers, engineers, and analysts for Themis, a nonprofit that supports the back-end data operations of Koch network groups and also provides services to Republican campaigns and party committees.

The AFP donor memo also highlighted the group's successes in achieving conservative policy victories in five "model states" — Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. It said it plans to expand its program into eight new "pathway states," including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, Politico reported.

Meanwhile, the Koch nonprofit organization, Freedom Partners, is stepping up its operations. It aired $2 million worth of ads last month targeting Democratic senators on Obamacare. In 2012, the group distributed $236 million through an array of conservative nonprofits, and plans to top that figure this year.

"We're really looking long term — beyond any given election cycle," Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis told Politico. "We've focused on building out our capabilities to educate Americans on the benefits of a free society."

While an AFP spokesman declined to comment on the 2014 budget, the organization did not dispute that the authenticity of the "Confidential Investor Update," which was distributed to major donors in March, according to Politico.

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