Charles Koch and his lieutenants in his political network have chosen not to disclose how much they will spend in the 2020 election this time around. “The reality is we’ve been strengthening our capabilities to go bigger than ever before,” Emily Seidel, CEO of Koch’s astroturf army Americans for Prosperity told CNN.
If that is any indication, spending by Team Koch in 2020 could push $1 billion after pledging to spend $889 million in the 2016 presidential election cycle. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that total federal election spending is on track to hit $14 billion this cycle, shattering all previous records.
A close examination of campaign finance disclosures by KochPAC, Americans for Prosperity Action, and other data by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveals that Koch’s own political operation is supporting at least 435 federal and state candidates in 2020.
In federal races, CMD has documented Koch support for Vice President Mike Pence’s political committee, 19 Republicans running for U.S. Senate, and 151 Republicans and seven Democrats running for U.S. House. AFP made news in 2019 when a leaked internal memo suggested that it would support Democrats, but it has supported four of the seven for years in reward for their anti-environment voting records.
On September 22, CMD reported that AFP Action had spent $6.5 million to pay canvassers to go door-to-door for Senators John Cornyn (TX), Tom Tillis (NC), Cory Gardner (CO), Steve Daines (MT), and David Perdue (GA), and on behalf of Republican Roger Marshall for the open senate seat in Koch’s home state of Kansas.
At the state level, the Koch political network is supporting two governors, three state attorneys general, nine justices for state supreme courts, three judges for the Texas State Court of Appeals, 71 candidates for state senates, 167 for state house seats, and two running for the Texas Railroad Commission. Out of the candidates identified, only three of the senate candidates and eight of the souse candidates are Democrats.
It is important to stress that much of the money Koch spends is difficult, if not impossible, to trace. What is documented below is limited to the donations that are required to be disclosed under federal and state law but, Koch Industries also attempts to indoctrinate its employees on who and what to vote for or against, and AFP engages in extensive electioneering.
Koch also maintains a big data and microtargeting operation, i360, which is utilized by activists, canvassers, campaigns, and others to influence the voting behavior of Americans, and the PR Firm In Pursuit Of. But the bulk of Koch spending is through dark money vehicles that don’t disclose the donors or the recipients of the Koch-fueled largesse.
In short, disclosed spending is only a snapshot of the Koch machine’s electoral activities in the races Koch targets.
See CMD’s “Koch Candidates, 2020” SourceWatch page for the complete list.