If money were the only measure, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) would be the clear winner of the Koch network primary so far. The four super PACs supporting him received $11.4 million from known members of the Koch brothers’ political network, more than any other candidate’s network of supportive outside groups, according to an analysis by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) of Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports.
As with hard money donations to his presidential campaign, Sen. Cruz’s big dollar tally may mask his narrow base of support from the most important donor network in conservative politics. Nearly 97 percent of the Koch network cash that went to a Cruz super PAC came from a single contribution from hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. Only two other known members of the Koch network contributed to Sen. Cruz’s super PACs.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise USA, received the most contributions from members of the network with eight known Koch donors pitching in. All of the contributions to Right to Rise USA, however, were for $50,000 or less, meaning that Gov. Bush’s outside political operation was just the sixth top recipient of Koch network money with $192,298.
Gov. Scott Walker’s outside political operation, which includes a super PAC called Unintimidated PAC and a 527 organization called Our American Revival, found the most balance between big money and multiple donors, bringing in $5.46 million from six donors. Gov. Walker’s Koch network haul was buoyed by a $5 million contribution to his super PAC by Diane Hendricks, the billionaire owner of a roofing supply company.
CREW’s research, which uses the subset of publicly-named donors to a super PAC as a sample for the Koch network at large, supports reports that the conservative donors organized by Charles and David Koch are having difficulty settling on a presidential candidate to back. Just 30 percent of the donors CREW looked at contributed to any of the candidates and less, just a quarter, contributed to any candidate-related super PACs or 527 organizations. Several of these donors contributed to more than one candidates’ political operation, including Mr. Mercer, John Childs, and Robert Luddy.
CREW’s numbers are necessarily conservative since most of the members of the Koch network remain secret. To examine who is winning the Koch network primary, CREW cross-referenced the FEC reports of super PACs supporting the Republican presidential candidates with the donors to the Freedom Partners Action Fund (FPAF), the super PAC affiliated with the Koch network, during the 2014 election cycle. CREW also examined the filings of political groups associated with several candidates that are organized under section 527 of the tax code that report to the Internal Revenue Service. CREW did not, however, look at traditional political action committees associated with candidates that can only raise money in limited amounts. CREW only included donors who gave more than $10,000 to FPAF. Some of the contributions to FPAF were made by businesses, foundations and trusts. CREW sought to identify the individuals behind those contributions and subsequently searched for donations made by those individuals to outside groups supporting the presidential candidates.
CREW found 20 major FPAF donors who have contributed to outside organizations supporting GOP presidential candidates, which is less than gave directly to the candidates’ campaigns. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s super PAC, Pursuing America’s Greatness, got the third largest individual contribution from a FPAF donor, $3 million from Mountaire Corp.’s Ronald Cameron, but that was the only Koch network contribution the super PAC received. Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 527 organization, New Day for America, raised $450,000 from FPAF donors thanks to contributions from two board members of Ohio-based Cintas Corporation. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s operation drew support from cross-pollinating contributors as his super PAC received $250,000 from Mr. Mercer, and his 527, the American Future Project, received $25,000 from a North Carolina businessman who also contributed to both of Gov. Walker’s outside groups.
The bottom of the pack included former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose super PAC got $12,000 in all from two FPAF donors, though that does not count the $500,000 that a Cruz-supporting super PAC funded by Mr. Mercer gave to her super PAC. Dr. Ben Carson’s super PAC received just $250 from a single FPAF donor while seven presidential candidates whose super PACs were created before July did not receive any Koch network support, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose presidential campaign drew contributions from ten Koch network donors.
Five of the presidential hopefuls – former Gov. Bush, Sen. Cruz, Ms. Fiorina, Sen. Rubio, and Gov. Walker – attended the Koch network’s biannual donor conference this past weekend, where many of them “met with donors on the conference’s sidelines, while also wooing them in group addresses.” As the first caucus and primaries get closer and the field begins to narrow, more Koch network donors are likely to use their checkbooks to make their preferences known, unless that is, they choose to keep their support secret by funding dark money nonprofits supporting the candidates that do not have to disclose their donors.
To see a breakdown of the Koch network donations, please click the following link: https://www.scribd.com/doc/273747169/Koch-Network-Super-PAC-Giving