When it comes to hard money contributions in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has taken the lead with what may be the most important donor network in conservative politics. Sen. Cruz’s presidential campaign received more money — $30,200 — from known members of the Koch brothers’ political network than any other candidate, according to an analysis by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) of Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports.
The next top recipient, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), took in $22,600 from members of the network. Though Sen. Cruz pulled in the most money from the network, Sen. Rubio has a wider base of support among the group’s right-wing donors. Ten Koch network donors contributed to Sen. Rubio while Sen. Cruz raised funds from just seven, though three donors gave to both.
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 candidate’s FEC reports with the donors to the Freedom Partners Action Fund (FPAF), the super PAC affiliated with the Koch network, during the 2014 election cycle. 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 the presidential candidates. Several of the contributions to current senators running for president were redesignations of previous contributions to their Senate campaigns.
Though none of the candidates received contributions from David and Charles Koch, the actual billionaire Koch brothers, Sen. Rubio’s campaign received contributions from two Koch Industries political employees, including Koch Industries’ lobbying head, Philip Ellender. A previous $5,000 contribution made by Koch Industries’ PAC to Sen. Rubio’s Senate campaign was also redesignated to his presidential campaign. Contributions can’t be redesignated for another election without permission from the contributor.
CREW found 24 major FPAF donors who have already contributed to GOP presidential candidates. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush lags behind both Sens. Cruz and Rubio, taking in $8,100 from three donors who also contributed to FPAF. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiornia also received contributions from three FPAF donors, but her haul only added up to $5,900. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Dr. Ben Carson received contributions from two FPAF donors each while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) each had a single Koch network contributor. Donald Trump, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former Sen. Rick Santorum did not gain any support from FPAF donors.
The race for Koch network cash is far from over. Most of the donors to FPAF have yet to commit to any of the candidates, at least according to currently available FEC reports. One reason may be that several candidates declared their candidacies in July, meaning they don’t have to report their finances until this coming October. In particular, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who David Koch has suggested is a favorite of the billionaire brothers, is likely to find support among members of the Koch political network.
In addition, with outside groups that can accept unlimited donations far outpacing the fundraising of official campaigns this election cycle, the real measure of Koch network support will be July 31 when super PACs report their finances to the FEC. The Koch primary has just begun.