Meet the Secret $256 Million Bank for Right Wing Causes

Everybody knows that wealthy conservatives, led by the infamous Koch brothers, have been funneling oceans of cash into the political process. Now, Politico reports, we have a sense of how much, and how it works.

The political news site got its hands on an IRS filing by the shadowy Freedom Partners group that reveals the nonprofit organization — until now known only to a few Washington insiders — doled out $236 million last year “to shape political and policy debate nationwide.”

The 38-page IRS filing amounts to the Rosetta Stone of the vast web of conservative groups — some prominent, some obscure — that spend time, money and resources to influence public debate, especially over Obamacare.

The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues. It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the document shows. And it made grants of $236 million — meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million.

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have been spending their pocket change trying to steer the nation to the political right, are the glue of the organization, but it’s clearly more than them. Look at it as a for the 1/100th percent crowd.

And the money does matter. The group dropped $130 million on two organizations trying to shut down the Affordable Care Act; $32.3 million on the politically active Americans for Prosperity group; $13.6 million on Iowa’s American Future Fund, which flooded airwaves there with Mitt Romney ads; and far down the list, grants of less than $1 million each to a series of state-level tea party groups.

Of course, the wealth that is flowing into these groups begins mostly with consumer spending. Koch Industries, for instance, owns such diverse entities as Georgia-Pacific (think Brawny paper towels), INVISTA (Stainmaster carpet) and Koch Fertilizer, which helps grow some of the veggies you eat every day.

The pervasiveness of the corporations in both daily life and American politics is unsettling, as is the knowledge that dollars people spend on consumer items help fuel political agendas they oppose. One sliver of good news: There’s an app for that.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

Scott Martelle
Veteran journalist Scott Martelle has written books on the Ludlow Massacre, the Red Scare clampdown on civil liberties, the history of Detroit and the story of the century-long search for John Paul Jones'…
Scott Martelle

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