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Koch Lobbying Nears $10 Million, Donation Transparency Increases

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Charles and David Koch are best known for their big political spending, but public records show the billionaire industrialists have also invested close to $10 million on lobbying Congress this year, targeting such issues as carbon taxes, renewable fuel standards, greenhouse gas restrictions and campaign financing.  

The Koch Industries legal, lobbying and public affairs arm, known as Koch Companies Public Sectors, spent $4 million on lobbying between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to its third-quarter lobbying report, more than in any quarter this year or in 2013. The multinational corporation deployed half a dozen lobbyists largely to push back against federal taxes and environmental mandates, and to monitor legislation in such areas as oil and gas, trade and transportation.  

That brings Koch lobbying to $9.4 million through the first three quarters of this year, putting Koch Companies Public Sector on pace to top the $10.4 million it spent on lobbying in 2013. Four of the six lobbyists identified on the company’s most recent disclosure report also helped underwrite the Koch Industries PAC, which has raised $3.2 million and is also on track to top its 2012 expenditures of $3.1 million.  

Though under fire from Democrats for what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decries as their “shadowy influence,” the Koch brothers and their companies have substantially stepped up their publicly reported advocacy and campaign spending this year. Charles and David Koch together made $4 million in fully disclosed campaign contributions in the last three months, a close to 20-fold increase over their publicly reported political donations in 2012. In the previous election, the two brothers each gave about $114,000 apiece to GOP party committees and candidates, public records show.  

The largest share of this year’s individual Koch donations — $2 million contributed through two separate trusts from each brother — went to Freedom Partners Action Fund, the new unrestricted super PAC that is moving to center stage in the Koch political network.  

The PAC raised some $15 million in a three-month period between July and September, recent Federal Election Commission filings show, bringing its receipts this year to $15.6 million. The Freedom Partners super PAC reportedly pulled in another $5 million in the first two weeks of October, bringing its grand total to $20 million and is expected to spend up to $25 million on this midterm.  

In addition to Charles and David Koch, the super PAC’s top donors include Robert L. Mercer, CEO of the hedge fund management company Renaissance Technologies, who gave $2.5 million, and Diane Hendricks, chairwoman of the investment firm Hendricks Holding Co., who donated $1 million. Trucking executive Clarence L. Werner, chairman emeritus of Werner Enterprises, Inc., also gave $1 million through a trust, and agribusiness executive Ron Cameron, CEO of the Arkansas-based Mountaire Corp., who gave Freedom Partners $500,000 through his company when the super PAC launched in June, upped his total to $1 million.  

Freedom Partners Action Fund has spent some $15 million already in tight Senate races, including $2.7 million to oppose Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor, and $1.9 million against North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, another incumbent Democrat. The super PAC's pro-GOP spending includes $3.3 million to back Tom Cotton in Arkansas; $3.2 million for Joni Ernst in Iowa; $2.5 million for Cory Gardner in Colorado, and $1.9 million supporting Thom Tillis in North Carolina.  

The bulk of Koch-linked advocacy and political spending still takes place through undisclosed avenues, through such Koch-backed tax-exempt groups as Americans for Prosperity, Concerned Veterans for America and Generation Opportunity. But various estimates the network of advocacy groups linked with the Kochs will spend $300 million on this election. The largest share of that will come from the tax-exempt group Americans for Prosperity, which has spent millions targeting Democrats and attacking the Affordable Care Act.  

All that may help explain why one of the measures Koch lobbyists pushed for this year was a House bill authored by Michigan Republican Dave Camp to block for one year any efforts by the Treasury Department or the Internal Revenue Service to rewrite their regulations governing political activity by tax-exempt groups.  

Other provisions that Koch companies lobbied for this year include a resolution sponsored by now-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would hurt the economy; a Senate bill authored by Wyoming Republican John Barrasso to repeal the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, and a resolution by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, to disapprove an Environmental Protection Agency rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The company also opposed Senate Democrats’ resolution to amend the Constitution to reverse Supreme Court rulings to permit limits on political spending.  

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