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Koch Operative Steered $55 Million to Front Groups Airing Ads Against Democrats; Ads Assailed Candidates Over Abortion, 9/11, Medicare

The Koch brothers are eager to present themselves as small-government libertarians, but their grants to front groups suggest a different set of priorities.
 
 
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Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of of Koch Industries, are known as big spenders when it comes to lobbying and influencing public policy. Now, a new document filed with the IRS reveals how the Koch political machine funneled over $54.5 million in previously undisclosed funds to a litany of front groups designed to smear Democrats.

The disclosure suggests that a very wide variety of Republican groups active in the last major election, from pro-life organizations that ran ads on abortion to shadowy fronts that aired partisan commercials with the infamous Ground Zero Mosque conspiracy, have been highly dependent on Koch money. The document also reveals that the Koch's political network spent much more on electing the current Congress than previously known.

Sean Noble, a Republican consultant, was hired to help administer the Koch war chest. According to Politico, Noble was part of a group of GOP operatives who met regularly with Karl Rove's superPAC to target 120 House of Representatives races in 2010. The close coordination was pivotal in helping the Republican Party capture 63 seats in one of the biggest midterm election landslides in modern history.

Yesterday afternoon, OpenSecrets.org bloggers Viveca Novak and Robert Maguire were the first to flag a tax form filed by an obscure Arizona-based foundation called the Center to Protect Patients' Rights, noting the foundation gave huge amounts almost exclusively to conservative groups that use undisclosed nonprofits to air partisan ads. The Center acted as a pass-through to distribute $44,599,946 in grants in 2010, and $10,783,500 the year before. Novak and Maguire also reported that the Center's tax forms were prepared by at least one employee of the DCI Group, a lobbying business.

Though the document does not reveal where the Center receives its funds, the tax forms available online from 2009 and  2010 indicate that Sean Noble, Koch's campaign commercial operative, managed the foundation. Heather Higgins, a  presenter at the infamous Koch mega-fundraisers, served on the board for part of 2009. The Center paid Noble's firm a total of $350,000 a year in lobbying and "management services." In turn, it appears, Noble played a significant role in fueling the most aggressive advertising campaign in the history of midterm elections.

Noble's grant list features sponsors of the most hard-hitting partisan ads, including Americans for Job Security and the Club for Growth. Many of the Center's grants, however, went to social conservative groups that clash with traditional libertarian values, particularly in terms of women's health and foreign policy. Although the Koch brothers are eager to present themselves as small government libertarians, the grants suggest a different set of priorities.

Here are some of the groups that benefited from the Center to Protect Patients' Rights' largess:

– The American Future Fund, which received $12,965,000 from the Center, ran ads that helped to defeat Democratic incumbents including John Spratt, D-S.C., Mark Schauer, D-Mich., Bobby Bright D-Ala., Chet Edwards D-Texas, Phil Hare, D-Ill,, Baron Hill D-Ind., and Travis Childers D-Miss. As we've noted, the group is also responsible for an ad campaign that hit Democrats for supporting a New York mosque at Ground Zero, allegedly built to honor the terrorists' victory on 9/11. In reality, the ads misquoted the lawmakers, and the mosque in question was a planned community center headed by a cleric who has worked for the government, including the Bush administration, for years to promote peace.

– The 60 Plus Association, which received $11,625,000 from the Center, runs aggressive ads against Democrats in both the House and Senate. The group was set up as a Republican response to the AARP. In 2010, the 60 Plus Association blanketed the nation with ads that charged that Democrats had " betrayed" seniors by passing health reform and cut Medicare.

– The Susan B. Anthony List, which received $1,025,000 from the Center, ran ads in 2010 accusing Democrats of funding "overseas abortions" and passing a health care bill that "requires Americans" to finance abortions (a claim labeled false by experts). The group, which spent over $11 million two years ago, even ran pro-life attack ads against Democrats who oppose abortion rights. Other forced pregnancy groups financed by the Center include Nebraska Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, and Americans United for Life Action. Americans United for Life Action received $559,000.

 
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