The Koch Network Spent $100 Million This Election Cycle

Democrats tried to turn the money against the GOP, but Republicans rode the funding to victory nonetheless.

The two groups at the heart of the Koch brothers' political network spent a combined $100 million on competitive races in 2014, spokesmen for the organizations tell National Journal.

Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit organization that serves as the Koch brothers' flagship political enterprise, spent $77 million on competitive Senate and House races, said spokesman Levi Russell. That total includes $56 million from AFP on TV, radio, and digital ads and direct mail, and another $21 million on grassroots efforts from their state chapters.

Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC, is slated to spend $25 million by the time the cycle finishes, said spokesman Bill Riggs, including the $2.1 million it has reserved for the runoff Senate race in Louisiana.

The pair worked in tandem this year: AFP bombarded the TV airwaves early in key Senate races to coincide with the botched implementation of Obamacare, softening up many Democratic incumbents before many of their campaigns had even kicked into gear. The groups' staggering spending figures will be credited with helping Republicans create what is shaping up to be a wave election for the party.

"The biggest decision strategically that we made was going so early with our ad effort," said AFP President Tim Phillips. "When we launched last year, it was probably unprecedented for an off-year cycle. I don't recall anyone spending tens of millions in early September through Memorial Day in an off-year."

By the summer, AFP had switched its emphasis to its grassroots network while Freedom Partners started spending heavily on the air.

Democrats tried to make the Koch brothers a centerpiece of their campaign, a move that elicited criticism but one party strategists vowed would make Republicans look like puppets of a pair of selfish billionaires. Nobody railed harder against them than Harry Reid, who took to the Senate floor earlier this year to argue they were trying to "buy our democracy."

That strategy will likely be heavily scrutinized by Democratic operatives as they try to determine how the party suffered such deep losses. It's unlikely Republicans will offer the same scrutiny to the Koch network.