by Robert Maguire

Political money flowed freely in the world of conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch in 2012.

With most of the annual tax filings for non-disclosing nonprofits now in, it’s clear that no other conservative or liberal dark money network matched, in combined size and complexity, the constellation of Koch-linked groups that churned hundreds of millions of dollars into elections around the country last year.

The Dark Money Machine

In 2012 alone, $301 million poured into this system — $196 million of which was given, in the form of grants, to dark money groups that engaged in federal electioneering. The network includes such well-known groups as Americans for Prosperity, 60 Plus and Americans for Job Security —  copiously funded 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and 501(c)(6) trade associations, none of which are required to disclose their donors to the public. Some of the entities in the web are simply way stations for cash that is doled out to other, more politically active groups in the system.

On the other side of the ledger, political spending reported by this system’s members to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) came to $170 million in 2012. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that roughly $86 million of that — or more than one-fourth of all dark money spending reported in 2012 — came in the form of grants from other Koch-linked groups.

The politically active nonprofits with the closest ties to the Kochs are some of the biggest spenders in the dark money world. Three of them are in the top 10, and six are in the top 20.

In 2012, more than a third of the record-setting haul brought in by the Koch’s flagship nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity — $115 million — came from three dark money groups tied to the Kochs that did nothing but give out checks: the Center to Protect Patient Rights(CPPR), Freedom Partners, and TC4 Trust. CPPR’s tax filing was first leaked to the Daily Caller.

Americans for Prosperity’s political spending in 2012, as reported to the FEC, was second only to that of Crossroads GPS, which was co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove.

The 2012 Dark Money Churn

One group got almost all of its 2012 revenues from organizations linked to the Kochs. Ninety-four percent of the $11.7 million brought in by American Commitment came from just two grants given by Koch-linked groups, Freedom Partners and CPPR.

The 2012 revenues of other groups, whose IRS filings have yet to be made publicly available despite several requests by the Center for Responsive Politics, far outpaced their incomes of previous years, with vast amounts coming from within the Koch network.

American Future Fund, for example, brought in a total of nearly $63 million from just two groups last year — CPPR and Freedom Partners. That’s close to double the total revenues of the group from all sources during the first four years of its existence combined: $35 million from 2008 through 2011.

Americans for Responsible Leadership received $24.7 million from CPPR in 2012 — nearly 14 times its revenue from all sources in 2011, its first year in operation.