The left often makes boogeymen out of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who supply significant funds to many conservative causues, including Americans for Prosperity. The groups that receive money from this duo are deemed to be part of the “Kochtopus.”
Following the stories coming out of left-wing publications about FreedomWorks, one thing that I’ve found interesting is that we’ve heard a lot about their donors — but nowhere in these stories about leaked memos or a search through contributions to FreedomWorks will you find any mention of the Koch brothers.
While many conservative organizations are wholly dependent on corporate money or big donors, FreedomWorks has built an effective small donor strategy combined with private citizen contributions, as noted by Open Secrets back in October:
The group, a conservative super PAC with tea party roots, is an anomaly among super PACs in its emphasis on small-donor funding. In September, unitemized contributions, or those of $200 or less, made up 47 percent of contributions to the super PAC, exceeding its 35 percent average for the year.
Even larger contributions to the group were relatively small in September. There were many $250 donations and only five contributions of $10,000 or more that didn’t come from a FreedomWorks affiliate. The largest donation, $750,000, came from Mary Stiefel, a retiree from Pinecrest, Florida. This was her first contribution of the year, although she gave the group $5,000 in 2010 and has contributed to seven 2012 campaigns across the country.
Yet even without contributions from the Sheldon Adelsons and Bob Perrys of the super PAC world, FreedomWorks for America managed to raise about $3 million last month and spent about $4 million.
FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon says that part of the group’s strategy is to expand a network of supporters that totaled 45,000 people last year.
“Small donors tend to be very stable. They become part of the community,” Brandon said. “What ends up happening with these small donors is not only do they donate but they also volunteer…We are building a machine that on the day after the election is stronger than the day before.”
FreedomWorks’ network of small donors is all the more impressive when compared to other major super PACs’ fundraising statistics. As the table below shows, none of the other active super PACs raising as much or more money this election cycle comes close to having as large a share of funds from unitemized contributions. (Super PACs connected to labor unions are not included because they are in large part fueled by members’ dues, which are difficult to compare to individual donations to other super PACs.)
Of course, the Koch brothers are effective at what they do and, generally, I don’t really have a problem with them — other than their attempted takeover of the Cato Institute and calls for higher taxes. But contrary to the perception of leftists, not everything in the freedom movement is funded by the Koch brothers.