Republican Moneymen

Outside groups are spending record amounts influencing the election this year, with cash going to Republican candidates over Democrats 7 to 1. Many of the big donors are anonymous, but a few have emerged in media reports. The Daily Beast reveals the players we know—and don’t know—who are bankrolling the spree.

John Chiasson / Getty Images; Peter Kramer / AP Photo

John Chiasson / Getty Images; Peter Kramer / AP Photo

The Koch Brothers

Billionaires David and Charles Koch have become public enemy number one for Democrats after spending millions on bankrolling conservative institutions and causes. The group they founded, Americans for Prosperity, is considered a key backer of the Tea Party movement, helping to train and organize activists. Other causes include a push to pass a referendum in California neutering the state’s landmark climate change legislation.

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

Don Blankenship

Most CEOs are frightened of appearing too political, but not Massey’s Don Blankenship. The mining tycoon has thrown millions of dollars into judicial elections, and some of the judges have later sided with him in key cases. He holds a dim view of government regulations and went so far as to blame them for causing a deadly explosion at one of his company’s mines. Last year he bankrolled an anti-regulation rally featuring country musician Hank Williams Jr. and Sean Hannity, presiding over the affair himself bedecked in red, white, and blue. Blankenship and other coal executives reportedly talked about setting up political committees to run ads against candidates who provoked their ire—could some of these mysterious front groups in coal country be connected? We have no way of knowing.

Paul Sakuma / AP Photo

Target

The retail giant became a cautionary tale this year for other corporations looking to dip a toe into post-Citizens United ruling advertising after it spent $150,000 on ads for Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Upset over his stance on same-sex marriage, gay rights groups organized a boycott of the retail chain that led to an apology from Target’s CEO. But the money was only disclosed because of Minnesota’s tough campaign finance laws—similar buys by other corporations may be going on all over the country without any way for customers hold them accountable.

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Karl Rove

Bush’s brain is once again one of the most important figures in the Republican Party’s election efforts. His group, American Crossroads, is expected to spend up to $50 million this year influencing races, according to Politico, and millions of dollars in expenditures by the group and its spinoff, American Crossroads GPS, are funded by unknown sources. Despite billing itself as a grassroots operation, its initial seed money came almost entirely from just four ultra-wealthy donors.

Bill Clark / Getty Images

Chamber of Commerce

The country’s premier trade association is on pace to spend $75 million this election, with the bulk going to Republicans. The White House has gone on the offensive against the organization over accusations from ThinkProgress that it may have used foreign money to finance its ads. The Chamber denies the claim, and even liberal outlets like Mother Jones don’t see a lot of substance to the attack, but since the Chamber doesn’t disclose its donors, Democrats are happy to use the issue to build momentum for passing new disclosure laws.

American Future Fund

Here’s one shadowy group that’s been forced to show its true colors. The New York Times investigated Iowa’s American Future Fund, which has spent millions on races around the country, and traced its funding to Bruce Rastetter, CEO of a large ethanol business. This is a rare case, however; many similar backers are completely unknown, accounting for more than half of outside spending this cycle.

Concerned Taxpayers of America

Who funds Concerned Taxpayers of America? No one knows. One of the targets of its ads, Rep. Pete DeFazio, traveled to Washington, D.C., to knock on the door of its headquarters and ask the group in person to reveal its donors, only to be turned away by its treasurer, who denied he was affiliated with the group. The “Super PAC” has spent about $165,000 on ads in DeFazio’s district, abpit four times what his opponent has spent in total on the race, according to The Huffington Post.