The Koch Brothers have their eyes on Illinois. Republican candidates running in four of the state's competitive congressional races received campaign contributions last quarter from the political action committee of Koch Industries Inc., a Kansas-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
From April 1 through June 30, the Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Committee, or KochPAC, gave a collective $17,500 to the Illinois GOP candidates in 11th, 12th, 13th and 17th congressional districts, according to second-quarter reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The industrialists Charles and David Koch are well known nationally as big election spenders who also fund a number of right-wing organizations. The notorious billionaire brothers are reportedly expected to spend $290 million in the 2014 election.
“Out of state billionaires like the Koch Brothers are bankrolling Illinois Republicans like Mike Bost, Darlene Senger, Rodney Davis and Bobby Schilling because the Kochs will pay top dollar for anyone who will stack the deck for special interests and the ultra-wealthy at the expense of hardworking families,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of U.S. House Democrats.
Republican State Rep. Darlene Senger of Naperville, who is in an election battle against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster in Illinois' 11th congressional district, received $7,500 from KochPAC last quarter, including $2,500 for primary election debt retirement, according to FEC data. A Senger campaign spokesperson did not return Progress Illinois' request for comment by deadline.
Senger ended the last quarter with $150,110 in cash on hand, while Foster had nearly $1.4 million.
In Illinois' 12th congressional district, Republican State Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, who is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. William Enyart of Belleville, received $2,500 from KochPAC last quarter. In addition to the recent contribution, Bost's first quarter report, covering February 27 to March 31, shows that KochPAC gave another $5,000 to the candidate's campaign.
"After two decades in Springfield, the Koch brothers know they can call Mike Bost an ally in their effort to destroy the middle class and prop up big business," Enyart's campaign advisor Jason Bresler told Progress Illinois in a statement. "This is just another example, that after spending years in Springfield, Mike Bost is in the pocket of the special interests and big corporations.”
Progress Illinois' request for comment was not returned by the Bost campaign.
As of the end of the last quarter, Bost had $347,665 in cash on hand, while Enyart had $677,498.
KochPAC also contributed $5,000 in the last quarter to the campaign of incumbent U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL,13), who will go up against Democratic challenger and former Madison County judge Ann Callis in November. Previously, Davis received another $5,000 from the KochPAC in the second quarter of 2013, covering the April 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013 time period, according to FEC data.
Davis ended the second quarter with more than $1.3 million in cash on hand. Callis, meanwhile, had $717,204 at the end of last quarter to use in her election battle against Davis.
"Congressman Davis has spent his time in Washington fighting for corporate special interests and hiring a corporate lobbyist to run his office, so it is no shock that the KochPAC gave him the largest possible donation for his re-election campaign," Callis said in a statement to Progress Illinois. "I am running to reform Washington and get the focus back to helping people, not just letting those in Washington help themselves."
A spokesperson for Davis' campaign could not be reached for comment.
And Republican Bobby Schilling, former congressman for Illinois' 17th congressional district, received $2,500 from the KochPAC last quarter for his bid to reclaim his old seat, which he lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos in the 2012 election. Bustos, of East Moline, is seeking re-election.
Previous FEC filings show the KochPAC also poured $5,000 into Schilling's campaign between July of 2013 to March 31, 2014. Schilling ended the second quarter with $500,081 in the bank, while Bustos had nearly $1.5 million in her political war chest.
"Given former congressman Schilling's anti-middle class agenda of supporting tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas, ending the Medicare guarantee for seniors, and opposing raising the minimum wage, it's no surprise the Koch brothers have poured thousands of dollars into his campaign," Jeremy Jansen, campaign manager for the Friends of Cheri Bustos, told Progress Illinois in a statement. "If elected, Schilling would continue to support Koch-backed policies that harm Illinois working families and the middle class."
A request for comment sent to the Schilling campaign was not returned by deadline.
Outside money — like the Koch brothers backing Republicans — is going to come into congressional districts "depending on whether a race looks like a good investment in terms of a Republican pick up or hold or a lost cause, and whether the publicity about funding from a group with Koch-brother money ... would [be] a net plus or minus," explained Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Although the recent KochPAC donations to Republicans running in the competitive 11th, 12th, 13th, and 17th districts are "relatively small amounts because of federal contribution limits," Redfield said they do "signal interest in the campaigns which may translate into large independent expenditures on behalf of the Republican candidates closer to the November election."
In addition to the races in Illinois' 11th, 12th, 13th, 17th congressional districts, Redfield said the nationally-watched contest in the state's 10th congressional district is competitive. In the 10th district, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider faces a challenge from Republican Bob Dold, a former one-term congressman who Schneider unseated back in 2012.
"The Republicans have a one-term member [in Illinois], Davis, running for re-election in the 13th, (while) the Democrats have one-term members running in the other four," Redfield explained. "These all look competitive at this point, so both the national Democrats and the national Republicans are watching them and could jump in big time. The same is true for national PACs and independent expenditure groups that want to influence the 2014 congressional elections."
The interest by the Koch brothers — specifically in the competitive 12th, 13th and 17th congressional districts — "reflects the nature of the districts — downstate [and] conservative leaning — and the way the Republican candidates present themselves on issues," Redfield added, noting that Bost, Davis and Schilling "all present themselves as conservative Republicans."
"Contrast this to the 10th, where the district is moderate and the Republican, Dold, presents himself as a moderate," he continued. "Schneider, the Democrat, would make an issue of big Koch-brother funding for Dold, saying it was a sign that Dold was too conservative for the district."
Meanwhile, the 11th congressional district, which covers parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties, is more Democratic-leaning, Redfield noted.
The Koch brothers are looking "to elect Republicans or defeat Democrats and so (the contributions to the Republican opponents are) pragmatic from that sense. They're just looking for opportunities."
Foster previously served one term as the representative of Illinois' 14th congressional district, but lost his re-election bid in November 2010 to current U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Republican. In the 2012 election, Foster unseated former long-time Republican congresswoman Judy Biggert in the 11th district.
"Since Foster won once and then lost once in an old district and now has won in a new district, that's certainly an indication that (the Koch brothers) see (the 11th district race) as a better prospect than other districts" in Illinois, Redfield said. "They must see enough in Senger to make a modest investment."
"Koch-brother money is more economic liberty-kind of money than social-issue kind of money," he added. "This is not about abortion, and it's not about gay rights. It really is about anti-government, anti-tax [and] deregulation. If that was kind of the profile that (Senger) had, and (the Koch brothers) were trying to be strategic in their giving, then that's probably the reason why the money was there."