Clare O'Connor, 10.21.10, 02:20 PM EDT
America's wealthiest donors are spending big bucks to ensure Republican victories this November.
The Billionaires Bankrolling The Right
If the Republicans take back the House and Senate on Nov. 2, America's richest brothers will be partly to thank. Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch's tremendous spending power and reach--what the media has dubbed the 'Kochtopus'--is unrivaled. The conservative nonprofit David founded, Americans for Prosperity, has said it plans to spend $45 million this election cycle, more than three times the $13 million the Democratic Governors Association has on hand as of mid-October. There's no way of knowing how much the Kochs have given to the AFP or any other group; new Senate legislation allows tax exempt nonprofits to raise unlimited funds without disclosure. Publicly, only about $3.9 million can be traced to the brothers, including a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association from David, a former vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.
President Obama has come out swinging against the Koch brothers, referring to AFP in an August speech as part of "a corporate takeover of our democracy." The Kochs are no fans of Obama's either, and they're already strategizing beyond this election. Charles Koch recently sent a letter inviting potential donors to a four-day retreat in Palm Springs in January. He cited the attendees from his last meeting, which reads like a Who's Who of Forbes 400 power players: Phil Anschutz, Blackstone's ( BX - news - people )Steve Schwarzman, Amway's Rich DeVos, Citadel's Ken Griffin, and Ken Langone, Home Depot's ( HD - news - people ) original investment banker. In his letter, Koch makes it clear that the retreat won't be "fun in the sun," it'll be formulating the next plan of attack.
Other right-wing groups are following AFP's lead: Karl Rove's American Crossroads has become the scourge of the left, publicly raising millions from billionaires including Public Storage ( PSA - news - people ) tycoon B. Wayne Hughes, Texas investor Harold Simmons, TV mogul Jerry Perenchio and oil heir Robert Rowling. The group announced on Wednesday that Donald Trump has chipped in too. American Crossroads' sister group Crossroads GPS is also raising unprecedented amounts of money toward anti-Democrat attack ads, but it's not required to disclose its funding. Outraged liberal groups and Democratic politicians have asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the IRS to investigate.
Full Coverage: Decision 2010
The donor who's given the most public money to Rove isn't on the Forbes 400 list, although he may well be the next time around. Texas home builder Bob Perry stays below the radar, hitting headlines only for his huge campaign expenditures, including $7 million to American Crossroads and $4 million to the Republican Governors Association. Before this election, Perry was best known for financing the Swift Boat campaign that halted John Kerry's presidential run in 2004.
The biggest spender of all this election season is also the one with the most to lose. Former eBay ( EBAY - news - people ) CEO Meg Whitman has so far spent $140 million of her own money running for governor of California, topping the previous record set by New York's billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg. It remains to be seen whether voters will forget about the uproar over her housekeeper, who was discovered to be an undocumented worker. Whitman claims she wasn't aware of her cleaner's immigration status.
Another billionaire spending big money toward a right-wing victory: Rupert Murdoch. The media mogul's News Corp. ( NWS - news - people ) has given $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association and $1 million to the right-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce, earning the condemnation of the Democratic National Committee, which called the GOP "a division of News Corporation" after the news emerged. Murdoch defended the donations as non-political but in the country's "best interest" in a News Corp shareholder meeting last week.
Democratic billionaires have largely kept their wallets closed this season. Liberal philanthropists George Soros and Peter Lewis each gave more than $23 million to left-leaning candidates and causes in the 2004 election cycle. This year Soros' biggest donation has been indirect: He gave $1 million to research nonprofit Media Matters on Wednesday to fight "the incendiary rhetoric of Fox News." Lewis has focused his resources on marijuana legalization, giving in support of California's Prop 19.