News Guide: Kochs' new super PAC reports donors, including hedge fund exec, poultry farm

Industries Associated Press

Some of the most powerful political committees faced a Wednesday deadline to reveal how much cash they raised and spent during July, August and September. It was likely to be one the last times before Nov. 4's elections that voters could see how millions of dollars were flowing into outside campaign groups.

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Only groups that report their money in three-month windows were filing Wednesday. Groups that file on a monthly basis, such as the Republican National Committee or the Democratic-backed Senate Majority PAC, face a Monday deadline to report how much they raised in September.

Highlights:

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DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS ALMOST CATCH GOP

The Republican Governors Association typically outpaces its Democratic rivals by an almost 2-to-1 margin. That changed in the last three months, with the Democratic Governors Association almost catching the GOP group.

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Democrats' committee to elect governors raised almost $20 million during the most recent quarter, taking its fundraising tally for the year to $47 million. It was a record three-month haul for the DGA, and double what it raised during the same period four years ago.

The Republican Governors Association, meanwhile, said it raised $21.5 million in the same time frame that ended Sept. 30. That's significantly less than the $31 million it raised during the same period in 2010 and less than some were expecting from the group, which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The RGA says it remains on pace to spend $100 million this year. It has raised $72 million this year.

Neither group, however, revealed how much of that they had banked so it's impossible to know how much each spent so far.

Voters will elect governors in 36 states on Nov. 4.

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KOCH SUPER PAC SHOWS HAND

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch tended to favor using tax-exempt organizations to influence voters' opinions, but they are now starting to work as a political super PAC. That shift now means that they can be explicitly political — but they also have to disclose the donors who have helped them raise $15.6 million since June 13.

Combined, the Kochs gave $4 million directly to the newly-minted Freedom Partners Action Fund through trust funds that have their names listed.

The single biggest donor, however, was Robert Mercer. The New York hedge fund manager wrote a $2.5 million check to the group.

The group also collected $1 million from Arkansas-based Mountaire Corporation, one of the largest poultry producers in the United States. Company Chairman and CEO Ronald Cameron is a prominent donor to conservative causes and groups.

The group received $1 million from Diane Hendricks, the widow of Wisconsin roofing giant Ken Hendricks. Mrs. Hendricks is among the richest women in Wisconsin and an ally of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

And the group collected another $1 million from a trust in the name of trucking magnate Clarence Werner of Nebraska.

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which is the hub of the Koch political network, gave almost $1 million to the super PAC. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce does not disclose its donors but the Kochs are widely seen as patrons of that group, as well.

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CARSON GETS LOW-DOLLAR DONORS

Two political committees with eyes on a Ben Carson for President campaign have raised a combined total of almost $5 million in the last three months, and have collected almost $14 million even before 2016 begins. And it's mostly from small-dollar donors who could be persuaded to open their wallets again.

One Carson-linked group, the American Legacy PAC, raised more than $1.5 million during the three-month quarter that ended in October. Of that, $1.2 million came in donations of $200 or less.

Another, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, raised $3.3 million during the same period. Of that, $2.5 million came from donors who gave less than $200.

Carson is a retired neurosurgeon and a popular figure among his party's conservative base, especially donors who give $10 here and there. He is mulling a White House run and his supporters are trying to encourage him to say yes to a campaign.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2012, is involved in the American Legacy political committee.

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BEING READY IS NOT CHEAP

A better-known potential 2016 contender, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was also getting encouragement from an outside group.

The Ready for Hillary super PAC raised $2 million from grassroots donors who want to see another Clinton presidency. Ready for Hillary capped donations at $25,000 per person because fundraising is not its focus.

If Clinton runs, the group would not be paying for the costly TV ads. A super PAC that formed for President Barack Obama's re-election bid, Priorities USA, stands ready to fill that role for Clinton in the likely campaign.

Instead, Ready for Hillary has focused on building buzz for Clinton, selling merchandise with her likeness and collecting contact information to hand over to an expected campaign in 2016.

But laying the groundwork isn't cheap. Ready for Hillary spent $2.1 million in the last three months.

Since it formed, Ready for Hillary has raised $6.2 million.

If Clinton decides to seek the Democratic nomination again, she would instantly be seen as the front-runner.

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OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

— The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's political arm spent almost $12 million over the summer to help its favored candidates. Total spending from the Republican-leaning group now stands at $26 million.

— The conservative American Action Network made almost $1 million in outside spending to help like-minded candidates. The non-profit group was founded by super-donor Fred Malek and former Sen. Norm Coleman.

— Failed presidential contenders continued to be laden with debt. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, continues to carry $476,000 in red ink from his 2012 campaign. Gingrich, now a CNN contributor, continues to carry $4.7 million in debt from his 2012 effort.

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