The Koch brothers’ announcement that they will spend $889 million supporting conservative campaigns in 2016 has been described as “whopping,” “staggering” and “historic.”
It may be all those things, but adjectives aside, the money their vast fundraising network is ponying up this cycle puts them on par with the spending of both the Democratic and Republican parties, each of whom spent a bit more than $1 billion during the 2012 campaign.
And they’re also blowing the party’s other top official fundraisers out of the water. In 2012, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Republican National Committee plus the party’s Senate and Congressional money wings spent $675 million, while their Democratic counterparts shelled out $647 million.
The Republican presidential field that’s shaping up is not likely to voice much opposition to this sort of outside spending. At a forum sponsored by the Koch brothers last weekend, three potential candidates all told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that they had no problem with the amount of influence super-wealthy political donors now have, although Sen. Rand Paul said he was for “some campaign finance reform.”
The Koch’s 2016 spending is astronomical, any way you slice it. But we decided to compare it to other ways the two political heavyweights could spend this windfall if they woke up tomorrow and decided they no longer wanted to be in politics:
14,032 acres of private islands around the world
The Kochs could buy at least 15 of the most expensive private islands for sale on the Private Islands Online marketplace, including the 110-acre Rangyai Island in Thailand, located close to, but just far away enough from, some of that nation’s most popular beaches – available for just $160 million. Maybe the Kochs will just say “Phucket” and set up a surf shack there.
One of 12 NBA teams (+ an NHL team, maybe)
According to Forbes, a dozen of the NBA’s 30 franchises are worth less than $900 million, from the Orlando Magic at $875 million to the Memphis Grizzlies at $750 to the Milwaukee Bucks, a relative steal at $600 -- with the almost $300 million left over from the purchase of the latter, the Kochs might as well throw in an NHL team – the Columbus Blue Jackets are valued at an even $200 right now.
The Kochs are spending more than the collective gross domestic products of four of the 192 countries on the World Bank’s list of confirmed 2013 GDP estimates: the island nations of Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Palau. There are several other country combinations the Kochs could consider, especially if they wanted to shoot for a country like Grenada, whose 2013 GDP estimate was $836 million. They’d have just enough left over to also spring for little Tuvalu, at $38 million.
Concert by new bipartisan supergroup
How’s this for a super-fundraiser? The Kochs could pay to have rock stars from all over the political spectrum play a one-night-only gig: Elton John reportedly charged $1 million to play Rush Limbaugh’s wedding in 2010, and Kid Rock, who performed at Mitt Romney campaign events, told Rolling Stone in 2013, “It costs us $125,000 to show up with our crew and whatnot” (although it’s not clear how much he’d charge for a Koch private party).
Charles and David could also throw in Jennifer Lopez, who reportedly charged $1.75 million for a 40-minute set, and Mike Huckabee’s favorite artist, Beyonce Knowles, who was reported to have made $2 million at a New Year’s Party thrown by Muammar Gaddafi’s son in 2009, although the singer later said she donated the money from the dictator’s offspring to Haiti earthquake relief.