Koch’s ‘secret bank’ to begin airing Colorado ads

Ads to run on ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Koch’s ‘secret bank’ to begin airing Colorado ads

A political nonprofit associated with the Koch brothers that funneled more than $200 million to like-minded groups in 2012 will begin airing TV ads in the Denver market, according to ad documents posted today.

Airing ads marks an important switch for Freedom Partners, which Politico described as “The Koch Brothers’ Secret Bank,” when the group filed paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service last year revealing the extent of its activities.

IRS rules allow political nonprofits like Freedom Partners to hide their donors, but the grants that they dole out must be disclosed in year-end tax filings. Freedom Partners effectively went public late last fall by filing its first year of tax returns, which included grants of $115 million to the Center to Protect Patients Rights, $32 million to Americans for Prosperity, and $16 million to the 60 Plus Association.

Since this disclosure, Freedom Partners has added a website, and even biographies for its directors. Wayne Gable, the only director Freedom Partners disclosed in returns covering the year ending Oct. 31, 2012, is described as a former “managing director of international government affairs at Koch Industries.”

Freedom Partners’ relationship to its grantees is unclear. One grantee, The 60 Plus Association, has apparently upset some of the right-leaning industrialists by failing to get permission to air an ad that opposes scrapping the publicly-held mortgage underwriters Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, according to a story reported last week by the Associated Press. The story quoted unnamed advisers as saying the ads sentiment wasn’t shared by the Kochs’ closest political advisers.

It’s unclear what the Freedom Partners ad in Denver is about, though the fact that it was disclosed as part of the political ad file that the Federal Communications Commission requires TV stations to maintain means that it is related to electoral politics. Another Koch-backed group, Americans For Prosperity, aired ads knocking Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and his support for Obamacare last month. Udall is in a tight race for re-election this year.

Although federal law requires that ad buyers disclose the targets of their ads, many do not. Staff at the station, KMGH Channel 7, an ABC affiliate, refused to provide information about the content of the ad either over the phone to Sunlight or to a reporter who made a personal visit.

The Freedom Partners ad buy is relatively modest for an organization whose only tax return reported $255 million in revenues. Scheduled to begin tomorrow, the ad buy will cost about $46,000 and reach viewers of “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” on KMGH. It’s unclear if the ad will appear on other TV stations in Denver or in other markets.

Freedom Partners did not immediately return a call for comment.

Update: Freedom Partners is also buying air time to attack Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley for the same three-week period in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Station staff estimated the total market buy at about $130,000.

Contributing: Nancy Watzman in Denver

This story was reported by the Sunlight Foundation and originally appeared on their site.

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About the Author

Jacob Fenton

Jacob Fenton is Editorial Engineer at The Sunlight Foundation. Previously he was Director of Computer-Assisted Reporting at American University, a newspaper reporter, database editor and software developer.

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