WASHINGTON -- Independent candidate Greg Orman tried as hard as he could to deflect any suggestion that he was a Democratic Party stalking horse in his ultimately failed bid to defeat Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas.
Orman, who faced Roberts one-on-one after the Democratic candidate dropped out, repeatedly stated that he would caucus with whichever party won the majority in the Senate and might even switch sides later on. But Democrats seemed to think he would ultimately be a vote for their side, and they put their money on him.
The Committee to Elect an Independent Senate, the pro-Orman super PAC that spent the most, was largely financed by Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group. According to a disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, Senate Majority PAC donated $1.3 million to the Committee to Elect an Independent Senate, making Senate Majority PAC the top donor to pro-Orman efforts.
The Democratic group was not eager to bring attention to its contributions. The final reports required by the FEC before the election covered donations from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15. The first Senate Majority PAC contribution came on Oct. 16.
Wednesday's FEC filing confirms Republicans' suspicions that Orman’s candidacy was being financially supported by Democratic Party donors and campaign arms.
Other contributors to the Committee to Elect an Independent Senate included groups within Democrats' outside-money orbit. Patriot Majority USA, the "dark money" nonprofit arm of Senate Majority PAC, gave $500,000. The League of Conservation Voters gave $450,000. Hedge fund executive and top Democratic Party donor James Simons also chipped in $250,000.
The second largest contributor to the pro-Orman committee, however, was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with $1 million. Bloomberg is a major donor to Democratic Party groups, but like Orman, he's officially an independent.
The Committee to Elect an Independent Senate was founded by millionaire investor Peter Ackerman, a Republican donor, and tech industry entrepreneur Thomas Layton. They both became acquainted with Orman through Americans Elect, an online effort to try to crowdsource the drafting of an independent presidential ticket in 2012.
On Election Day 2014, Roberts prevailed, but not after the pro-Orman super PAC, various pro-Roberts groups and others spent nearly $17 million to make the race the most expensive Senate contest in Kansas history.