WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative political advocacy groups supported by the billionaire Koch brothers plan to spend $889 million in the 2016 U.S. elections, more than double what they raised in 2012, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The newspaper said the goal was announced to donors at a weekend meeting in Rancho Mirage, California, hosted by Freedom Partners, a business lobby at the center of the Koch brothers' political operation. The Post cited a person who attended the gathering. The money will be doled out by a network of 17 organizations funded by industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have become a major force in conservative politics in recent years, and other wealthy donors. The network raised $407 million for the 2012 campaign. During the 2012 election cycle, the national Republican Party collectively spent about $675 million, according to election data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The Post said the $889 million would be spent on field operations, technology, policy study and other expenses. The Freedom Partners network spent almost $300 million on November's congressional elections, in which Republicans won control of the Senate and retained their majority in the House of Representatives. The potential field for the Republican presidential nomination is fairly crowded and the Post said the Koch group was still considering whether it would support candidates in the Republican primaries, which could dramatically shape the campaign and possible lead to intraparty conflict. Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, all of whom are mentioned as possible presidential candidates, took part in the Rancho Mirage meeting, the Post said. The newspaper said the Freedom Partners network included Americans for Prosperity and funded groups such as Concerned Veterans for America, the Libre Initiative and Generation Opportunity. (Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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