Ernst, and Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican nominee for Senate in Arkansas both praised donors at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California for their success, according to The Huffington Post and The Nation. A third candidate, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) also said that said that his race against Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) would probably be decided by "third party" money.
The event was held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort. Audio was obtained by The Undercurrent and shared with The Huffington Post. In that clip, the three candidates are heard on a panel titled "The Senate: A Window of Policy Opportunity for Principled Leaders." Some of the audio was redacted to retain the identity of the source who passed on the audio.
"I was not known at the time," Ernst said. "A little-known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory."
Ernst goes on to say that "we are going to paint some very clear differences in this general election."
"And this is the thing that we are going to take back — that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network."
Ernst's rise this cycle has been rapid. In the Republican primary Mark Jacobs, not Ernst, was considered the frontrunner. But Ernst was able to win support from prominent conservative outside groups and also produce ads that went viral to clinch the nomination and become a formidable candidate in the general election against Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA).
In both Cotton and Ernst's speeches, they noted that the event was their second Koch brothers' retreat. They both had previously attended one in New Mexico. Since then the Koch brothers' political network has helped boost their rise.
Cotton, also, thanked the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity for helping to influence politics in Arkansas.
"Americans for Prosperity in Arkansas has played a critical role in turning our state from a one-party Democratic state [inaudible] building the kind of constant engagement to get people in the state involved in their communities," Cotton said.
Just a few days following Ernst's appearance at the event, the wife, son, and daughter-in-law of Charles Koch donated the legal maximum contribution, $2,600, to Ernst.
Listen to audio below: