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Anti-Trump onslaught begins

The long-threatened effort to destroy Donald Trump is arriving in force.

Senior-level people in conservative organizations across Washington are firing with both barrels in an attempt to stop Trump’s march to the GOP presidential nomination, multiple sources tell The Hill.

{mosads}One conservative nonprofit is launching a multimillion-dollar campaign of raw attack ads against the front-running candidate ahead of next week’s Super Tuesday contests.

The group, American Future Fund, is buying ads that feature people who claim to be victims of “fraud” it says is perpetrated by one of the real estate mogul’s business ventures, Trump University.

The ad campaign is among several anti-Trump attacks announced over the past 24 hours, as mainstream Republicans make a desperate attempt to stop his rise.

A pro-Marco Rubio super-PAC has launched attack ads against Trump, funded by a new cash injection of more than $10 million. And late on Friday afternoon, The Hill learned that another anti-Trump super-PAC — Our Principles PAC, which is run by Katie Packer, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney, who was the party’s 2012 nominee — would be putting into national rotation an attack ad hitting the billionaire for hiring illegal immigrants.

“There’s a lot of people recognizing that Donald Trump is a fraud and there’s lots of interest in shining a spotlight on it,” Packer told The Hill in a telephone interview on Friday. 

“I think different groups have different issues that they’re interested in highlighting,” she added. “There’s plenty of fodder. It’s a very target-rich environment.”

The barrage against appears to be in sync with the attacks that Marco Rubio levied against Trump in Thursday night’s CNN debate. Rubio escalated these attacks in his public appearances on Friday, describing Trump as a “con artist.”

But the AFF ads are perhaps the most forceful assault yet.

In one of the ads, a man identified as “Kevin” stares into the camera and describes what he alleges was a scam by Trump University that ruined his life.

“Trump is just a fraud, a misrepresentation, a B.S. artist,” he says. “America, don’t make the same mistake I made with Donald Trump.” 

Another ad in the series focuses on a retiree named “Bob” who claims he paid $35,000 at Trump University and all he got was a picture of himself with a cutout of Donald Trump. And a third ad identifies another alleged victim, single mom “Sherri,” who says she made a mistake by trusting Trump.

“All of it was just a fake,” she says. “I got hurt badly and I would hate to see this country get hurt by Donald Trump.”

Trump University, which was reportedly launched in 2005 on the promise to teach students Trump’s real estate investment techniques, has since been the subject of lawsuits, with former students claiming they were scammed. Trump and his representatives have described the charges as baseless. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The AFF anti-Trump campaign, according to the group’s spokesman, Stuart Roy, has been “in the planning for quite a while” but the group only determined this week to “pull the trigger.”

The AFF’s anti-Trump ads will run in a nationwide television and digital buy, which will cost “multiple millions,” Roy said in a telephone interview with The Hill on Friday. The spots are being purchased Friday and Roy hopes the first TV ads will air on March 1: Super Tuesday.

Roy foreshadowed other anti-Trump ads that would focus on more of the billionaire’s business dealings. When asked if he would be airing testimonies related to Trump’s bankruptcies in Atlantic City or his controversial use of eminent domain, Roy said he wouldn’t be giving that away, as “politics is a lot like poker.” 

Focus group research commissioned by various Republican-aligned outfits has found that when voters are shown that Trump’s business dealings have hurt rather than helped workers, it can undermine his image as a man of the people. 

The AFF’s funders are unknown, because the IRS considers it a “social welfare organization” that does not have to disclose its donors.

But the group has shown in the past it has deep pockets. It raised $67.9 million in 2012, according to that year’s tax filing, published by nonpartisan watchdog OpenSecrets.

The watchdog also reported that more than 90 percent of those 2012 revenues came from groups linked to the donor network of the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The Koch network has since pulled back from funding the AFF.

Tags Donald Trump Marco Rubio

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