Senate races

Koch network spends big to save Republican Senate

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The Koch brothers’ donor network is making its most aggressive intervention yet into the 2016 cycle, booking $30 million worth of advertising to save the Republican Senate.

{mosads}It’s the beginning of what’s expected to be a significantly larger buy, as the network of 700-some donors led by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch sets about the task of keeping the Senate in Republican hands and supporting candidates who have purist free market beliefs.

The Kochs view Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump as both supporting big government and crony capitalism, and so the network has refused to spend a penny at the presidential level.

Instead, the Koch donors are turning their attention down ballot. They’ve already spent $12.4 million on Senate races — not counting the new $30 million buy — which exceeds what any other conservative outside group has spent on congressional races, a comparison of Federal Election Commission reports by The Hill shows.

A Koch network official told The Hill on Monday that the new $30 million TV and cable buy, which covers August and September, will help Republican Senate candidates in five battleground states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida.

“The network is and will continue to be fully engaged in 2016’s political and policy battles. We want to maximize the number of freedom-oriented Senators,” said James Davis, spokesman for the Koch network.

“We see that on a number of issues, particularly free speech, the current majority is far preferable to the alternative.”

The network is spending less than it did in 2014 — the map in 2016 is a terrible one for Republicans so the network is engaging in five races as opposed to 11 — but the official said the network may end up spending as much or more on each individual race it engages in this year as it did last cycle.

The network’s 2016 budget was originally $889 million but is likely lower now that it’s not engaging at the presidential level.

Republican donors have been privately griping for months to The Hill that the Koch network has been sitting on its cash pile and refusing to take on Trump. Some angry donors, in dark moments, even blamed the network for allowing Trump to become the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

But Charles Koch refused to be moved by pitches earlier in the primary season to take on Trump. Knowledgeable sources told The Hill several months ago that Koch saw no evidence a massive primary advertising campaign against Trump would be anything but a waste of money on the scale of the $100 million-plus blown through by former GOP candidate Jeb Bush’s super-PAC, Right to Rise.

The Koch official who spoke to The Hill Monday about the new ad plans said the advertising would be focused on the policy issues of concern to the network in each Senate race. 

The official pointed to examples such as a new $2.2 million TV and digital campaign in Ohio featuring “Keith, an Ohio business owner, who struggled when [former Ohio Gov.] Ted Strickland [D] increased taxes and fees while Ohio was digging out from the aftermath of a recession.”

The new Ohio ad, which launches Tuesday, is paid for by Freedom Partners Action Fund, the political spearhead of the Koch network.

The Koch network has also been bolstering its ground game and will be knocking on doors and hitting phones even more expansively than it has in past cycles, the official said.

“We now have a permanent grassroots infrastructure of 1,200 network staff across 38 states,” the official added.

“In 2015, Americans for Prosperity, Concerned Veterans for America, LIBRE, and Generation Opportunity [the main Koch groups] grew their field teams by 50 percent.

“Thus far we are not engaged in the presidential race because neither of the candidates have presented a positive vision for America, but we will look to engage in the political space around our priority issues.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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