Senate races

Koch network helping Ron Johnson with $1 million Wisconsin buy

Greg Nash
The powerful network helmed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is dropping more than $1 million into the Wisconsin Senate race to help Republican incumbent Ron Johnson in his tough fight against Democrat Russ Feingold.
 
The new Koch ad buy is significant because it was only two weeks ago that news outlets were reporting that the Koch network had “ditched” Johnson by withdrawing a $2 million ad reservation in the state.
 
{mosads}Koch network spokesman James Davis said at the time that the network was “realigning” its television advertising strategy “to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races.” 
 
But many interpreted that statement to mean that Johnson was beyond saving.
 
Davis said it was never the case that the Kochs had decided to abandon Johnson, and that the new ad buy is in line with his previous comments about a realignment of advertising.
 
He said that recent internal polling movements have persuaded the network that it can make an impact in the Wisconsin Senate race. 
 
And he added that the new TV and digital buy hits different markets than the original reservation that had been withdrawn.
 
“This marks an initial investment back into television in Wisconsin,” Davis said, indicating that the $1 million buy might be the beginning of a larger intervention to help Johnson. 
 
The Koch network, which expects to spend more than $40 million in Senate battleground races, has a huge ground presence in Wisconsin. 
 
The Koch’s grassroots organization, Americans for Prosperity, led the union-busting fight alongside Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and its local ground-force, which is trained in door-knocking, phone calls and data collection, is being deployed to help Johnson.
 
Johnson has always looked vulnerable in his race against Feingold, a former senator. 
 
He’d been hovering around 10 percentage points behind Feingold in polls. 
 
July’s Marquette Law School poll showed a tightening in the race, with Johnson drawing within 5 points of Feingold. The same poll in June had Feingold ahead by 9 points among likely voters.
 
Johnson is viewed as being well-aligned with the Koch network’s policy priorities of repealing ObamaCare, reducing the size and scope of government, cutting regulations and ending government subsidies to corporations.
 
The new ad, launched by the Koch network’s main super-PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, features a Tomah, Wis., VA hospital patient. 
 
“The ad tells the story of a veteran named Marlyn, who was over-prescribed dangerous opioids during his time as a patient at the Tomah VA facility,” the Koch network said in a statement.
 
The Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center, once colloquially known as “Candyland,” was condemned for overprescribing painkillers, with at least one veteran dying of a drug overdose. 
 
As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson issued in a lengthy Senate report on the Tomah scandal. 
 
“When our nation’s veterans needed help, Russ Feingold was nowhere to be found. Ron Johnson stood in support of our veterans, and Wisconsinites should stand with him,” said Davis.
 
Feingold strenuously denies ignoring Tomah VA problems, and previous ads, including one by the Koch network, were corrected because a woman who previously said she had hand-delivered a warning memo about Tomah to Feingold has since revised her statement.
 
Responding to the new Koch network ad buy, Feingold’s communications director Michael Tyler said, “It’s sad that Sen. Johnson’s allies, the Koch brothers, are trotting out the same, tired smear campaign….rated completely ‘false‘ by Politifact.”
 
“Negligence at the Tomah VA has been a tragedy for Wisconsin’s veterans and their families, but in a desperate attempt to distract from his own failed record of inaction as chairman of the Homeland Security committee, Sen. Johnson has decided to instead abuse his chairmanship for political gain and hide behind millions of dollars in attack ads from the Koch brothers.”
Tags Ron Johnson

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