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Koch group pours nearly $5M into ads to boost three GOP Senate candidates

Koch group pours nearly $5M into ads to boost three GOP Senate candidates
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A conservative group backed by billionaire activist Charles Koch is launching a new multimillion-dollar ad campaign across three states to boost GOP Senate candidates in tough midterm election fights.
 
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is putting nearly $5 million behind ads set to go live on Thursday in Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee attacking the Democratic Senate candidates for their records on taxes, spending and health care.
 
“Americans can’t afford to continue electing politicians who believe the path to prosperity is through higher taxes, more spending, and bigger government,” said AFP president Tim Phillips. “We are committed to building broad policy coalitions by supporting principled champions and opposing those who will take our country in the wrong direction.”
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The biggest spend is in Missouri, where AFP will put $2.1 million behind a 30-second ad attacking Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats must turn around Utah police arrest man driving 130 mph claiming he was going to kill former Missouri senator McCaskill congratulates Hawley on birth of daughter MORE (D-Mo.) as a “career politician” who voted for ObamaCare. The ad also highlights government contracts her husband’s company received.

“D.C. changed Claire McCaskill, it’s time to change our senator,” the ad states.

McCaskill is among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection this year and is one of 10 running in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE carried in 2016.

Polls show McCaskill and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) running in a dead heat.
 
AFP is also going after Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Next Congress expected to have record diversity Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE (D-Wis.), another red-state Democrat, putting $800,000 behind an ad attacking the incumbent for supporting “higher taxes and more spending.”
 
Baldwin leads Republican Leah Vukmir by 10 points in the RealClearPolitics average, although Vukmir only officially became the GOP Senate candidate two weeks ago.
 
And AFP is spending $2 million on ads in deep-red Tennessee, where Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week MORE (R) faces a tough challenge from former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in the fight to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R).

“While we struggled through a recession, Bredesen wasted $9 million taxpayer dollars upgrading his governor’s mansion, $4 million on a party cave, gilded bathrooms and a kitchen worth two Tennessee homes,” the ad says. “Phil Bredesen lived the life. We paid the bill.”
 
Bredesen’s campaign responded with an ad of its own called, “The Attacks Have Started.”

“Congressman Blackburn’s campaign promised they would closely coordinate with dark money groups and it’s clear they are making good on their promise of negative campaigning, following the losing DC Diane playbook,” said Alyssa Hansen, the press secretary for Bredesen’s campaign.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated that race a “toss-up.”

AFP is also active in the Florida Senate race, which features Gov. Rick Scott (R) taking on incumbent Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 MORE (D) in another “toss-up.”

And on Monday, AFP put $500,000 behind a 30-second television ad praising GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale (Mont.) for supporting a direct primary care bill that was vetoed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D).
 
Rosendale is trying to unseat Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Senate Democrats press VA for vaccine distribution plan President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE (D) in a state Trump won easily in 2016.

But other than those five states, the Koch network is being more selective in where it makes an investment, even with Republicans going on offense in 10 states.

Top Koch network officials have expressed frustration with Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress and have said they will no longer be a rubber stamp for Republican candidates.

Earlier this year, AFP made an example out of Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday MORE (R-N.D.), saying it would not support his bid to unseat Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration MORE (D-N.D.), who is another top target for Republicans in November.