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
© The Hill photo illustration
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 McCaskillMcCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination Wyden says foreign hackers targeted personal accounts of senators, staffers Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls 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 TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency 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 BaldwinThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Poll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin Primary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge 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 BlackburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates MORE (R) faces a tough challenge from former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in the fight to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips Corker GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser Corker blasts Trump's 'ready, fire, aim' trade policy 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 — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms Florida governor booed out of restaurant over red tide algae issues 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) TesterTrump Jr. campaign event looks for new venue after Montana restaurant declines to host CBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski 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 CramerElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Kavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (R-N.D.), saying it would not support his bid to unseat Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls MORE (D-N.D.), who is another top target for Republicans in November.