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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
© 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 McCaskillMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Demings asked about Senate run after sparring with Jordan on police funding 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 TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers 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 offer bill to scrap tax break for investment managers Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package 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 BlackburnHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base MORE (R) faces a tough challenge from former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in the fight to replace retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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 NelsonChina fires back after NASA criticism of rocket debris reentry The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns NASA criticizes China after rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean 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) TesterDC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Democratic fissures start to show after Biden's first 100 days Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster 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 CramerAll congressional Democrats say they have been vaccinated: CNN Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Biden administration faces big decision on whether to wade into Dakota Access fight MORE (R-N.D.), saying it would not support his bid to unseat Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (D-N.D.), who is another top target for Republicans in November.