Koch Brothers Inject Fresh Cash Into Wis. Senate Race

Koch Brothers Inject Fresh Cash Into Wis. Senate Race
Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP
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The influential conservative group Americans for Prosperity, one arm of the Koch brothers’ political network, will return to television’s airwaves in the final week of the election with a $950,000 buy in Wisconsin, hoping to seize on polling that shows the Senate race there tightening.

The ad will highlight Obamacare rate hikes set to take effect in Wisconsin and, at varying levels, across the country next year, focusing on Democrat Russ Feingold’s support for the health-care law.

“Russ Feingold will keep drowning us in the Obamacare disaster,” a narrator says in the ad.

That issue has been last-minute manna to Republican candidates nationwide, some of whom have started to campaign as a potential “check” on the next president — a veiled nod at Hillary Clinton’s favorable odds of winning the White House next week. Meanwhile, the development has afforded a political discussion apart from Donald Trump, whose campaign has sucked much of the oxygen out of other issues in down-ballot races.

In Wisconsin, Feingold has consistently led in polling against Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican incumbent. The RealClearPolitics average currently puts the margin at nearly seven points.

But with the gap having closed somewhat during the past month, AFP is injecting a fresh round of cash into the race. The group’s ad buy marks a major departure from its national strategy, which transitioned last month to focus resources on ground operations in key Senate battlegrounds, forgoing TV advertising for the remainder of the campaign.

That robust ground game, the brainchild of AFP President Tim Phillips, has been one of a few organizational bright spots for the GOP in a year when the Republican nominee has shrugged off the need for a traditional coordinated campaign, and has rarely even acknowledged down-ballot races — though in some cases he has done so to attack the Republican candidate.

In the campaign’s final stretch, the Koch network has focused its energy on eight key Senate races, but its late spending in Wisconsin looks to be AFP’s sole TV expenditure at this stage.

All told, the network of political groups steered by the billionaires Charles and David Koch, of which AFP is one part, is expected to spend $250 million in this election, including $42 million used for television advertising earlier in the cycle.

Rebecca Berg is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at rberg@realclearpolitics.com.


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