CHICAGO – The political network backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch is launching a $4 million advertising campaign against two Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2018, as it starts to fulfill a pledge to spend $20 million selling the federal tax overhaul passed late last year.
The television and online ads are critical of Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri for voting against the legislation. They’re two of the 10 Senate Democrats on the ballot in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016 and potentially vulnerable to Republican challengers.
The Koch-affiliated group Americans for Prosperity is sponsoring the ads, which are scheduled to start Thursday and run for about three weeks.
“Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill promised tax reform for years but chose partisan politics over Indiana and Missouri families when they had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide tax relief,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. “AFP is committed to ensuring citizens see the pro-growth benefits of tax reform despite dismissals and deception from ‘no’ votes like Donnelly and McCaskill.”
The ads are part of the roughly $400 million the network expects to spend on state and federal policy and politics during the two-year election cycle that culminates with the November midterm elections. That marks roughly a 60 percent increase over 2015-16. Phillips has said more than a third of that total has already been spent.
The Donnelly and McCaskill campaigns responded on Tuesday with criticism of the Kochs.
Will Baskin-Gerwitz, communications director for Donnelly’s campaign, said in a statement that his boss voted against the legislation because it will “ultimately raise taxes on middle class families to fund new tax breaks for people like the Kochs and the rest of the one percent who’ll make millions more in profits.”
“No amount of money from the Koch brothers is going to change Claire’s commitment to putting the people of Missouri before dark-money billionaires and special interests like them,” Meira Bernstein, McCaskill’s campaign communications director, said in a statement.
The Koch network’s campaign over the tax law will try to show Americans that the legislation, which Trump signed in late December, will improve the economy and their lives. Seminars, workshops, town hall-style events, phone banks and door-to-door visits are all planned, in addition to targeted advertising on television, radio and digital platforms.
The network estimates it spent more than $20 million nationally last year to urge passage of the tax legislation.