The central fundraising network of billionaire energy executives Charles and David Koch purchased its first batch of television ads in this year’s U.S. Senate races, public documents filed by broadcast stations show.
The ads bought today by Freedom Partners, a business league based in Arlington, Virginia, knock Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado and Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa for their support of President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
Republicans are targeting Colorado and Iowa in their quest for the six-seat net gain they need for a majority in the Senate, where Democrats control 55 of the 100 seats and are defending 21 of the 36 seats on November ballots.
Party strategists became more bullish on Colorado last month after Republican Representative Cory Gardner announced he would challenge Udall. In Iowa, Braley will face the winner of a multi-candidate Republican contest that includes state Senator Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs, a former Goldman Sachs managing director and energy executive.
“Congressman Bruce Braley voted for Obamacare. The government spent millions of taxpayer dollars to promote it,” a female narrator says at the start of the 30-second Iowa spot. It concludes: “For Iowans, it’s canceled policies and higher costs. That’s not right.”
Udall’s campaign has denounced the Koch brothers for having helped “usher Tea Party extremists like Representative Cory Gardner into Congress.”
Braley’s campaign said the ads were “misleading” and that his opponents supported policies “that would hurt Iowa’s economy.”
The ads have the same focus as almost 20,000 spots that another Koch group, Americans for Prosperity, has run since October, including in the Iowa and Colorado contests, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG. Americans for Prosperity has advertised more than any other outside group, political party committee or candidate, CMAG reports show.
Freedom Partners raised $255 million in its first year, which began Nov. 1, 2011, its tax filings show. It spent most of that by awarding grants to other groups. Annual membership in the league costs at least $100,000, Freedom Partners’ spokesman James Davis has said. The group’s website claims more than 200 members.
Until now, the league has primarily served as a conduit for money between donors who share the Kochs’ support for smaller government and organizations aligned with the brothers. The three-year-old group keeps its donors secret.
Freedom Partners has been merging with other outside groups and plans to take a more direct approach this year, rather than focusing on grant-making, Davis has said.
Lawmakers who backed the health-care law “had an opportunity to stand up against the health insurance special interests when it mattered, and they didn’t,” Davis said in a statement. “Now, it’s time for them to stand with their constituents and stop supporting Obamacare.”
The Daily Caller, a web-based publication founded by Republican Tucker Carlson, first reported the Freedom Partners ad buy, saying the group spent $1.1 million on it between the two states.
The three-week buy in Denver include advertising during the game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, TV station documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission show.
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