Koch group adds $4 million to Indiana, Missouri attack ads

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The political network backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch is planning to step up its advertising to unseat Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who are seen as vulnerable because they’re from states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

The Koch-affiliated group Americans for Prosperity said it will run almost $4 million in television and online ads targeted at the two lawmakers. The spending follows a similar $4 million ad buy announced by the group in February targeting them.

The group is trying to help the GOP expand its one-vote majority in the Senate in November, when a third of the seats are on the ballot. McCaskill and Donnelly are two of 10 Senate Democrats running in states won by Trump and are rated by nonpartisan campaign analysts as among the most vulnerable. Trump is traveling to Missouri on Wednesday to raise money for a GOP candidate running against McCaskill.

The latest batch of money—$1.8 million in Missouri and $2.1 million in Indiana—is part of a pledge made by the Koch network to spend $20 million selling GOP’s federal tax cuts. The spots are scheduled to start Thursday, the day after Trump’s fundraiser for the GOP candidate in Missouri, Attorney General Josh Hawley, and run for three weeks in each state.

“As more Americans see the benefits of tax reform, they are rightly concerned to learn that some lawmakers, like Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill, voted against tax relief for individuals and families," AFP President Tim Phillips said in a written statement.

Campaign reactions

Meira Bernstein, McCaskill’s campaign communications director, defended the Missouri senator’s tax vote in a statement.

"This tax bill was a windfall for corporations and big drug companies," she said. "These companies have given billions of dollars to their shareholders, while hiking the costs of prescription drugs for Missouri families. It’s disgraceful."

Will Baskin-Gerwitz, communications director for Donnelly’s campaign, said in a statement that the tax law will "cause skyrocketing deficits" and hurt those who depend on help from the government. "Billionaires like the Kochs get massive new tax breaks, while older Hoosiers get stuck with massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay for it," he said.

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 about a 60 percent increase over 2015-16, although Phillips has said more than a third of the 2017-18 total has already been spent.

The Koch network’s campaign over the tax law will try to show Americans that the legislation, signed by Trump in December, will improve the economy and their lives. In addition to television, radio and digital advertising, the group plans seminars, workshops, town-hall style events, phone banks and door-to-door visits.

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