Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Koch-Backed Group Pushes Three Democrats to Support GOP Tax Plan

  • Ads to run in three states President Donald Trump won in 2016
  • AFP to spend $4.5 million on ads airing over next three weeks

A group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch said Thursday it will spend $4.5 million on ads to urge three Senate Democrats who face challenging 2018 re-election bids to back Republican efforts to dramatically reshape the federal tax system.

Americans for Prosperity, a Koch network group that focuses on grassroots organization, plans to run ads in Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, targeting senators Tammy Baldwin, Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill. The spots will air on cable and local networks over the next three weeks.

"These are senators who have consistently made comments publicly that they are in support of tax reform," AFP President Tim Phillips told reporters on a conference call. "We want to help hold them accountable."

The Koch network has said it plans to spend between $300 million and $400 million on policy and political campaigns in 2017 and 2018 -- up from the roughly $250 million invested in the 2016 campaign season -- but Phillips said his group isn’t “issuing threats or drawing red lines” in terms of withholding support for Republicans if a tax bill isn’t passed this year.

“After the failure on health care, which was an epic failure, if they follow that up with a dramatic flame-out or failure on tax reform, it would dramatically and adversely affect Republican chances in 2018,” he said. “The stakes are high for them, there’s no question about that.”

‘Common Sense’

Phillips called the next 90 days a "once in a generation opportunity" to pass major changes to the tax code. In recent weeks, AFP has attracted more than 10,000 activists to more than 70 tax-focused events in all 36 states where the network operates, he said.

Of the three Democratic senators targeted by AFP, Donnelly is the only one who didn’t sign on to a list of conditions issued by 45 Senate Democrats for supporting any tax legislation: that it not add to the federal deficit, that it not increase the burden on the middle class and that it go through the regular order process in Congress.

The Indiana lawmaker said Thursday he needs more details before he can endorse a tax plan.

“When it comes to the tax code, the devil is in the details. Right now, the only plan out there is missing a lot of important details,” Donnelly said in a video statement, referring to the White House and GOP tax framework unveiled Sept. 27. “I’m not gonna buy a car before kicking the tires. That’s not standing in the way. That’s just common sense.”

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin defended Baldwin and criticized the involvement of the Koch network. "Out-of-state billionaires are attacking Tammy Baldwin on Wisconsin airwaves because they know she won’t support a tax giveaway for CEOs and the super-rich paid for by hardworking Wisconsinites," Martha Laning, the state party’s leader, said in a statement.

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