Koch Network Targets Baldwin With $1.6 Million in Attack Ads

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  • Campaign designed to pressure Democrats to support tax plan
  • New ads follow $4.5 million TV blitz targeting three senators

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The billionaire Koch brothers are turning up the heat on vulnerable Senate Democrats in a move to pressure some of them to support the Republican tax-cut plan.

A group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch is adding $1.6 million to its advertising attacks on Senate Democrats facing challenging 2018 re-election bids. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce said it plans to start running three week’s worth of television and digital ads against Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin beginning next Monday. She’s one of 10 Senate Democrats facing re-election next year from states won by President Donald Trump.

This latest round of political spending by a Koch-affiliated organization comes as the tax overhaul promised by Trump and GOP congressional leaders has taken center stage in Washington. House Republicans set a goal of releasing a bill on Nov. 1 and getting it passed by the end of the year, provided the House adopts a budget that’s already made its way through the Senate. The budget vote is scheduled for Thursday.

"It seems like the harder we work, the more Washington takes from us," one of the spots says. "Senators like Tammy Baldwin are the problem."

A second ad features a Wisconsin construction company president suggesting that if Baldwin "opposes tax reform, it’s proof that she opposes jobs, she opposes higher wages."

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin said that the ads were “dishonest” and that Baldwin supports tax cuts for working families in the state.

"The dishonest smear attacks continue as out-of-state special interests pour in millions of dollars to take down Tammy Baldwin and replace her with someone willing to sell out Wisconsin families,” said Brad Bainum, Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman for the 2018 Senate race.

The spending follows an Oct. 5 announcement in which another Koch group, Americans for Prosperity, pledged to run $4.5 million in ads over three weeks against Baldwin and two other Democratic senators, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

"Wisconsin deserves a senator who will fight for more jobs, higher wages and greater financial security for all Americans," Freedom Partners spokesman Bill Riggs said in a statement. "Tammy Baldwin is fighting to protect the rigged system, and Wisconsin is paying the price."

Baldwin is serving her first term after winning the seat with 51 percent of the vote in 2012, a little more than 1 percentage point less than the statewide share received by then President Barack Obama. Since then, Republican Governor Scott Walker has bolstered his party’s political apparatus in the state. Two Republicans with strong financial backing locally and nationally are among those who have already announced challenges to her next year.

Trump won the state in 2016 by 22,748 votes out of almost 3 million cast.

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.

Of the three Democratic senators directly targeted so far by Freedom Partners and 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. He’s said he needs more details before he can endorse a tax plan.

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