Americans for Prosperity has been a blessing for Republican candidates. But the GOP's top contenders might yet find their favorite outside group can also present a challenging dilemma.
Take Louisiana, where the Koch-affiliated AFP has spent more than $3 million on TV ads aimed at Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. The state's congressional delegation – including Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy – support a four-year delay in increases to premiums in the National Flood Insurance Program, which covers more than a half-million Louisiana residents. A bill to do just that passed the Senate last week and now awaits action in the House.
But AFP, which develops its own robust policy agenda, staunchly opposes a delay. And Democrats are seizing on its opposition to attack both the non-profit organization and Cassidy.
"Unfortunately this is only the latest example of the Koch brothers' anti-Louisiana agenda," said Andrew Zucker, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, in a statement shared with National Journal Hotline. "Their efforts to kill bipartisan flood insurance reform are yet another reason why Louisianians shouldn't trust the millions of dollars worth of false attack ads they have launched against Sen. Landrieu."
In a release, Zucker highlighted Cassidy's own connection to AFP, including a video of the congressman attending one of the group's events and thanking a staffer for its help in his Senate campaign.
Cassidy has offered the delay legislation his unequivocal backing, telling the New Orleans Advocate last year that his support was "about doing something right by American families." But in politics, sometimes guilt by association can be enough to make an impression on voters.
The congressman's dilemma is indicative of the unique challenges presented by AFP. Unlike groups which only are concerned with electing Republicans, AFP is primarily concerned about its conservative policy priorities, and backing candidates who support them. When establishment-backed American Crossroads invested in a race, for example, Republican candidates didn't have to fret about the group's own agenda. They do when AFP gets involved.
It's is not the only group with a policy perspective to involve itself in campaigns -- Club for Growth, a force on Capitol Hill legislation, routinely runs TV ads in races. But the incredible amount of money being spent by AFP, roughly $30 million already this election, puts them front and center in a way no other outside group can match.
For Democrats, it's another way to push back against a group that has drowned its incumbent senators in ads. And it's not just in Louisiana where the party is using AFP's policy agenda against the Republican candidates.
In North Carolina, a spokeswoman for Sen. Kay Hagan's campaign called AFP's more than $8 million in TV ads a "post-Citizens United quid pro quo" for Thom Tillis, the GOP front-runner who as state House speaker helped pass an agenda backed by the conservative outside group.
"In Raleigh, Tillis has shown his allegiance to AFP's dangerous for North Carolina, special interest agenda, and now they are returning the favor by trying to buy him a U.S. Senate seat," said Sadie Weiner, the Hagan campaign spokeswoman.