Americans for Prosperity is launching a major new TV ad campaign in Alaska — and in a first for this election cycle, the conservative outside group won't be focusing exclusively on Obamacare.
The group's newest 30-second spot opens by accusing Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of breaking his promise that Obamacare wouldn't throw anyone off their existing health insurance. But instead of hammering away at the Affordable Care Act for a full half-minute, the ad pivots to accuse the incumbent of also supporting a carbon tax, an issue of particular resonance in oil-rich Alaska.
"Senator Begich hasn't always been straight with us," a narrator intones. "Now, he's at it again."
The ad is set to air for three weeks statewide, with a buy of $430,000 — a large purchase in the cheap state.
The spot marks a major tactical shift for AFP, which since August has invested tens of millions of dollars in TV ads almost entirely about Obamacare. The focus on the health care law at the expense of every other issue had worried some GOP strategists who worry the party needs to broaden its critique to reach the widest swath of voters.
"The vast majority of our ads in this accountability effort, if not all of them really, have been focused on Obamacare," said Tim Phillips, president of AFP. "The carbon tax is such an important issue really for not only the country but especially for Alaska, and when we have Senator Begich not telling the truth about his support for a carbon tax we felt compelled to shift somewhat from Obamacare to his support for the carbon tax."
Phillips said that in the future, his group will determine which issues to highlight in its ads on a "case-by-case basis."
AFP has been a source of controversy in Alaska lately — its major funders, the industrialists Charles and David Koch, drew criticism when they closed a refinery there this month. Reports had surfaced this week that the conservative organizations had withdrawn ads from the state, which was interpreted as a sign it was trying to lower its profile in light of the bad press.
But Phillips said his group had simply been talking with local TV station about ad rates.
"We have always [said] we were going to go back on the air in Alaska, and it's just a matter of deciding on the timing," he said.
Democrats have sought to mitigate some of the damage from the AFP ads by criticizing the group's agenda, which sometimes contradicts with the GOP candidates it ostensibly is trying to help. A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reiterated that line of attack on Friday, arguing the GOP's top two candidates in Alaska — former state official Dan Sullivan and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell — "owe Alaskans an explanation for having no problem benefitting from hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside money by the Koch Brother's but remaining silent on the decision by the Koch's to close a local refinery and fire 80 Alaskan workers."
"It's clear Sullivan and Treadwell care more about their anti-middle-class agenda than Alaska families," committee spokesman Justin Barasky said.
It's the second ad AFP has run in Alaska. A different group linked to the conservative Koch billionaires, the American Energy Alliance, has also run TV ads connecting another Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, to carbon-tax support in the last few months.