Americans for Prosperity’s Ad Blitz Isn’t Risk-Free For GOP

The policy agenda of a deep-pocketed conservative outside group could complicate its efforts to help Republican candidates.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 18: Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) (2nd L) and members of the GOP Doctors Caucus hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol March 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. All the members of the caucus said they oppose the health care reform legislation, calling it dishonest and bad for doctors.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Feb. 4, 2014, 7:05 a.m.

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.

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