Americans for Prosperity Launches Major Ad Buy in Alaska

And the Obamacare-centric group is talking about something other than the president’s health care law.

Sen. Mark Begich
National Journal
Alex Roarty
Feb. 21, 2014, 1:19 p.m.

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.

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