Who’s In Charge Here?

Commanding attention: David and Charles Koch
National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
March 18, 2014, 7:45 a.m.

There wasn’t much doubt about this be­fore­hand, but this week’s polit­ic­al ad­vert­ising news con­firms how Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity has taken con­trol of the Sen­ate and House land­scapes. All over the coun­try, Demo­crats have been forced to re­act to the well-fun­ded non­profit’s moves, which even have some Re­pub­lic­ans guess­ing.

— AFP’s perch in the driver’s seat has been es­pe­cially clear of late. AFP doubled its spend­ing against Sen. Mark Pry­or (D-AR) last week with a $700,000 buy, at which point the Demo­crat­ic out­side group Pat­ri­ot Ma­jor­ity jumped in again versus Rep. Tom Cot­ton (R-AR). Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s (D-LA) strik­ing de­cision to drop $2.6 mil­lion on TV in the spring about equaled what AFP had pre­vi­ously spent against her. (The group then upped its in­vest­ment.) And Sen. Mark Be­gich (D-AK) took dir­ect aim at AFP and the Koch broth­ers in his first TV ad AFP also fired the first (mil­lion-dol­lar) salvo in Col­or­ado this week.

— It’s not just the Sen­ate land­scape, either. House-fo­cused Demo­crats are play­ing de­fense against AFP more than any­thing else right now. After spend­ing 2013 pok­ing at po­ten­tially vul­nerbale GOP in­cum­bents like Mike Coff­man, Joe Heck, and Steve South­er­land, some­times draw­ing an AFP re­sponse, House Ma­jor­ity PAC has spent 2014 chas­ing AFP in­to Ari­zona, Flor­ida, and West Vir­gin­ia to mit­ig­ate dam­age from at­tacks against Demo­crat­ic law­makers. In Rep. Nick Ra­hall‘s WV-03, an­oth­er Koch-con­nec­ted group’s ads on coal have also ser­i­ously dam­aged the long­time in­cum­bent.

— AFP’s in­di­vidu­al ad buys have oc­ca­sion­ally puzzled Re­pub­lic­an strategists eye­ing the House, too, with a few won­der­ing where the group was dur­ing the FL-13 spe­cial elec­tion. But they’re happy with the res­ults: Some Dems are tak­ing dam­age, and it’s for­cing them to spend re­sources now.

The usu­al sus­pects — the party com­mit­tees, Cross­roads, etc. — have barely got­ten in­volved in in­de­pend­ent ex­pendit­ures yet, and things may change as the elec­tion draws near­er and more ad­vert­ising comes on­line. But for now, AFP ap­pears to be in charge.
— Scott Bland

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