Democratic PAC Sees Koch Influence Behind Scuttled TV Ads

Minnesota TV stations owned by a Republican donor and Koch ally refused to air ads from a Democratic super PAC.

Rick Nolan, Minnesota District 8. 
National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
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Jack Fitzpatrick
July 30, 2014, 12:02 p.m.

House Ma­jor­ity PAC is call­ing foul on the Koch broth­ers in an­oth­er con­gres­sion­al race this week. But the Demo­crat­ic su­per PAC isn’t us­ing the con­ser­vat­ive busi­ness­men in a TV ad this time—it’s al­leging that the broth­ers’ al­lies are help­ing stifle HMP’s oth­er ad­vert­ising.

The Demo­crat­ic group’s latest TV ad was taken off the air by two Min­nesota TV sta­tions that called the ad mis­lead­ing be­cause it spliced to­geth­er parts of a quote from Re­pub­lic­an busi­ness­man Stew­art Mills say­ing it is “per­son­ally of­fens­ive” to cri­ti­cize the wealthy for not pay­ing high­er taxes. The ad also said Mills sup­por­ted “an­oth­er tax break for the wealthy” without any cita­tion. Mills is chal­len­ging Demo­crat­ic Rep. Rick No­lan.

But House Ma­jor­ity PAC and the Amer­ic­an Fed­er­a­tion of State, County, and Mu­ni­cip­al Em­ploy­ees, which also paid to run the ad, ques­tioned wheth­er the de­cision was tied to the polit­ic­al be­liefs of the sta­tions’ own­er, Stan­ley Hub­bard, a ma­jor Re­pub­lic­an donor. Hub­bard has a long his­tory of sup­port­ing con­ser­vat­ive causes and pledged in a let­ter to the Kochs that they could “count on me, my wife, and our fam­ily to stand foursquare with your on­go­ing ef­forts to pre­serve our unique Amer­ic­an way of life.”

“When Hub­bard told the Koch broth­ers, ‘You can count on me,’ it is now clear what he meant—he will pull the strings ne­ces­sary to see ul­tracon­ser­vat­ive out-of-touch can­did­ates like Stew­art Mills pro­tec­ted on the air,” House Ma­jor­ity PAC and AF­SCME said in a joint state­ment.

Ray Mi­ra­bella, dir­ect­or of sales for Hub­bard Broad­cast­ing in the Min­neapol­is-St. Paul area, said Hub­bard him­self was not in­volved in the de­cision to pull the ads, say­ing it was “identic­al to any pro­cess we go through for any ad­vert­ising.” Mi­ra­bella said KSTP found the ad to be mis­lead­ing, but House Ma­jor­ity PAC spokes­man Matt Thornton said the mes­sage re­mains the same and that the quote was only ed­ited for time.

In the House Ma­jor­ity PAC ad, Mills was quoted as say­ing: “Folks say­ing that ‘the wealthy, the wealthy are not pay­ing their fair share, the 2 per­cent, the 1 per­cent, whatever per­cent you want, is per­son­ally of­fens­ive.”

In real­ity, the end of the quote came from a por­tion of Mills’s speech in which he said: “To be singled out as a dead­beat is per­son­ally of­fens­ive.” Rep­res­ent­at­ives from WDIO, a sep­ar­ate Hub­bard Broad­cast­ing sta­tion that also pulled the ad, did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The Koch broth­ers have been widely used bo­gey­men for Demo­crats this year, es­pe­cially House Ma­jor­ity PAC, which cred­its its ad­vert­ising con­nect­ing West Vir­gin­ia Re­pub­lic­an Evan Jen­kins to the Kochs with a spring­time bump in Demo­crat­ic Rep. Nick Ra­hall’s polling num­bers.

This is also not the first time House Ma­jor­ity PAC has had an ad taken off air. One of its ads on the race between Rep. Nick Ra­hall and West Vir­gin­ia state Sen. Evan Jen­kins was pulled for two days be­fore be­ing put back on air. The group also ran in­to trouble in Min­nesota last cycle, when an ad against then-Rep. Chip Cravaack was re­portedly taken off air. Oth­er out­side groups have also had ads pulled for al­legedly mis­lead­ing view­ers, while can­did­ates’ ads don’t face the same con­sequences based on their con­tent.

In Min­nesota, Hub­bard donated the max­im­um of $5,200 to Mills’s cam­paign, and two fam­ily mem­bers em­ployed by Hub­bard Broad­cast­ing also re­por­ted con­trib­ut­ing a com­bined $6,200. In 2011, Hub­bard Broad­cast­ing donated $100,000 to Amer­ic­an Cross­roads.

Hub­bard also told Politico that he has at­ten­ded Koch-hos­ted sum­mits for years and that he’s “got­ten friends in­volved.” And Hub­bard’s polit­ic­al views have worked their way in­to the news­room be­fore. In 2010, KSTP News Dir­ect­or Lind­say Rad­ford told Min­nPost that the sta­tion should have dis­closed the com­pany’s dona­tions to a group sup­port­ing then-gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate Tom Em­mer when it re­por­ted on the Re­pub­lic­an’s cam­paign.

Up­date: This story has been up­dated to in­clude the House Ma­jor­ity PAC’s claim that Stew­art Mills sup­ports “an­oth­er tax break for the wealthy,” and that the su­per PAC has had ads taken off the air be­fore.

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