The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity will spend at least $125 million during the 2014 midterm campaign season, according to a memo sent to the group's major donors and obtained by Politico. The Kochs believe they've learned enough from their failed opposition to President Obama's re-election in 2012 — for which they spent $400 million in ads — to get it right this time.
Here is an example of the lessons Americans for Prosperity believes it has learned, according to the memo: “If the presidential election told us anything, it’s that Americans place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak." But there's a problem. The Koch brothers believe in a constellation of libertarian-style, free-market policies that aren't too friendly to low-income Americans. But that's not a problem for AFP, with its midterm budget. The memo ads: "“we consistently see that Americans in general are concerned that free-market policy — and its advocates — benefit the rich and powerful more than the most vulnerable of society. …We must correct this misconception.” Don't change the policies, change how people see them.
Americans for Prosperity has already tried out some new campaign ads based on those 2012 "lessons." Here's one, released a few weeks ago, targeting Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's support of Obamacare.
The group will have a pretty unprecedented amount of midterm money with which to produce more ads like these, in a handful of states that the group is targeting. $125 million is a lot of money for a midterm. It is major political party money. It's reasonable to say that the figure is about what the Democratic and the Republican parties will each spend on their own midterm campaign ads. Taken as a whole, all of the moving parts of the Koch brothers' funded campaign action this year will "more closely resemble the traditional functions of a national political party than a network of private nonprofit groups," as Politico writes. AFP will focus its effort on a handful of "pathway" states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. And, they've ramped up their efforts in other states with competitive midterm races, like Alaska, Louisiana, and West Virginia.
While there's no doubt that the AFP's campaigns have the potential to boost the chances of Republicans in an number of close races, it's best to approach their "outreach" efforts to groups that have traditionally opposed their policies with a raised eyebrow. Last year, the millennial-focused group Generation Opportunity, which gets money from a group the Kochs donate to, launched a campaign to get young people to opt out of the Obamacare exchanges, based on the stunning claim that almost any private insurance purchase outside of the exchanges would be a "better deal" than those offered through the health care exchanges. Despite the memorable "Creepy Uncle Sam" in one of those ads, Generation Opportunity admitted to The Wire that it was still "working on" the math to back up their claims. In fact, the only thing "opting out" in the way Generation Opportunity wanted would have accomplished is making those following their advice ineligible for tax credit subsidies.
According to Politico's report, Generation Opportunity is expanding its staff for the midterms, as is LIBRE Initiative. LIBRE Initiative is another Koch-backed group that aims to educate "Hispanic communities about economic freedom principles and values such as free enterprise, limited government, and personal responsibility."