The rhetoric on earmarks and “pork barrel spending“ keeps paying dividends for conservative advocacy groups looking to undermine House Democrats in swing districts. Today the beneficiary is the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which says it’s “committed to educating citizens about economic policy and a return of the federal government to its Constitutional limits.” The group is launching a $4.1 million ad buy in 11 states that’s designed to target two dozen Democrats for “wasteful federal spending.”
The ad, which highlights a $1.1 million paving project on the Sunset Strip, describes the federal stimulus as one big boondoggle and doesn’t mention the Democratic Party, let alone any individual candidates. It thereby qualifies as “issue advocacy” — as distinct from electioneering communications (broadcasts which advocate for or against a specific federal candidate) — and it’s being described by Democrats as a biggest single ad buy of an already free-spending summer.
Donors to the 501(c)(4) group remain a complete mystery, but they are presumed to include David Koch, the founding chairman of the foundation and co-owner of Koch Industries, an oil conglomerate (which also does business in cattle, paper, and chemicals) that’s now the second-largest private company in the U.S.
Democrats have been handily out-raising Republicans through traditional avenues like individual and party-level campaign donations, but groups like Americans for Prosperity are the “x factor” that everyone is talking about. President Obama even mentioned Americans for Prosperity last week at a fundraiser in Austin, Texas, in which he argued, “You don’t know if it’s a big oil company or a big bank. You don’t know if it’s an insurance company that wants to see some of the provisions in health reform repealed because it’s good for their bottom line.”
These groups, depending on how much they lay out, might tip the spending balance in the GOP’s favor, but that won’t stop Obama and the Dems from trying to win as many political points off the issue as possible. The president knows he has a winning hand in railing against the unchecked power of corporations to influence elections, so expect him and fellow Democrats to keep singling out shadowy groups like Americans For Prosperity whenever he can.
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