Koch brothers target McCaskill in new ad campaign, Democrats fire back | St. Louis Public Radio

Koch brothers target McCaskill in new ad campaign, Democrats fire back

Feb 13, 2018

Updated with Democratic counter-ad:   Another wave of conservative ads blasting U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill will be airing this week on Missouri TV stations and the internet.

This time, it’s the Missouri arm of Americans for Prosperity, funded by  billionaires Charles and David Koch. The group says it is spending $1.8 million to attack the Democratic senator’s vote against the federal tax-cut measure that is now going into effect.

The pitch is in line with Republican jabs against McCaskill since the tax bill was passed by Congress in December.

In the ad, an announcer says that McCaskill failed average Missourians.

“When she had the chance, she said ‘No,’ voting against tax cuts for you,” the announcer says in the 30-second spot, which features a view of the Gateway Arch.

The group added in a statement, “This ad effort is part of AFP’s campaign to connect Americans to the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and hold accountable lawmakers who voted against the pro-growth reform. The grassroots group has already begun a major campaign to promote the historic tax reform law with the goal of ensuring all Americans understand the impact in their daily lives.”

By Thursday, the Democratic Senate Majority PAC had launched a response ad campaign on TV and the web. PAC spokesman Chris Hayden said about $1.2 million will be spent in Missouri on behalf of McCaskill.

The Democratic ad accuses Republicans of now seeking to cut Medicare in order to pay for the tax cuts.

McCaskill points to studies showing that most of the cuts go to wealthy Americans, and reaffirms her earlier statements in which she called for a tax-cut bill more heavily weighted toward middle-class Americans. She later pointed to a report indicating that the Koch brothers could be getting an annual tax break of $1 billion a year under the new law.

She also expects more such attacks as she campaigns for a third term. McCaskill is one of the GOP’s prime targets this year, as it seeks to keep control of the U.S. Senate. So far, various conservative groups already have spent millions of dollars on ads and fliers to disparage McCaskill.

“It’s the silly season. Facts are going to be distorted and twisted,” McCaskill said in a conference call Tuesday with reporters. “I think people do kind of take all the ads and accusations with some skepticism.”

Her best-known Republican rival, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, has pointed to bonuses that some Missouri companies are giving to thousands of workers. Democrats are countering by blaming the tax cuts for higher federal budget deficits announced this week, and President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut social programs, notably Medicare and Medicaid.

McCaskill isn’t the only Democratic senator to be targeted by the Koch brothers. A similar ad campaign has been launched against U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Calls for pro-drug groups to identify donors

Also Tuesday, McCaskill released a Senate report showing that the nation’s five largest manufacturers of opioid drugs had donated at least $10 million since 2012 to groups and doctors who have lobbied against opioid restrictions.

McCaskill is planning to introduce a bill that would require groups supporting the pharmaceutical industry to identify their donors. The senator suspects that drug companies are providing most of the money for the groups, who in turn lobby in favor of the industry.

“They may very well be doing good public work,” she said during the conference call. “All the more reason we should have disclosure. So people know who’s funding and people know who’s paying for the advocacy these groups are engaged in.”

The senator contends that the groups’ lack of transparency is making it harder for Congress to pass laws aimed at curbing the abuse of addictive prescription drugs known as opioids.

However, she acknowledged that there may be roadblocks. She plans to have lawyers review her proposed bill to make sure there’s a way to legally require the pro-drug groups to disclose their donors.  Some were created under certain IRS provisions that allows them to keep their donors secret.

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter @jmannies