Koch brothers’ money is making its way to hyperlocal races


(Jonathan Gibby/For The Washington Post)

The Koch brothers seem to have taken the famous adage to heart: if all politics is local, that’s where their money will go.

The Wisconsin chapter of the Americans for Prosperity, the group founded by the brothers and chaired by David Koch, distributed flyers to voters in Iron County ahead of next Tuesday’s election for the county board, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The flyers describe the seven candidates challenging incumbents as “anti-mining radicals” and claim the county is “being targeted by wealthy environmental groups from outside Wisconsin,” the newspaper reported. David Fladeboe, director of AFP’s Wisconsin chapter, told the paper that his group sent about 1,000 brochures in the county, which is home to just under 5,000 voting-age residents.

But the group’s advocacy in Wisconsin is just the latest example of how its state chapters are increasingly focused on state and local issues. AFP has more than 200 full-time paid staffers in offices in at least 32 states, The New York Times reported last week.

“The idea is to embed staff members in a community, giving conservative advocacy a permanent local voice through field workers who live in the neighborhood year-round and appreciate the nuances of the local issues,” the paper reported.

AFP has spent tens of millions on Senate races so far this year and last week released what appears to be its first 2014 TV spot affecting a governor’s race, National Journal reported. It’s been involved in a mayoral race in Iowa and property tax fights in Kansas, Ohio and Texas and, in Arkansas, the group succeeded in turning the state legislature red for the first time since post-Civil War Reconstruction. That chapter has so far spent $1.4 million in ad buys, our colleague Jaime Fuller reported last week:

It’s gotten even harder to notice their grassroots presence, since they’ve mostly given up on rallies and bus tours in favor of canvassing and phone banks. But without their “grassroots army,” they say all that spending would be for nothing. “Without the strength of our on-the-ground activists, we wouldn’t have achieved what we have achieved,” says [AFP-Arkansas director Jason] Cline.

The group’s chapters have also ramped up efforts to discredit the president’s health-care law, not only campaigning against federal lawmakers who supported it, but also urging state policymakers to oppose Medicaid expansion. Last month, the Louisiana AFP chapter began distributing letters to state lawmakers urging them to sign pledges to oppose the expansion of Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act.

Charles and David Koch are hated by Democrats and loved by Republicans. But regardless of which party you support, there's almost no question that the Koch Brothers have made money off of you. (Jeff Simon/The Washington Post)
Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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