Financial arm of Koch-backed political network launches first direct attack ads

A Virginia-based nonprofit that served as the main funding arm of a political network backed by the conservative Koch brothers in 2012 is running attack ads directly for the first time, launching television commercials Tuesday against two Democratic Senatorial candidates.

The spots by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce attempt to link campaign donations from the health care industry to Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, suggesting they gave “special favors” to insurance companies by backing Obamacare.

“The hypocrisy is shocking,” says a female narrator in the Udall ad.

The group is spending almost $1.1 million to run the ads in Iowa and Colorado over the next three weeks. The ad buy was first spotted by the Sunlight Foundation Monday.

The foray into paid media is a new role for Freedom Partners, which was formed in late 2011 and raised $256 million from unknown sources, money that was then transferred to a complex network of LLCs and political nonprofits that do not disclose their donors, The Post and Center for Responsive Politics reported in January.

In this year’s midterms, Freedom Partners is bringing in-house many of the functions it financed through other groups in the last campaign. The organization’s elevated role speaks to how the Kochs are exerting more control over the political activity they fund, a strategy that provides more accountability to fellow conservative donors who want to know how their money is being spent.

Because the Freedom Partners spots do not explicitly urge viewers to vote for or against the candidates, they are considered so-called “issue ads,” not political ads, and do not have to be reported as independent political expenditures to the Federal Election Commission.

In that way, they are similar to the television ads being run by the Koch-backed advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which has already poured roughly $30 million into spots attacking vulnerable Democrats.

“Obamacare supporters want to have it both ways,” James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, said in a statement. “These professional politicians claim to be standing up against health insurance companies while pocketing money from their political action committees and company executives. It’s hypocritical – while health insurance companies stand to see massive financial gains from the healthcare law, the rest of America is left paying the bill. They had an opportunity to stand up against the health insurance special interests when it mattered, and they didn’t. Now, it’s time for them to stand with their constituents and stop supporting Obamacare.”

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