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Dems seriously alarmed by Koch money

Matea Gold has a good piece today documenting just how much money Americans for Prosperity, the group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, is pumping into ads hammering vulnerable Democrats over Obamacare.

There’s a three week ad blitz starting today against Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor. Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen are getting hit by ads featuring women “speaking in personal terms” about their worries over the Affordable Care Act. Even Dem Senate candidates who aren’t incumbents, in states that will be tough for Republicans — like Bruce Braley in Iowa and Gary Peters in Michigan — are getting hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ads. The total so far:

As of this week, Americans for Prosperity has spent more than $27 million on ads since August, putting it on pace to far outstrip its overall $38.5 million budget for the 2010 midterms.

And it’s only February. So where’s the response from Dem groups and wealthy Dem donors?

The main outside group counter-balancing AFP is the Senate Majority PAC, which spends to elect Dems to the Senate. Ty Matsdorf, a spokesman for the group, says this:

“It’s unprecedented. It means that groups like ours have to go up early as well. We can’t let those attacks go unchallenged.”

What that really means is: Where’s the money, wealthy liberals?

To put this in perspective, consider these figures. A source familiar with ad buy info collected by the Senate Majority PAC tells me that as of today in Louisiana, AFP has spent over $1.7 million so far on ads against Senator Mary Landrieu, versus less than $650,000 by the SMP.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the source says, AFP as of today has spent a staggering $7.2 million against Senator Kay Hagan, versus only $1.4 million by the SMP.

Those are lopsided imbalances. And it’s going to get a lot worse. Dems expect the Koch network to spend as much as $200 million this cycle.

Meanwhile, the money from the left just isn’t there yet, Dems say privately. If it were, you’d see groups like the Senate Majority PAC, Emily’s List, and the League of Conservation Voters (which is up with an ad hitting Scott Brown in New Hampshire) spending much more in these races, to match AFP’s spending.

It may seem unusual to be sounding the alarm nine months before Election Day. But as best as I can determine, this isn’t a garden variety effort to goose donors. Dem operatives are genuinely worried about this spending onslaught.