Freedom Partners, the ambiguously-named dark money operation affiliated with the Koch brothers, lurched to life in the 2014 campaign cycle after spending past years as little more than a glorified pass-through for the Kochs’ political money. The nonprofit, which started running hard-hitting attack ads against Senate Democrats with plenty of air time reserved for future TV ads at stations across the country, won’t be using all those valuable ad spots. Instead, the organization has transferred ad contracts in Iowa and North Carolina to another politically active group under the Koch umbrella, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), which is leading a multi-faceted campaign linking vulnerable Democrats to the Veterans Administration scandal.
The transfer of air time illustrates just how tightly some organizations connected to the Koch brothers operate.
Ad documents and interviews with representatives from local TV stations confirm that CVA will be taking the reins from Freedom Partners in several markets. The group purchased all of Freedom Partners’ cancelled ad buys at station KTVO in Kirksville, Mo., and WBTV in Charlotte, N.C. CVA also bought one week of air time that was previously locked down by Freedom Partners at KCCI in Iowa.
The moves come as Koch groups recalibrate their ad spending. Ads in Michigan have been canceled across the board, and several weeks of Colorado air time have been adjusted. At KRDO in Colorado Springs, ads set to begin running this week have been called off, and a week’s worth of ads set to run at KCNC in Denver in September have been nixed.
Michigan appears to be the only state where cancelled Freedom Partners contracts won’t be swapped out for contracts with Conservative Veterans. There, Freedom Partners ran ads in April skewering Democrat Gary Peters for his Obamacare vote. Peters, currently a House member, is running for Michigan’s open Senate seat.
TV time is a prized commodity during campaign season and Freedom Partners — a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization with an affiliated super PAC — had plopped down millions to lock down air time in the final months leading up to election day.
Now, it seems CVA will be taking the mantle in key Senate races. The group poured $1.6 million into its new ad campaign against incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., according to a recent press release from the group’s website. The commercial, embedded below, attacks Hagan for falling short on her promise to improve care for veterans.
Likewise, in May, the group ran a similar ad questioning Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., for his support of Obama and his handling of the VA scandal. Another spot, from July, blasted Sen. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, for skipping 79 percent of Veterans Affairs Committee meetings as the panel began investigating complaints about wait times and poor service.
Both Arkansas and North Carolina have earned the “Toss-up/Tilt” rating from the Rothenberg Political Report and have each attracted tens of millions of dollars worth of outside spending.
CVA has not limited itself to hot Senate races, however. The group has also run positive ads, boosting Republican congressmen Tom Cotton (who is running to unseat Pryor in Arkansas) and Mike Coffman of Colorado — both of whom are veterans themselves — for supporting legislation to reform the troubled agency.