It has come to this in a campaign season awash with money from unknown sources: A secretly funded Democratic group is running a TV ad naming the Koch brothers as the secret donors of Republican groups.
In a 30-second spot that debuted last night and will run for two weeks on CNN and MSNBC, pictures of Charles and David Koch are displayed as a male narrator says the “billionaire oil tycoons” and their special-interest friends are spending $400 million “to buy this year’s elections and advance their agenda.”
The $500,000 ad campaign, supplemented by a website and online ads, is being waged by Patriot Majority, a group allied with Democratic super-political action committees that back President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.
Patriot Majority’s president is Craig Varoga, a Democratic strategist who has worked for past Democratic presidential candidates including Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Varoga says the intent of the national ad campaign is to introduce a wider audience to the Koch brothers, saying they’ve quietly funded Republican causes for decades.
The twist? Like Koch-backed groups including Americans for Prosperity and the 60 Plus Association, Patriot Majority is organized as a nonprofit, so it doesn’t disclose its donors and has limits on how much of its budget can be devoted to political activities.
Varoga wouldn’t identify the nonprofit’s donors or say how much money it plans to spend this year.
“We didn’t make the rules, we just play by them,” he said. A related super-PAC of the same name, which was active in 2010 and not in this election, counted unions as its top contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign-finance tracker in Washington.
The Kochs — the seventh and eight richest people in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — are co-owners of Koch Industries Inc. based in Wichita, Kansas. The closely held company has business interests in consumer products, chemicals and minerals, in addition to oil.
In a statement posted online, Koch Industries, which is co-owned by the brothers, called the Patriot Majority ad “dishonest” and said Obama’s allies “choose to attack and demonize private citizens and job creators who disagree with them on the direction this country is going.”
Another option: The Koch groups could pay for an ad that questions the motives of Patriot Majority’s backers.