In Advance Of Weekend Summit, Conservative Group Buys Ads Against Democrat Leading US Senate Race

Aug 19, 2015

A policy group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers is getting a jump on its weekend summit in Columbus and on the fall 2016 election for US Senate in Ohio by purchasing television ads against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland. 

Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports.

The group Americans for Prosperity, backed by the conservative Koch brothers, is in Columbus this weekend for its annual conference – which it’s calling the “Defending the American Dream” Summit. And in advance of that event, AFP is spending $1.4 million on TV ads targeting the Democrat who’s leading in the polls for next year’s US Senate race in Ohio, former Gov. Ted Strickland.

“In 2008, when we lost our jobs working for DHL, it was total devastation, and a lot of people found themselves in the same situation,” says “Bruce”, a DHL worker featured in the ad titled “Ted Strickland Failed Ohio”. It also includes a graphic that says 4500 jobs moved from Ohio to Kentucky when DHL left Wilmington. Another slide says 400,000 Ohio jobs were lost to other states during Strickland’s tenure. Deputy Director for AFP Ohio Baylor Myers said, “Ted Strickland has a terrible record. And our purpose is to highlight that failed record and use it as a reason why Ted Strickland should be disqualified from ever holding public office again.”

But Strickland says job losses weren’t confined to Ohio during the recession, which he blames on the policies of President George W. Bush – who picked current Republican Sen. Rob Portman as his budget director. Strickland says he left Gov. John Kasich a recovering economy – which experts have said is true. And Strickland said Portman has voted for trade deals that benefit outsources and cost jobs. And Strickland said he’s not concerned about the ads – on the contrary. “I sort of take it as a compliment that I am running as strong as I am against an incumbent Senator that the Koch brothers and their kind would feel that they needed to put so much money into tearing me down,” Strickland said.

This ad criticizing Strickland’s record is an issue ad - the kind that a 501c4 such as Americans for Prosperity can run. This ad doesn’t urge a vote for Portman, and Myers said they’re also not buying them because Strickland is leading Portman in most polls. “Our entire focus is policy. I don’t look at the polls,” Myers said. “What we really want to do is focus on Ted Strickland’s policy record, which was very ineffective for Ohioans across the board and we want to make sure that that is at the forefront of this discussion surrounding his re-entry into public life.”

But Strickland said AFP is targeting him because of those polls. “I think they know that I’m going to be the candidate running against Rob Portman next November, and I think it has shocked them because Rob Portman has been their go-to guy,” said Strickland. “Anytime the billionaire class wants something out of the Senate, they can get help from Rob Portman.”

And Strickland said Republicans also fear that if Portman loses, the GOP will lose the presidential race, because no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. But Strickland is way behind Portman in fundraising, and he also has a primary matchup against Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld to get through. Portman is among those on the agenda for the Americans for Prosperity Summit this weekend in Columbus – the lineup also includes presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, but not Ohio Gov. John Kasich.