WASHINGTON -- Political groups backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch are spending $7.7 million on television and online advertising in the Ohio Senate race -- part of a broader plan to focus on the Republican-led Senate instead of the presidential race.
The latest wave of ads in the matchup between incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland spotlights taxes and fees Strickland raised while in office. The ads are paid for by Freedom Partners Action Fund.
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Other Koch groups, including Americans for Prosperity, have been knocking on doors and making phone calls to voters to boost Portman support. During an Ohio "day of action" last month, the groups made 625,000 calls and stopped at almost 17,000 homes.
Beyond that race, Koch groups have advertised in Senate contests in Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and made a small buy in New Hampshire before the Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said she did not want money from outside groups involved in her race.
Koch groups have reserved about $30 million in commercial time for late this summer and fall, putting them at the top of a long list of outside groups planning to invest in Senate races.
The Ohio spending comes as the billionaire industrialists - and major funders of conservative causes and candidates - have distanced themselves from the presidential race and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, at least for now. Charles Koch has said he doesn't like Trump's divisive comments, in particular his assertion he'd temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country.
A Koch-funded data company used by most of the Republican Senate candidates refused to do business with Trump when his campaign inquired.