PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – A major, controversial donor may be closing the gap between previously reported disparities in Senate hopeful Monica Wehby and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley’s campaign finances.
An organization linked to the Koch brothers, whose coffers have donated millions to conservative political candidates including Tea Party groups, has spent upwards of $3.1 million in Oregon Senate TV advertisements, according to data from campaign trackers obtained by Sen. Jeff Merkley’s campaign staff.
The ads, intended to support Wehby’s campaign and paid for by the Koch-linked group Freedom Partners, will run in Bend, Portland, Salem and Medford starting in August.
Tuesday, Merkley’s Deputy Campaign Manager Andrew Zucker said Wehby’s support for what he calls a “Tea Party budget” is what attracted funding from the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers’ arms-length organization.
Last week, reports in Politico and the Washington Post suggested Freedom Partners had bought upwards of $1.9 million in Oregon ads.
“The ad buy simply disproves the Merkley narrative that this race isn’t in play for Republicans,” said Monica Wehby for Oregon Communications Director Dean Petrone.
He said the Oregon senate seat is crucial, and that a $2 million ad buy paid for by Merkley’s campaign, serves to highlight the closeness of the race.
Did conservative budget win favor with Kochs?
In an April campaign email, Wehby introduced a plan for job growth that would reduce taxes on Oregon’s top individual and corporate earners to 25%. The plan bears similarity to the tax agenda floated in 2012 by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who the Koch brothers spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting.
“And we know that’s now attracted the billionaire Koch brothers to throw millions behind Wehby here in Oregon,” said Zucker.
In a political issues roundup, Wehby told the Oregonian she would have voted yes on the Balanced Budget Amendment, a party line vote to require a balanced budget implemented through “Cap, Cut and Balance” in 2011.
Zucker said Cap, Cut and Balance would cost trillions and “constitutionally require massive cuts to popular programs like education, veterans benefits, even Social Security and Medicare.”
Cut Cap and Balance was called “one of the most ideologically extreme pieces of budget legislation” by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Petrone said Wehby supports a balanced budget amendment. “The $5 trillion in debt Jeff Merkley has saddled us with since taking office has resulted in nothing more than a weaker labor force, and an anemic economic recovery,” he said.
Freedom Partners gave a total of $236 million to conservative organizations, including Tea Party affiliated groups, in the lead up to the 2012 election. Because the ads were paid for by an outside group, they cannot directly promote Monica Wehby’s campaign.
Wehby calls for Cover Oregon stories
Also on Tuesday, Wehby’s campaign announced an initiative to compile stories of disappointment with Cover Oregon, the state’s failed health care exchange, called “Our Story.”
“The “Our Story” initiative will provide Oregonians an outlet to highlight how the law has failed them, and a means to address those failures with commonsense, market-based ideas,” a statement from Wehby’s campaign reads.
Wehby positions the Cover Oregon debacle a “sore reminder of Senator Merkley’s broken promises.” The initiative will continue for the duration of Wehby’s campaign.