PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley's campaign released a new television ad on Wednesday meant to tie his Republican challenger Monica Wehby to the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, whose group has pummeled the Democratic incumbent with negative ads for weeks.
The new ad highlights the millions of out-of-state dollars the Koch brothers have spent in Oregon on the anti-Merkley TV ads. It also accuses the brothers and Wehby of sharing an agenda that includes wanting to gut the Clean Air Act and give billionaires tax breaks.
Merkley's strategy, said Pacific University political science professor Jim Moore, is to take the negative ads the Koch brothers have been running about him and turn them into a negative for Wehby.
"All people know about Wehby or about Merkley from TV is what's in the Koch brothers' ads," he said.
The nonprofit political group Freedom Partners, linked to and funded by the Koch brothers, pledged $3.6 million for the anti-Merkley ad blitz. Its ads attack Congress and Merkley over government spending and budget deficits.
Charles and David Koch are billionaires who have spent heavily to back conservative and libertarian causes, earning the ire of liberals. They live in Kansas and New York.
"The Merkley campaign is betting that the name Koch brothers resonates with voters here, that people will know it means a pretty libertarian and far-right ideology," Moore said.
It's not just about ideology, he said: "It's outsiders trying to tell Oregonians what to do. The history of Oregon elections has shown that if you can make that message, voters will vote for the Oregonian answer."
The anti-Merkley ads make no mention of Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Portland making her first run for political office, but she has welcomed them.
Wehby spokesman Dean Petrone said the Merkley campaign ad contains "imaginary agendas to go alongside his imaginary legislative accomplishments."
Petrone denied a connection between the political agenda of Wehby and that of the Koch brothers.
The Wehby campaign released its own TV ad Wednesday, which focuses on small businesses and on Wehby's promises to lower taxes, cut the debt, and do away with the Affordable Care Act.
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