The American Future Fund, a generally pro-Republican group with connections to the Koch brothers*, have put out a series of short, rather absurd, online ads pushing Libertarian Party North Carolina Senate candidate Sean Haugh, in what is clearly an attempt to pull a certain class of possible Democratic voters away from incumbent Kay Hagan, and thus likely help the chances of Republican Thom Tillis.
[*UPDATE: Received this statement this morning from James Davis of Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Koch-associated group that has funded American Future Fund in the past and earned it its reported Koch connection: "Freedom Partners has not given American Future Fund any grants in the last two years and has no involvement with their current campaign in North Carolina. Our focus continues to be on holding Sen. Kay Hagan accountable for her failure to fight for North Carolina's veterans, how her family profited off of her vote for the stimulus and her rubber-stamp support for President Obama's failed policies."]
Here's the "Get Haugh, Get High" spot. The "Oh Yeah" at the end is the kicker, the painful jokey heart of a painful jokey ad:
And this one tells potential Hagan voters to "Stop!" and consider that "Sean Haugh shares our progressive values" re: pot, war, and, it asserts, the environment:
More of the 16 second ads can be found here.
The Washington Post noted the ads today:
American Future Fund, a tax-exempt organization based in West Des Moines, has been frequently used as a pass-through for political money on the right. In the 2012 campaign, it was a major player in a network of politically active nonprofits supported by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and other conservative donors.
Nick Ryan, AFF's founder, declined to say who was supporting the campaign. "As a practice, we don't comment on who does or does not contribute to our organization," he wrote in an email.
He added that the goal of the pro-Haugh campaign "is straightforward — share information with voters about where Sean Haugh stands on a variety of issues."
Ryan said the campaign is now generating so much buzz that AFF plans to expand its initial $225,000 buy.
"The response has been incredible online," he wrote. "We are going to re-double our efforts and expand the program next week."
The Post straightfacedly quoted a Tweet from Haugh about the ads: "While I appreciate the support, I now have a whole new reason to despise Koch brothers & their dark money." Haugh tweeted to me later that it was meant "more as absurdity, like I'm a character in a Camus novel."
[UPDATE: On further Twitter-talk with Haugh after I first posted this, the Post was right and I was wrong. Given that worrying about "dark money" isn't usually something one hears from Libertarians, I read some dark irony in Haugh's tweet, but he clarifies that he does indeed think the Kochs' political influence these days is baleful. Specifically, Haugh wrote, "I detest their ways of influencing elections and policy at all, very corrupting & anti-republic…."]
The ads were uncoordinated with him, and he knew nothing about them, and recognizes their intent to help Tillis secondhand.
NPR also reported on the ad campaign today:
The $225,000 is nearly 30 times more than the $7,744 Haugh said he has spent for himself.
To put that in perspective, the two main party candidates and outside groups have already spent $85 million on the North Carolina Senate race in advertising that directly tells voters to support or oppose a candidate. Nonprofit political groups that are allowed to keep their donors secret, including the Koch brothers-founded Americans for Prosperity, have spent tens of millions of dollars more in so-called "issue" ads attacking Hagan.
I interviewed Haugh earlier this month. Nick Gillespie wrote earlier this month on how it's a myth to assume that Libertarian candidates only siphon potential votes from or harm Republicans.