WASHINGTON (AP) -- Groups independent of the likely nominees in Colorado's Senate race are running ads that question the motives of the candidates, adding millions to what outside groups are already spending on negative television spots six months before Election Day.
The latest comes from the League of Conservation Voters, which announced this week it would spend almost $1 million to criticize Rep. Cory Gardner, the expected Republican nominee, as a figure who takes policy positions in exchange for support from his political patrons. In the 30-second ad, the environmental group says Gardner is beholden to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and is "too extreme for Colorado."
That ad is retaliation for an ad the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity is running criticizing Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for supporting the national health care law.
"People have lost their health insurance, millions of people can't see their own doctors, and millions are paying more and getting less," a woman says into the camera in that 30-second ad, part of Americans for Prosperity's own rotation of ads.
Both ads are misleading, but it might not matter. The Colorado race is expected to be hard-fought and nasty. Strategists from both parties see it as one of a handful that will decide the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats have a six-seat majority to defend and a path to Republican control could run through Colorado.
The League of Conservation Voters' ad says Gardner has voted to keep in place subsidies for energy companies and suggests that the Kochs are using one of the political operations they fund to thank him.
"There's a smear campaign going on in Colorado, backed by the out-of-state oil billionaire Koch brothers, steering $1 million into attack ads," the environmental group's ad says. "Why? Congressman Gardner supports their agenda. Gardner voted to keep giving billions in special taxpayer-funded subsidies to oil companies."
Democrats have made opposition to the Kochs and their vast network of political operations a central part of their strategy heading toward November. But, while Charles and David Koch write checks to the group, they are not directly involved in Americans for Prosperity and there is no evidence Gardner's position on energy subsidies is a result of the Kochs' interests.
Americans for Prosperity, meanwhile, has its own factually challenged ads on the air. The group claims Americans are paying more for health care but receiving fewer services. Insurance premiums have consistently increased for the last 15 years, but the Kaiser Family Foundation's survey finds those who purchase insurance through their employer have seen a slower rate of increase than before the health care law was in place. And there is no indication that Americans are getting fewer services under the national health care law.
"People don't like political ads. I don't like them, either. But health care isn't about politics," the narrator says in the Americans for Prosperity ad, before turning political.
"Tell Sen. Udall to stop thinking about politics and start thinking about people," the ad concludes.
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