Koch's New Super PAC Loses Six of Nine Incumbents in Key Targeted House Races

Announced in September with great fanfare, the Koch's new super PAC, Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action), achieved mixed results in the fifteen races it targeted in the 2018 midterm elections.

Most significant, it lost six House races against incumbents, constituting a 12-vote swing that was key to the Democrats taking control of the U.S House.

AFP Action, the new super PAC arm of its astroturf operation, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), reported spending between $75,000 and $300,000 in each race.

The Koch's undoubtedly knew that these were key to the Democrats winning a majority in the House. Most of the money in these races was spent on TV and digital advertising.

In Iowa, a state carried by Trump in 2016, both incumbents backed by AFP Action were knocked off by challengers. Given the considerable advantage of holding office, more than 90 percent of incumbents are typically reelected.

The story was the same in Illinois, Minnesota, Utah, and Virginia: AFP Action supported incumbents who were defeated by challengers. In three House races, in Ohio, Texas, and Washington, AFP Action's targeted Republican incumbents won.

AFP Action also spent between $1.5 million and $6 million each on five U.S. Senate and three gubernatorial races.

AFP Action candidates won in two Senate races, with Koch darling Josh Hawley beating incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn taking down former Gov. Phil Bredesen in Tennessee.

But AFP Action lost big in Wisconsin where its candidate Leah Vukmir -- an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) champion -- got crushed by over ten percentage points by incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D). And AFP Action lost in Montana after incumbent Sen. Jim Tester squeaked out a victory over challenger Matt Rosendale (R).

Florida's Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Bill Nelson (D) is too close to call.

In the governor's race in Wisconsin, a state Trump narrowly won, Democratic candidate Tony Evers beat incumbent and former Presidential hopeful, Scott Walker. Altogether AFP Action spent about $6 million in ads on the two races in Wisconsin, not counting opening offices, hiring staff, and canvassing, with final figures still to come.

AFP Action also lost the open seat governor's race in Nevada, a state where it spent near $3 million, supporting Republican Adam Laxalt against Democrat Steve Sisolak.

AFP Action backed the gubernatorial winner in Florida, another open seat, Ron DeSantis beating Andrew Gillum, although that race may still end up getting a recount.

AFP spent millions on door-to-door, mail, and digital appeals to its list and the public, but the full amount cannot be known. In addition, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported, Concerned Veterans for America Action -- a project of AFP Action -- also aided Rosendale, DeSantis, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC).

AFP Action Chart

Don Wiener

Don Wiener is a writer at the Center for Media and Democracy. Don has 40 years experience working as a policy analyst, researcher, media strategist, and coalition coordinator for dozens of community, public interest, labor, and environmental groups. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.