In one of the ads Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has put on the air this year, a thirtysomething actress stands against a white backdrop and looks into the camera. “People don’t like political ads,” she says plaintively. “I don’t like them either. But health care isn’t about politics, it’s about people, and millions of people have lost their health insurance, millions of people can’t see their own doctors, and millions are paying more and getting less.” At the close, a narrator urges viewers to “tell Mary Landrieu to stop thinking about politics and start thinking about people.” Such ads have also run against Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Udall in Colorado, and incumbent Democratic House members in Arizona, Florida, and New Hampshire.
Ads like the “white ad,” as it has become known, are not new to 2014. They are part of a sustained assault against Obamacare mounted with the help of the donor network organized by Charles and David Koch and the array of social-welfare groups it funds.
The ads themselves, which have inflamed Democrats this election season, represent five years of knowledge, accumulated through polls and focus groups, about how to use the health-care issue to pull Americans into the GOP camp. With AFP having spent over $30 million so far this year to bring down sitting Democratic senators, the ads also symbolize the changing nature of American politics. Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, unlimited outside spending by 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups has finally allowed Republicans to match the political muscle of labor unions, whose spending was also blown open by the decision, but which have long poured money into Democratic coffers.
That newfound equity is one reason why the AFP ads have sent Democrats into a tailspin and led them to make the ads, and two of the people funding them, a major campaign issue of 2014.