WASHINGTON -- A secretly funded Democratic group is running a $500,000 national television advertising campaign spotlighting the Koch brothers as the money behind Republican groups that also don't disclose their donors.
As a giant check reading "Billionaires Special Interests" and pictures of the brothers flash on screen, a male narrator says, "Billionaire oil tycoons Charles and David Koch and their special-interest friends are spending $400 million to buy this year's elections and advance their agenda."
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The Kochs -- the seventh and eight richest people in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index -- are co- owners of Koch Industries Inc. based in Wichita, Kansas. It's one of the largest closely held companies in the world and has business interests in consumer products, chemicals and minerals, in addition to oil.
The 30-second spot airs for two weeks on CNN and MSNBC. It is supplemented by a website called "Stop the Greed Agenda" and online ads.
The campaign is being waged by Patriot Majority, a group allied with Democratic super-political action committees that back President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional candidates. Patriot Majority's president is Craig Varoga, a Democratic strategist who has worked on past Democratic presidential campaigns, including for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Like Koch-backed groups including Americans for Prosperity and the 60 Plus Association, Patriot Majority is organized as a nonprofit, so it doesn't disclose its donors and has limits on how much of its budget can be devoted to political activities.
A related super-political action committee of the same name, which was active in 2010 and not in this election, counted unions as its top contributors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign-finance tracker in Washington.
Varoga wouldn't disclose the nonprofit's donors or say how much money it plans to spend this year.
"We didn't make the rules, we just play by them," he said.
Koch Industries calls the ad "dishonest."
"Rather than run on their record and engage in a principled discussion about the critical issues facing Americans today, the president's allies instead choose to attack and demonize private citizens and job creators who disagree with them on the direction this country is going," Philip Ellender, president of government affairs for Koch Industries's Koch Companies Public Sector, said in a statement posted on its website.
"Koch has a long history of standing firm for the principles of economic freedom and we will continue to do so, in spite of the ongoing attacks," the statement says.
The ad asserts that the Koch brothers and their allies will spend $400 million on 2012 elections, a figure reported by Politico. "What's the payback?" the ad asks. "Politicians who will pass laws that benefit special interests but hurt the middle class: more tax cuts for the rich, eliminate the minimum wage, big cuts to our schools, but big subsidies for oil companies."
Rob Tappan, a spokesman for Koch, said that while the brothers don't support government subsidies of any kind, the company pursues them because it doesn't want to be at a competitive disadvantage.