Freedom Partners Action Fund, a group backed by billionaire Charles Koch, unleashed a $2 million ad buy on Wednesday, targeting the open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio. All eyes may be on John Kasich, who won the Ohio primary last night, but another primary happened on Tuesday, when the Democrats selected former Governor Ted Strickland to challenge sitting Senator Rob Portman.
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a free-market super PAC, announced a $2 million television and digital Ohio ad buy focusing on how Strickland’s tax and spending policies as governor drove jobs out of the state and increased the cost of living. It features Joel, a 25 year DHL employee from Wilmington, Ohio, who lost his job when the company moved to Kentucky during Strickland’s time as governor:
I was with Airborne Express and DHL for over 25 years. I lost my job, so that was very devastating to me. When Mr. Strickland raised taxes $1.5 billion…there was no justification for it. When he should have been in their fighting, we lost 400,000 jobs in the state of Ohio. His track record is not there — there’s no reason to go back to Ted Strickland.
In a statement to accompany the ad, Freedom Partners Action Fund explained that “many of those jobs, including DHL jobs, left Ohio for neighboring states with better tax and regulatory climates.” The $1.5 billion figure comes from fee increases on various services which Strickland pushed as governor. Those services ranged from hospitals and garage disposal to birth and death certificates.
“When Ohio families desperately needed relief, Ted Strickland increased taxes by $1.5 billion and drove jobs to other states with better economic conditions,” Spokesman Bill Riggs declared in a statement. “Thousands of people just like Joel watched their jobs move across the state’s border to never come back. Ohioans were already hurting, and Ted Strickland made their lives worse.”
Next Page: Strickland’s Response, and Freedom Partners Action’s Rebuttal
Strickland’s campaign almost immediately published a response to the attack, attempting to “fact-check” it. The Democrat’s campaign gloried in being attacked by a Koch group, declaring “Koch Brothers Launch Misleading Attacks to Obscure Portman’s Record as a ‘Dedicated Outsourcer.'”
Spokesman David Bergstein responded:
Washington power brokers and wealthy, shadowy special interests are spending millions to prop up Sen. Rob Portman because he’s pushing their agenda at the expense of Ohio’s working families. Sen. Portman’s unabashed support for unfair trade deals has cost Ohio hundreds of thousands of jobs and made it easier for the company in this very ad to outsource their jobs overseas. Economists, newspapers and fact checkers agree: Ohio’s economic recovery began under Ted. And no amount of false ads can distract Ohioans from the fact that Sen. Portman always pushes the agenda of the Washington power brokers and wealthy special interests he serves at the expense of hardworking Ohioans.
Freedom Partners Action shot back, attacking this response as “wildly disconnected from the economic hardships Ohioans faced during his tenure as governor.” Indeed, the Strickland response focused more on attacking Portman than defending Strickland’s record. “In the past, Strickland himself admitted that he didn’t do enough to save Ohio jobs, and editorial boards across the region agreed,” the Koch group explained. It cited numerous news reports blaming Strickland for the loss of Ohio jobs.
Portman endorsed Kasich for president on Monday, arguing that Kasich “inherited a state and frankly, our state was in a ditch.” The senator stressed that “under Ted Strickland, we had lost 350,000 jobs. Our unemployment was above the national average. Unfortunately, we were 48th in the country in job creation — 48th. He was also left with an $8 billion deficit. Unprecedented in the history of our state.”
Strickland was governor from 2007 to 2011. Strickland leads Portman in the polls by 1.5 points, according to the RealClearPolitics average. The GOP Senator may hope that Kasich’s Ohio win will propel him forward in the race against the former governor.