House Majority PAC is calling foul on the Koch brothers in another congressional race this week. But the Democratic super PAC isn't using the conservative businessmen in a TV ad this time—it's alleging that the brothers' allies are helping stifle HMP's other advertising.
The Democratic group's latest TV ad was taken off the air by two Minnesota TV stations that called the ad misleading because it spliced together parts of a quote from Republican businessman Stewart Mills saying it is "personally offensive" to criticize the wealthy for not paying higher taxes. The ad also said Mills supported "another tax break for the wealthy" without any citation. Mills is challenging Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan.
But House Majority PAC and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which also paid to run the ad, questioned whether the decision was tied to the political beliefs of the stations' owner, Stanley Hubbard, a major Republican donor. Hubbard has a long history of supporting conservative causes and pledged in a letter to the Kochs that they could "count on me, my wife, and our family to stand foursquare with your ongoing efforts to preserve our unique American way of life."
"When Hubbard told the Koch brothers, 'You can count on me,' it is now clear what he meant—he will pull the strings necessary to see ultraconservative out-of-touch candidates like Stewart Mills protected on the air," House Majority PAC and AFSCME said in a joint statement.
Ray Mirabella, director of sales for Hubbard Broadcasting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, said Hubbard himself was not involved in the decision to pull the ads, saying it was "identical to any process we go through for any advertising." Mirabella said KSTP found the ad to be misleading, but House Majority PAC spokesman Matt Thornton said the message remains the same and that the quote was only edited for time.
In the House Majority PAC ad, Mills was quoted as saying: "Folks saying that 'the wealthy, the wealthy are not paying their fair share, the 2 percent, the 1 percent, whatever percent you want, is personally offensive."
In reality, the end of the quote came from a portion of Mills's speech in which he said: "To be singled out as a deadbeat is personally offensive." Representatives from WDIO, a separate Hubbard Broadcasting station that also pulled the ad, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Koch brothers have been widely used bogeymen for Democrats this year, especially House Majority PAC, which credits its advertising connecting West Virginia Republican Evan Jenkins to the Kochs with a springtime bump in Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall's polling numbers.
This is also not the first time House Majority PAC has had an ad taken off air. One of its ads on the race between Rep. Nick Rahall and West Virginia state Sen. Evan Jenkins was pulled for two days before being put back on air. The group also ran into trouble in Minnesota last cycle, when an ad against then-Rep. Chip Cravaack was reportedly taken off air. Other outside groups have also had ads pulled for allegedly misleading viewers, while candidates' ads don't face the same consequences based on their content.
In Minnesota, Hubbard donated the maximum of $5,200 to Mills's campaign, and two family members employed by Hubbard Broadcasting also reported contributing a combined $6,200. In 2011, Hubbard Broadcasting donated $100,000 to American Crossroads.
Hubbard also told Politico that he has attended Koch-hosted summits for years and that he's "gotten friends involved." And Hubbard's political views have worked their way into the newsroom before. In 2010, KSTP News Director Lindsay Radford told MinnPost that the station should have disclosed the company's donations to a group supporting then-gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer when it reported on the Republican's campaign.
Update: This story has been updated to include the House Majority PAC's claim that Stewart Mills supports "another tax break for the wealthy," and that the super PAC has had ads taken off the air before.
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Jack Fitzpatrick is a staff correspondent at National Journal. He has previously written for USA TODAY, NBCNews.com, Slate, The Arizona Republic and other newspapers and websites. He graduated from Arizona State University with a master's degree in mass communication and a bachelor's degree in journalism.