The Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity is spending roughly $1 million in Arkansas this year, which seems rather strange given that the state isn't competitive at the presidential level, has no gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races on the ballot, and no major U.S. House contests.
So why bother? Because Arkansas is the only state left in the South with a Democratically-controlled legislature -- and the Kochs apparently consider that unacceptable.
Republicans need to flip just a handful of those spots to turn the chambers red for the first time since the end of the Civil War. If they succeed, it will be another death knell for Southern Democrats and perhaps the beginning of a new Solid South -- of the 11 states that made up the Confederacy, only Arkansas still has a Democratic chamber.Using a bus tour across the state, AFP is making its case for smaller government. It is fighting tax increases and curbs on development and is leading the charge against the creation of a state health insurance exchange, a key part of President Obama's health-care law. [...]Drawn by robo-calls and a promise of free barbecue, the crowd stood outside a gas station and a motorcycle-themed restaurant, next to a big green bus with two-foot-high lettering: "Obama's Failing Agenda Tour."
There's a fair amount of irony to the AFP's attacks. For one thing, Democratic state lawmakers are being targeted for moving forward with a health care exchange as mandated by federal law, with the attack ads making this look like "cooperation" with "Obamacare." But if the state legislature didn't act, Washington would create Arkansas' exchange for them. These Democrats are discouraging, not inviting, more federal control.
For another, Arkansas is one of the few Southern states that has a surplus and a record of job creation over the last few years -- suggesting the Koch brothers' offensive has nothing to do with conservative principles and everything to do with partisanship. (Remember, Americans for Prosperity is ostensibly a "non-partisan" outfit.)
Regardless, when an outside group invests seven figures in state legislative races in Arkansas -- a state with very affordable advertising rates -- it makes a significant difference, and the Koch brothers' goal of buying the legislature for Republicans may very well work.
Butch Wilkins, one of the targeted Democratic legislators who represents part of Jonesboro, told the Washington Post, "I call them Americans for Their Prosperity. They're not interested in prosperity for Arkansas, but they're interested in someone's prosperity."