On, Thursday, October 23, I went to a local chamber of commerce meeting in Iowa to talk to Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for the US Senate, about her support for the Koch brothers agenda, which emphasizes extreme cuts to government spending. I asked her specifically about Social Security and Medicare, which she has advocated privatizing, and about which agencies she would eliminate from the federal budget. Ernst admitted that privatization is “an option” on the table, but was unresponsive as to particular agencies.
The Ernst agenda is clearly aligned with the Koch brothers ideology, and as you probably remember from my earlier reporting, she attended the Koch retreat in June and spoke on a candidate panel, crediting them with “start[ing] her trajectory” in politics. The candidate was effusive in her praise for the Koch network, and various leaders from their groups, like Aegis, Americans for Prosperity, and Freedom Partners, returned the love. Said the moderator of her panel, “I think it’s fair to say you’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
The purpose of Ernst’s panel at the retreat was to pitch donors, whom they called “investors,” for each candidate and their respective races. The activities of Koch-funded groups were explicitly discussed, as were the massive spending on ad buys. In spite of this clear history of close association, when asked about the flood of negative ads in Iowa, Joni Ernst claimed to these business leaders in Des Moines that she doesn’t have any contact with outside groups running ads in her race.
Bottom line, Joni Ernst told a whopper. We know she had contact with the various organizations in the Koch network in June. According to OpenSecrets.org, Americans for Prosperity has spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars in her race, and Freedom Partners Action Fund has spent over 3 million. Both organizations have spent heavily on negative advertising.