Big donors and fossil fuel industry flood airwaves in support of Eric Hovde - TAI News
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Eric Hovde appears in a screenshot from a campaign ad produced by Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action/YouTube)

Outside political groups bankrolled by wealthy conservative donors and the oil and gas industry are flooding the Wisconsin airways with ads aimed at helping millionaire Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde and hurting Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Unlike Baldwin, Hovde backs tax policies that would benefit the wealthiest individuals and fossil fuel deregulation that would help large corporations.

Hovde, the millionaire chair and CEO of the Utah-based Sunwest Bank, has been endorsed by the Wisconsin Republican Party in its Aug. 13 Senate primary. With May polls showing Baldwin leading Hovde by between 5 and 12 points, at least four groups have launched six- and seven-figure ad campaigns attacking Baldwin in recent weeks.

Fix Washington PAC, a super PAC funded heavily by Hovde’s millionaire brother Steven Hovde, reported spending almost $1.5 million on ads May 9 for Hovde or against Baldwin and another $1.5 million on May 23. One of the group’s spots accuses Baldwin of being a hypocrite for traveling to be with her girlfriend in New York during the COVID-19 pandemic and for raising campaign money in Hollywood, California. According to the nonpartisan site OpenSecrets, Baldwin has raised 41% of her funds in Wisconsin to Hovde’s 29.3%.

Restoration PAC, bankrolled mostly by billionaire shipping supply magnate and conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein, reported spending $3.1 million on anti-Baldwin ads in a May 3 filing. Days later the group launched and then had to pull down an ad that falsely claimed Baldwin “cut Medicare funding and used that money to subsidize electric vehicles.” A revised version of the spot followed, also dishonestly accusing Baldwin of voting “to use Medicare money for electric vehicle subsidies instead of seniors” She in fact voted for the Inflation Reduction Act, which saved taxpayers money by authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices without reducing services for beneficiaries and also saved money for Wisconsites who purchase energy-efficient heat pumps, solar panels, or electric vehicles. 

As part of a $6.6 million national attack on President Joe Biden’s clean energy agenda, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade group is running an issue ad seemingly aimed at hurting Biden and Baldwin. The spot dishonestly frames a federal clean emissions regulation that is gradually phasing out sales of gas-powered vehicles as a “car ban” and urges viewers to tell Baldwin to stop it.

The right-wing group Americans for Prosperity and its Americans for Prosperity Action super PAC have launched a six-figure June ad buy, part of a $1 million pro-Hovde effort. The groups have close ties to oil billionaire Charles Koch and have received tens of millions of dollars from his company, Koch Industries. One AFP spot falsely blames Biden’s and Baldwin’s economic policies for all of the nation’s recent inflation, even though it began under President Donald Trump as the economy reopened following COVID-19 shutdowns and was driven by global factors relating to supply chains and demand. 

It is not surprising that wealthy conservative megadonors and fossil fuel interests are backing Hovde over Baldwin.

Baldwin voted against Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed tax rates for the wealthiest individuals and large corporations while offering minuscule benefits or even tax hikes for working families. Hovde backed the law and has pushed for tax policies that would further cut taxes for those at the top and raise them for low- and middle-income earners and retirees.

Baldwin supported Biden’s investments in clean energy and worked to crack down on price gouging by oil and gas companies. Hovde has defended fossil fuel companies and pushed for pro-industry policies, including allowing more oil and gas drilling on public lands.

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