A major national conservative group is putting its resources into a local state Assembly race.
Americans for Prosperity is distributing campaign literature supporting incumbent Republican Rep. Ed Brooks in his 50th Assembly race against Democrat Art Shrader ahead of the November general election.
Americans for Prosperity is an independent group and has not had any contact with Brooks, said Eric Bott, director for the group’s Wisconsin chapter. He said the organization doesn’t collaborate with any candidate, but the group is backing Brooks because of his voting record on taxes, the economy, business issues and citizens’ rights.
Unemployment numbers have improved and Wisconsin’s economy is growing, he said.
“These are all really great things that are happening in our state,” Bott said.
Americans for Prosperity was founded by David Koch, who is a billionaire with his family’s business, Koch Industries, according to FactCheck.org. The group has become known nationwide for its support of conservative causes and has taken a more active role at both the national and state levels. It has helped in the tea party movement, advocating for lower taxes, limited government and free markets.
The group was also one of the top lobbying organizations at the Wisconsin Legislature in the first six months of 2015. Americans for Prosperity ranked sixth at 565 hours lobbied and $268,715 spent, according to the Wisconsin Elections and Ethics Commission, previously known as the Government Accountability Board.
Shrader questioned why such a group would be interested in the 50th Assembly District and said he takes issue with Brooks because he has supported legislation favored by Gov. Scott Walker that would benefit Koch businesses.
“Ed is a nice guy, but he does what he’s told,” Shrader said.
Brooks denied being driven by the Kochs and said he considers himself “a fairly independent Republican” who isn’t afraid to break rank with his party.
Bott said it’s not unusual for any group to campaign for a candidate, even in rural areas like Reedsburg. He said Americans for Prosperity has about 130,000 members across Wisconsin.
Brooks said neither he nor his office has had any contact with Americans for Prosperity and he said any group may endorse him and he appreciates the support.
“The real endorsement we want comes in November when people vote,” he said.
The 50th Assembly District includes all of Juneau County, the village of Kendall and towns of Glendale and Clifton in Monore County and parts of Richland and Sauk counties, including Reedsburg. Democrats are targeting the seat that favored Democrat Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race.
Republicans have a 63-36 majority in the Assembly. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.