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Koch Group Turning Away From TV Ads in Final Election Stretch

They will focus on ground game. They say that they’ve identified 5 million voters in battleground states that will decide control of the Senate
Image: Charles Koch is pictured in this undated handout photo
Charles Koch is pictured in this undated handout photo. Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce/Handout via REUTERSHANDOUT / Reuters

For the Koch network, it’s about the ground game. More specifically, it’s all about the group's strategy to mobilize five million people in battleground states.

That’s what the Koch political network plans to focus on in the final weeks before Election Day to ensure the Senate stays in Republican hands.

The network, run by conservative entrepreneurs Charles and David Koch, has allocated $42 million on television and digital advertisements for 2016, but its last television spot is scheduled to end its run on Oct. 5. For the last five weeks until Election Day on Nov. 8, it will shift its focus and resources to target 5 million people they identified in eight states who they say could determine control of the Senate.

Related: Charles Koch Explains Why He Won't Support Donald Trump

“We can all put up ads,” James Davis, vice president of communications for Freedom Partners, said of the litany of groups who have spent tens of millions of dollars on political advertisements this cycle. “We have a robust field capability and that’s something that distinguishes us and we have to play to that strength, particularly in the environment that we’re playing in 2016.”

Trump's campaign has yet to implement a significant ground game in critical states, something the Koch network has been building for years and will mobilize in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to help Republicans other than Trump.

Davis said the Koch’s data group, i360, has identified voters that are persuadable toward their preferred Senate candidates.

After difficulty finding split ticket voters, they identified voters who fell into two important buckets — those who leaned toward the Republican Senate candidate regardless of who they were selecting at the top of the ticket, and those who are reliably Republican but lack enthusiasm because of the top of the ticket.

Related: After Snubs, Trump Claims He Rejected Koch Request to Meet

Network officials have already decided to stay out of the presidential race because of their distaste for Republican nominee Donald Trump. But they say they are devoting more resources during this cycle than they did in 2012 on the presidential race supporting Republican Mitt Romney.

The network is spending about a third — around $250 million — of its two-year budget for politics and policy this election cycle on television and digital advertisements and a ground game.

In 2012, for instance, the group employed 450 people, including those in the field. This year, 1200 people are employed by the network in the field.

What’s also different this cycle is that Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network's largest grassroots organization, is engaging in direct advocacy — the direct support or opposition of a candidate. In 2012, the group was emphatic that it was an organization focused on policy and not the politician. But Tim Phillips, the head of Americans for Prosperity, said that changing direction was the result of a “difficult decision.”

“We wanted to not do that, frankly,” Phillips told a handful of journalists invited to a strategy session at the organization's Arlington, Virginia headquarters. “But when we looked at some of the things we could have done better in 2012, one of the conclusions we had was that in limited situations it’s just more effective.”

Related: Koch Donor Retreat Convenes Under Shadow of Donald Trump

The network of groups consist of LIBRE, Americans for Prosperity, Concerned Veterans of America and Generation Opportunity.

The group’s field staff has trained even more volunteers who will knock on doors and attempt to persuade people to vote for Republicans running for the Senate. They have also spent heavily on direct mail, officials said.