By Fredreka Schouten, CNN
(CNN) — The influential network associated with conservative billionaire Charles Koch has collected more than $70 million for political races, the group announced Thursday, as it gears up to help shape the outcome of next year’s contests up and down the ballot and encourage Republican voters to bypass former President Donald Trump in the White House nomination fight.
Americans for Prosperity Action has pledged to back a single contender in the GOP presidential primary for the first time in its history. It has not yet announced whom it will support, but the group could dramatically reshape the Republican field by deploying its vast resources and standing army of conservative activists on behalf of a single candidate.
The sums raised by the group will help advance those efforts. The lion’s share of the total announced Thursday came from two organizations affiliated with Koch: $25 million from his Kansas-based industrial conglomerate Koch Industries, and another $25 million from Stand Together, a nonprofit he founded, AFP Action spokesman Bill Riggs confirmed.
The New York Times first reported the fundraising total.
The group is also launching new digital spots, shared first with CNN, that cast Trump as a candidate Republicans can’t risk supporting in 2024.
“Instead of making (President Joe) Biden answer for his reckless progressive agenda, Trump makes the debate about indictments, personal grievances and the election he lost,” one 30-second spot, titled “The Choice,” says.
The second, called “Unelectable,” describes Trump as a serial loser who caused Republicans to lose the House, Senate and the White House. “If Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, we could lose everything,” the narrator says.
The ads will run in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, officials said.
“President Trump continues to fight against the swampy D.C. insiders who would love nothing more than to have an establishment puppet they can control in the White House,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in an email. “No amount of dirty money from shady lobbyists and mysterious donors will ever stop the America First movement, and that’s why President Trump continues to dominate poll after poll — both nationally and statewide. We welcome this fight.”
AFP Action on Thursday also announced its first US House endorsements of the cycle, saying it will back Republican Reps. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, Young Kim of California, Zach Nunn of Iowa and John James of Michigan, along with former GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell of New Mexico.
In addition to attempting to stir doubts about Trump among the GOP faithful, network officials have said part of their 2024 strategy is to bring more general election voters into the GOP primary process to alter the outcome of early contests.
Americans for Prosperity already has reached out to 1.4 million potential new Republican and swing voters in nearly a dozen states, officials said.
In a statement to CNN earlier this month, Americans for Prosperity CEO Emily Seidel said the group’s voter interactions have demonstrated to it that many Trump supporters are “receptive to arguments that he is a weak candidate, his focus on 2020 is a liability, and his lack of appeal with independent voters is a problem.”
“That tells us that many Republicans are ready to move on, they just need to see another candidate step up and show they can lead and win,” she added.
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