By JULIE BYKOWICZ
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday makes her first appearance in an advertisement funded by the wealthy Republican donors tied to billionaires Charles and David Koch.
A 30-second ad aimed at Internet users in South Carolina and Florida shows headlines about the number of veterans who have died while awaiting health care. Then it shows a recent MSNBC interview with Clinton, who said of problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, "It’s not been widespread as it has been made out to be."
"Not widespread?" text in the ad says. "Our veterans deserve better."
The digital ad, backed by at least $100,000 from Concerned Veterans for America, a nonprofit group that does not identify its donors, is timed to run as Clinton participates in a Democratic candidate forum in South Carolina.
Clinton is "completely out of touch" with VA issues, which are "inarguably widespread," Dan Caldwell, a spokesman for Concerned Veterans for America, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
After Republicans criticized her remarks in the MSNBC interview, Clinton’s campaign said she was "outraged" by VA delays in providing care.
Concerned Veterans for America is one of a half-dozen political and policy groups funded by the Kochs and hundreds of like-minded donors. That network is poised to spend a generous portion of at least $750 million over this year and next on issues relevant to the presidential race.
The ad marks the first major paid media effort by a Koch group to ding Clinton’s 2016 candidacy.
As she gains steam in a three-candidate Democratic primary, while the Republican nominating process is far from settled, GOP groups are beginning their Clinton attack efforts.
The veterans ad follows a television commercial a week ago by a political group called Future 45. That ad focused on Clinton’s work as secretary of state, particularly in Libya, concluding with a narrator saying: "Responsible for a disaster. More threats. More war."
Although the group spent only about $65,000 airing the spot a few times, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG ad tracker, there are signs that more Clinton attacks are on the way.
On Monday at a New York fundraiser for Republican opposition group America Rising, headlined by 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, donors were encouraged to support Future 45, an attendee told the AP. The attendee was not authorized to share details from the private event and requested anonymity.
Republican hedge-fund billionaires Paul Singer of New York and Kenneth Griffin of Chicago are among those who have already written six-figure checks to Future 45, a fundraising report filed in July shows. The group’s name references the 45th president, who will be elected next November.
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