Organized labor launches 'Koch Sisters' campaign

Joyce Koch, right, and "sister in spirit" Karen Koch say in an AFL-CIO ad that they're not related to the Koch brothers.

Story highlights

  • "Sisters" are the faces of an AFL-CIO campaign to contrast with the Koch brothers
  • The Koch brothers have spent millions to support conservative causes
  • Democrats hoping to exploit advantage they have among women in key races

Meet the Koch Sisters.

Karen and Joyce Koch aren't actually related. One is a teacher from Michigan, the other a retired social worker from New Jersey.

But the Kochs are the faces of a new AFL-CIO campaign designed to contrast the "shared values" of organized labor against those of the Koch brothers, the conservative business titans behind millions of dollars' worth of secretive campaign spending this election year.

The "Koch Sisters" effort is launching Thursday with television ads starring the two women airing on national cable television, an official at the labor federation said.

"We are not related to the Koch brothers, those right-wing billionaires," the two women say in one of the ads set to air. "We are just two average women who have raised families and worked hard all our lives."

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The women don't make an overt pitch to voters, other than directing viewers to an AFL-CIO website that accuses the Koch brothers of using "their wealth to subvert democracy and enact a self-serving agenda at the expense of working families."

    The ads also seem designed to put a female-friendly face on organized labor in a year when Democrats are working feverishly to exploit their advantage over Republicans among women voters.

    The campaign will include targeted Web ads and social media in Michigan and Kentucky, two states with robust union populations that have competitive Senate races this year, as well as future television ad buys.

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    "The Koch Sisters is exactly the kind of creative component that taps into modern politics and emblematic of the labor movement's expansion in progressive politics," AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein said.

    The paid media push is a bit of uncharted territory for organized labor, which pioneered advanced voter targeting and get-out-the-vote techniques that later became essential tools in the modern Democratic playbook but has largely shied away from campaign messaging.

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    Their political rivals in big business, meanwhile, have long been in the TV ad game but have only recently started investing in field efforts. The Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity has been on the ground doing turnout work in more than two dozen states with competitive Senate, House and governors' races.