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Story highlights

Koch groups must be careful to maintain tax-exempt status

The ads will air in both English and Spanish

Washington CNN —  

A conservative nonprofit group funded by associates of Charles and David Koch will launch TV ads in English and Spanish to boost Marco Rubio’s Senate campaign in Florida.

The $700,000 ad buy is the first of its kind of the Libre Initiative, a group that seeks to convince Hispanics to back conservative candidates. It is a major shift and signals that the powerful group, which has in the past focused primarily on community organizing, is becoming more comfortable with political warfare.

Like other Koch nonprofits, the Libre Initiative has only run television spots asking for voters to “thank” the individuals running, a technicality that allows groups to avoid disclosing the identities of their donors.

All Koch network nonprofits – unlike their super PACs – have to be careful in order to maintain their tax-exempt status and shield their donor identities. Some groups have been reluctant to test the legal boundaries, yet the Libre Initiative appears more willing than ever to engage in direct politics.

“Marco Rubio: standing up for hardworking Floridians,” goes the spot, which is also airing in Spanish. “This November vote Marco Rubio for Senate.”

It is the last line that makes the advertisement an “express advocacy” spot, which the Libre Initiative has never aired before. The spots are also the group’s first television ads of the entire 2016 cycle.

The Koch network has spurned Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, and instead focused its considerable financial resources on down-ballot races like Rubio’s. Rubio is slightly favored to beat Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy.

The group will bolster the television and digital spots with a Latino-focused field program in Florida’s Hispanic communities.

Asked about their tactical shift, a Libre spokesman, Brian Faughnan, said, “We approach these questions on a case by case basis.”