Koch brothers group begins ad blitz against Nashville transit referendum week from election
A look at the numbers in the Nashville transit plan
With one week before Nashville’s historic transit referendum election, a group funded by the conservative Koch network has launched its first set of ads urging defeat of the controversial proposal.
A mailer that hit mailboxes over the weekend encourages Nashvillians to vote against the transit plan, arguing it would make the city’s sales tax the highest in the nation and won’t fix traffic.
“We need to stop the train,” the ad reads. “Vote against the transit tax.”
The ads were paid for by Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the political network funded by billionaire brothers David H. Koch and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kansas. They’re part of a set of mail advertisements with similar messages.
Previously, Americans for Prosperity’s campaign involvement had been limited to primarily phone-banking, door-knocking and other get-out-the-vote efforts.
It’s unclear how much Americans for Prosperity has spent on the advertising blitz.
A political action committee called the Stop the Train Committee — formed by Americans for Prosperity to campaign in Nashville’s transit referendum campaign — has until Tuesday to submit its fundraising disclosure.
Tori Venable, director of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, declined to say how much the group spent on the ads, describing it as only a “minor” amount and pointing to the upcoming financial reports that will disclose the sum.
“We might do some digital advertising a little bit, but that would also be pretty minimal,” she said. “We remain focused on the grass-roots efforts.”
A proposal backed by Mayor David Briley to raise four taxes, including the sales tax, to pay for a $5.4 billion transit plan anchored by light rail will be decided in the May 1 election. Early voting ends Thursday.
If the transit initiative passes, Nashville’s sales tax will increase to 9.75 percent this summer and to 10.25 percent in 2023, matching Chicago for the highest in the country. Because Tennessee is among only nine states without an income tax, Nashville depends more heavily on the sales tax.
The vast majority of campaign activity aimed at defeating the transit referendum has been bankrolled by NoTax4Tracks, a group funded by local conservative donors and other donors who have remained secret.
Of NoTax4Tracks’ $949,000 raised for its campaign, $750,000 has came from a single 501 (c)(4), which is not required to disclose its donors by law.
Reach Joey Garrison at email@example.com or 615-259-8236 and on Twitter @joeygarrison.