For Heitkamp, a Lift From an Unlikely Source: The Koch Brothers

An ad campaign praising Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, is a sign that the Koch brothers may be putting their personal priorities over the Republican Party’s.

WASHINGTON — Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the centrist Democrat from North Dakota who is fighting a pitched battle to save her seat, has gotten a lift from an unlikely source: the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group backed by Charles G. and David H. Koch, unveiled a digital ad campaign on Friday thanking Ms. Heitkamp for her support of recently passed legislation that loosened regulations on small and medium-size banks that were swept up in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

[David Koch Died on Aug. 23 at the Age of 79]

The ad is the latest evidence that the brothers, often at odds with President Trump, may be moving away from strictly partisan work on behalf of Republicans in favor of initiatives that will advance their libertarian-leaning legislative priorities, including free trade, immigration legislation and access to medicines, regardless of party affiliation.

Ms. Heitkamp is one of 10 Democratic senators up for re-election in states won by Mr. Trump in 2016, but unlike other Democrats, she has drawn a top-flight challenger in Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s lone House member and a close ally of the president’s. Her seat is one of the keys to Republican efforts to hold on to or expand the party’s one-seat Senate majority.

But the Kochs may be putting their personal priorities over the Republican Party’s. This week, two other groups backed by the brothers — Freedom Partners and the Libre Initiative — joined with Americans for Prosperity to lash out at Mr. Trump over the tariffs that he imposed on goods imported from China.

Ms. Heitkamp was among more than a dozen Senate Democrats — several in states that Mr. Trump won — who voted with Republicans to roll back the banking rules. She was the lone Democrat invited to the White House to join Mr. Trump as he signed the measure into law.

“Thank you, Senator Heitkamp, for giving Main Street relief,” the ad, which will be distributed on social media, reads. It connects users to a page allowing them to thank Ms. Heitkamp and other lawmakers for backing the Dodd-Frank overhaul bill.

The Libre Initiative, which bills itself as an effort to “empower the U.S. Hispanic community,” recently sent mailers to the constituents of five Democrats and nine Republicans, praising the lawmakers for their efforts to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

And all three groups singled out another centrist Democrat in a tough re-election fight, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, for praise after he backed legislation giving terminally ill patients greater access to unproven medications. (The groups praised Mr. Trump for supporting the legislation as well.)

Ms. Heitkamp often crosses the aisle to work with Republicans and votes with Mr. Trump 56 percent of the time, according to the FiveThirtyEight website. Her unusually close alliance with the president — she was briefly considered for a cabinet appointment — has been worrisome to Republicans.

The Americans for Prosperity ad campaign is not an indication that the group is supporting her re-election bid. It comes just two months after the group spent $450,000 on a television and digital ad campaign attacking Ms. Heitkamp for her vote against the Republicans’ tax overhaul.

“While we don’t agree with Senator Heitkamp on everything, particularly her vote against tax relief, we commend her for taking a stand against the leaders of her party to do the right thing,” Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement on Friday, referring to the banking bill.

A spokeswoman for the Heitkamp campaign did not address the new Americans for Prosperity campaign directly.

“Heidi got results for rural North Dakota families and businesses who depend on relationship lending because she is and has always been focused on putting partisan politics aside to deliver for North Dakotans — and that’s where her focus will remain,” the spokeswoman, Julia Krieger, said.

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