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Joni Ernst at the Sioux City Convention Center

U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst addresses the crowd Aug. 15 at the Iowa Federation of Republican Women's 75 anniversary event at the Sioux City Convention Center. 

Ever since Republicans chortled over the March release of a video where U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Bruce Braley criticized the scenario where U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley could hold a committee chairmanship, it seems Democrats have sought a clip where Braley's opponent says something that could change the arc of the campaign in Iowa.

On Wednesday, audio was released of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst speaking at a June private event hosted by brothers Charles and David Koch. Democrats have contended the Kochs are pushing an anti-middle class agenda by funding advocacy groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, which have run ads critical of Braley.

Ernst praised the network of groups for pushing her to prominence. Whether this new video has the impact Democrats desire remains to be seen.

Ernst in June said she'd appeared at a prior event in New Mexico in August 2013.

She says, "I was not known at that time. A little known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, uh, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory. And it started a very strong victory that we’ve progressive, progressively built upon throughout the campaign cycle.

"So really, the folks in this room that got my start, so having folks that, that backed me in this election cycle and primary."

The Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday said this shows Ernst is beholden to Koch-affiliated advocacy groups.

IDP spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said, "A secret recording made at a posh Koch brothers retreat in California confirms that the real Joni Ernst was groomed by the oil billionaire Koch brothers from day one to represent their interests over Iowa’s. Ernst can no longer hide her true agenda that’s in lockstep with the Koch brothers –- against raising the minimum wage, for privatizing Social Security and gutting Medicare."

Braley was in Sioux City on Wednesday to discuss college affordability. He said he was not surprised by what Ernst said at the meeting.

"She is in lock-step with the Koch brothers," he said

Ernst's Spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel responded to the audio: "Both Joni and Bruce Braley have been caught on tape this year, but unlike Braley, she wasn’t insulting Iowans or farmers."

Braley made his comments about Grassley during a January fundraiser attended by fellow lawyer. He described the scenario where Grassley could end up leading a key committee: “A farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Republicans seized on the comment. National Republican Senatorial Committee Spokeswoman Brook Hougesen in a statement said, “Not only is Bruce Braley no friend to farmers, but no friend to Iowans.”

Braley later apologized for his comments about Grassley.

A Wednesday USA Today/Suffolk Polk shows the Ernst-Braley race as a dead heat.

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County & Education Reporter

Government and education reporter.

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