Americans for Prosperity

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Americans for Prosperity
AFProsperity.png
Predecessor Citizens for a Sound Economy
Formation 2004
Type Non-profit political advocacy group
Purpose Educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process.[1]
Headquarters Arlington, Virginia
Membership
2.3 million (2013)[2]
President
Tim Phillips
Chief Operating Officer
Luke Hilgemann
Budget
Revenue: $13,310,464
Expenses: $17,700,992
(FYE December 2013)[3]
Website www.americansforprosperity.org

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is one of the most influential conservative political advocacy groups in the United States. Its goal is to support free markets and entrepreneurship by advocating for lower taxes, smaller government, and less regulation. Its stated mission is "educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process."[1]

AFP helped transform the Tea Party movement into a political force and played a key role in the achievement of the 2010 Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives.

Overview[edit]

Americans for Prosperity had 240 employees in 32 states, as of June 2014,[4] and had 2.3 million members, as of November 2013.[2] AFP may be considered "the third-largest political party in the United States," according to a June, 2014 Washington Post analysis of staffing, spending, and number of states with active operations.[5] "Americans for Prosperity has emerged as one of the most influential conservative issue advocacy groups on the national and state political scene," according to the non-profit, non-partisan consumer advocacy website FactCheck.org.[6]

"AFP seeks to support free markets and entrepreneurship by advocating lower taxes and limited government spending and regulation," according to FactCheck.org.[6] AFP's stated mission is "educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process." AFP has its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.[1]

History[edit]

Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004 when internal rivalries caused a split in the conservative political advocacy group Citizens for a Sound Economy,[7] dividing it into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.[8] Citizens for a Sound Economy was renamed "Americans for Prosperity."[9] The founding of AFP was funded by businessmen and philanthropist brothers David H. Koch and Charles Koch, both of Koch Industries.[7][10][11] “Right from the beginning, it was David’s vision that launched our organization,” said AFP president Tim Phillips on October 3, 2009, in introducing David Koch at AFP's 2009 "Defending the Dream" summit in Arlington, Virginia.[12] David Koch reflected "Five years ago, my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start Americans for Prosperity. It is beyond my wildest dreams that AFP has grown into this enormous organisation. The American dream of free enterprise and capitalism is alive and well".[13][14] The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is David Koch’s primary political advocacy group.[12]

From 2004 to 2007, AFP was led by Nancy Pfotenhauer, who had been a lobbyist for Koch Industries. Pfotenhauer left AFP to become an adviser to Senator John McCain's presidential campaign.[15] The Koch brothers hired political strategist Tim Phillips to work at AFP in 2005.[16]

Spending on political television advertisements by "outside groups," political advocacy groups other than political action committees, rose after the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.[17][18] An August, 2012 ProPublica analysis of broadcast television political advertising purchases showed that the category of 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofits, dominated by AFP and Crossroads GPS, outspent all other categories, including political parties, political action committees, super PACs, unions, and trade associations.[19]

AFP issued mailings and funded radio advertisements criticising the Detroit River International Crossing bridge, a public works project which competes with the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge, saying that it will be wasteful spending of taxpayer money "if tolls fail to cover debt-service costs", as a consultancy's traffic analysis reported might occur.[20][21] In June 2011, AFP placed fake eviction notices on doors in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit, angering residents. The flyer stated, "their properties could be taken by the Michigan Department of Transportation to make way for the New International Trade Crossing bridge project." The Michigan state director of AFP said that AFP's intent was to motivate residents to lobby against the building of the bridge.[22]

AFP Foundation mailed "voter history report cards," which included the voting history of the addressee and neighbors from public records, a get out the vote technique that has been described as "voter shaming," in 2013 in Virginia and in 2014 in Arkansas.[23][24][25][26]

In April, 2014, AFP mailed voters in at least eight West Virginia counties “misleading and confusing” material that may have led them to believe they were ineligible to vote, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State. The mailings, received just before the deadline to update voter registration, included voter registration cards and prepaid return envelopes addressed to county clerks, and cautioned voters that if they did not update their voter registration, they might lose their right to vote in the upcoming primary election. State director for AFP Wendy McCuskey explained the mailings were "a nonpartisan effort. We identified people who are not registered to vote...We wanted to encourage people who are not registered to participate in voting."[27] In September 2014, the AFP was investigated by the state board of elections of North Carolina after the state Democratic Party filed a complaint regarding an AFP voter registration mailing labelled “official application form” containing inaccurate information including an incorrect filing deadline 5 days before the actual deadline.[28][29] AFP said the mistakes in the North Carolina mailings were "administrative errors."[30]

AFP had a staff of 116 in September 2012, according to AFP president Tim Phillips.[31] AFP had chapters in 34 states, as of November 2013.[2]

Tea Party[edit]

Michele Bachmann speaking at the "Cut the spending now" rally at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. on April 6, 2011 sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity helped transform the nascent Tea Party movement into a political force.[32][33] AFP helped organize a "Porkulus" themed protest on the state capital steps in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 2009 in conjunction with Obama signing the economic stimulus package the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[9][34] Within hours of CNBC financial reporter Rick Santelli's remarks criticizing President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan and calling for a "Chicago tea party," broadcast live from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on February 19, 2009, AFP registered the domain name "TaxDayTeaParty.com" and launched a website calling for protests against Obama.[9] AFP helped organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies in Sacramento, Austin, and Madison in April, 2009.[12] AFP helped tea party groups organize voter registration drives.[10] An AFP website offered "Tea party Talking Points." AFP provided education on policy, training in methods, and lists of politicians to tea party activists.[7] AFP and FreedomWorks were "probably the leading partners" in the September, 2009 Taxpayer March on Washington, also known as the 9/12 Tea Party, according to The Guardian.[8] In October 2010, AFP sponsored a workshop on the political use of the internet at a tea party convention in Virginia.[35]

In the 2010 midterm elections, AFP played a major role in achieving a Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives, reported Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times. AFP supported tea party groups and purchased negative advertisements.[36] AFP sponsored a nationwide "November is Coming" bus tour to recruit organizers and canvassers.[37] During the 2010 election cycle, AFP claims to have spent $40 million on rallies, phone banks, and canvassing. Of the six freshman Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in 2010, five benefited from AFP advertisements and grassroots activity.[38]

Bloomberg Politics reporter David Weigel wrote in the online magazine Slate that AFP "in the Tea Party era evolved into one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics."[39] "As the Tea Party movement grew in the aftermath of Obama’s election, the Kochs positioned Americans for Prosperity as the Tea Party's staunchest ally," according to Bloomberg News.[40] AFP was a "major force behind the Tea Party movement," according to FactCheck.org.[6] National conservative groups AFP, FreedomWorks, and DontGo led the tea party movement in April, 2009, according to The Atlantic magazine.[41] In February, 2010, AFP and the AFP Foundation were among the twelve most influential groups in the Tea Party movement, according to the National Journal.[42] In September 2010, AFP was one of the top five most influential organizations in the Tea Party movement, and the largest in terms of membership and spending, according to the Washington Post.[43]

Wisconsin collective bargaining[edit]

Sarah Palin at the Americans for Prosperity-run Wisconsin 2011 Tax Day Tea Party Rally on April 16, 2011.

AFP developed methodologies in Wisconsin that were applied in later campaigns.[31] Wisconsin developed into "the country's foremost battleground for conservatives and progressives," according to the National Journal.[44] AFP has been a major supporter of Wisconsin Republican politician Scott Walker.[45] In 2009 and 2010, AFP helped raise the statewide profile of Walker, then Milwaukee County Executive, by inviting him to address its rallies throughout the state.[40] AFP bussed in hundreds to counter-protest at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Walker's agenda of reduced spending, cuts to union benefits, and limits on collective bargaining had drawn opposition in the streets.[46] AFP advocates for cuts to union benefits and pensions, in conjunction with curtailments of collective bargaining rights. “If you just did the cuts to pension and benefits without the changes to collective bargaining it helps in the short term, but over the long term, benefits will creep back up again,” said AFP president Phillips.[47]

In favor of Walker's legislation, AFP published a website "standwithwalker.com" which featured an online petition, and spent $320,000 on television advertisements.[48] AFP sponsored a "Stand With Walker" bus tour.[49] In February, 2011, the online activists Anonymous conducted a distributed denial of service attack on AFP's website and called for a boycott of Koch Industries paper products.[50][51] On April 16, 2011, former governor of Alaska and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker at an AFP annual tax day tea party rally at the capitol in Madison.[52]

AFP spent $3 million in support of Walker's Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election campaign in late 2011 and early 2012. AFP sent 75 trained canvasers to Wisconsin.[53] Days before the recall election, AFP sponsored the "A Better Wisconsin” bus tour of ten Wisconsin cities.[54] On the first anniversary of Walker's signature legislation, the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which limited collective bargaining rights for most public employees, AFP staged town-hall meetings called "It's Working Wisconsin!"[55] AFP's role in promoting Walker's agenda and recall election campaign was the subject of the 2013 documentary Citizen Koch.[14]

In August 2011, AFP mailed absentee voter applications to Democratic voters in at least two recall elections in Wisconsin that included a filing deadline two days after the election. The return envelopes were addressed to an "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" with the Post Office box number of Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage group.[56][57] Responding to charges of voter suppression, AFP said the incorrect date was a "printing mistake" and was intended only for voters in the two districts where Democrats are set to face recalls on a later date.[58][59] The Wisconsin state board of elections opened an investigation.[60]

In the context of Walker's 2014 re-election campaign, AFP purchased $866,000 in television issue advertisements in support of Act 10.[61]

Michigan right-to-work[edit]

Americans for Prosperity's Wisconsin campaign curtailing collective bargaining rights and turning back a recall taught them that similar efforts could succeed in Michigan, the birthplace of the modern labor movement.[62] Right-to-work legislation, which prohibit employers from deducting union dues from employee pay checks, and prohibit labor contracts from excluding non-union members, was a top priority of Americans for Prosperity in Michigan.[63] AFP helped coordinate a right-to-work initiative in Michigan.[64][65] "A victory over forced unionization in a union stronghold like Michigan would be an unprecedented win on par with Wisconsin that would pave the way for right to work in states across our nation," said AFP's Michigan director.[64][66]

AFP had opposed Michigan Governor Republican Rick Snyder on number of issues, including the Detroit River International Crossing Bridge project, a 400,000 beneficiary expansion of Medicare funded by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and a road bill which raised taxes.[64][67] For years Snyder had said anti-union legislation was not on his agenda, when on the morning of December 6, 2012, during a lame duck session of the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature, Snyder called a joint press conference with the legislative leadership to announce fast-track right-to-work legislation. The legislation passed both houses of the Michigan legislature that day, without committee votes or public hearings. A $1 million appropriation added to the legislation made it ineligible for repeal via referendum.[68] The AFP Foundation produced a 15-page booklet titled "Unions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How forced unionization has harmed workers and Michigan." AFP's website urged members to gather at the state capital in Lansing on December 6.[64] AFP bussed in activists.[63] AFP offered supporters $25 gas cards and free lunch and drinks.[66] AFP reserved space and erected a large heated tent near the capital steps for supporters. AFP said protesters tore down the tent. Michigan state police and mounted police responded. No arrest were made.[69] On December 10, President Obama visited Daimler AG's Detroit Diesel factory in Redford, Michigan, and told employees the legislation was about the "right to work for less money."[70][71] After a required four day wait between the houses of the legislature passing each other's bills, Snyder signed the legislation on December 11.[68][72]

In 2014, Snyder ran for re-election and AFP ran an online advertisement praising him.[73]

Obama re-election[edit]

Campaign finance watchdogs and Democrats criticized AFP as an example of politically active nonprofit organizations that did not need to disclose their contributors.[36] On August 9, 2010, President Barack Obama said:

Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates all across the country. And they don't have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don't know if it's a foreign-controlled corporation. You don't know if it's a big oil company, or a big bank...They don't want you to know who the Americans for Prosperity are, because they're thinking about the next election.[15][74][75]

The Obama re-election campaign website described AFP as a "special-interest front group run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers."[76] Obama senior advisor David Axelrod said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”[7] AFP president Phillips called the idea that AFP is taking money from foreign sources "ludicrous" and claimed that AFP saw an increase in financial contributions after Obama's statement.[77][78] In August 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that the AFP Foundation had funded political advertisements in Kansas, Missouri and Michigan in violation of a law applicable to the foundation's tax-exempt classification; AFP replied that the charges were without merit.[79] Journalist Lee Fang wrote that the Obama reelection campaign erred in challenging the AFP rather than confronting the Kochs directly.[9]

In April, 2011, AFP sponsored an informal gathering of Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire. Candidates who participated included Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain.[80][81]

Political strategist Mark Block, during his years as state director of the Wisconsin chapter of AFP, set up a series of independent tax-exempt charities, including Prosperity USA, which allegedly made contributions to the Herman Cain presidential campaign which were not included in the Cain campaign's disclosures. As a tax-exempt charity, Prosperity USA was prohibited from contributing to a political campaign.[82][83][84] AFP had financial transactions with Prosperity USA. A charity may not use intermediaries to contribute to a political campaign.[85] AFP said the transactions were reimbursements of travel expenses for Cain and a staff person to attend AFP or AFP Foundation events, expenses incurred before Cain launched his campaign.[86]

AFP offered tea party groups $2 for every new AFP member their volunteers signed up at polling places in the February, 2012 Florida Republican primary.[87] In its voter canvassing operations, AFP utilized an online voter database of millions of Americans called "Themis," funded by the Kochs in competition with the Republican National Committee's "Data Trust" voter database.[87][88][89] AFP employed methodologies developed in its efforts to thwart the recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, including deploying a smartphone application called "Prosperity Knocks" to canvassers.[31] AFP president Phillips said that AFP's canvassing support application offered field operatives the previous voting history of voters integrated with Census data and consumer data including purchases, magazine subscriptions, and favorite web sites.[90]

In August, 2012, AFP spent $25 million on television commercials attacking Obama. AFP said the commercials were voter education.[90] AFP purchased a bus, painted "Obama's Failing Agenda Tour" on the side, and sponsored a nationwide bus tour condemning Obama's policies.[91] Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar panels, was the first recipient of a U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee under Obama's economic stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and went bankrupt.[92] From 2011–2012, AFP spent $8.4 million ($2.4 in 2011 and $6 million in 2012) in swing states on television advertisements that criticized Obama and the loan, an advertising campaign described by The Wall Street Journal as "perhaps the biggest attack on Mr. Obama so far."[93][94] In September 2012, the Washington Post reported that AFP planned to spend $125 million on the 2012 United States presidential election.[31] AFP spent $122 million in 2012, more than in the previous eight years since its founding combined. AFP spent more than $33.5 million in 2012 on television advertisements advocating voting against Obama.[2][95] AFP raised $140 million in the 2012 election cycle, including more than $44 million from Koch-related funds.[96]

Programs and advocacy[edit]

In August, 2009, Mother Jones magazine identified Americans for Prosperity as "one of the most prominent groups opposing the Obama administration's two key domestic policy goals: health care reform and cap and trade."[97]

Energy and environment[edit]

AFP and FreedomWorks were "especially important" in creating the Tea Party Movement and in encouraging the movement to focus on climate change, according to the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society.[98]

AFP helped defeat proposed U.S. legislation embracing cap and trade, a market-based approach to control pollution by providing economic incentives, which in 2008 had the support of both presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and in 2009 was pending in Congress as the American Clean Energy and Security Act.[16][99] AFP opposed President Obama's efforts to address global warming.[100] "January of ‘09, we had a president with 60 votes in the Senate and then Speaker Pelosi with a 50-plus seat majority. And cap-and-trade was at the top of their agenda. And in the end, they were beaten," said AFP president Phillips on Frontline, a public television program that produces in-depth documentaries, for the 2012 documentary Climate of Doubt.[101]

In 2008, AFP circulated the "No Climate Tax Pledge" to government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. Elected officials and political candidates who signed the pledge vowed to oppose any legislation including spending relating to climate change unless it also included an equivalent amount of tax cuts.[99][102][103] By July 2013, 411 lawmakers and candidates, including a quarter of the senators and more than a third of the representatives, primarily Republicans, signed the pledge.[99] Prominent signers included Republican Senators Pat Roberts of Kansas and Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Representatives Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Fred Upton of Michigan, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Of the 12 Republicans on the committee in 2011, nine signed the pledge.[104]

AFP held more than 80 events in opposition to cap and trade.[7] AFP created the nationwide "Hot Air Tour," which involved floating hot air balloons in protest of what AFP described as "global warming alarmism."[15][105] The side of the balloon read "Cap and trade means: higher taxes, lost jobs, less freedom." AFP flew its balloon over Al Gore's house in Tennessee.[16] AFP webcast from the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference "COP15" in Copenhagen.[106] AFP sponsored a "Regulation Reality Tour" to foment opposition to climate change legislation and federal regulation of carbon emissions. AFP described cap and trade as “the largest excise tax in history.”[107] The tour involved "carbon cops" with fake badges in green Smart cars with flashing lights who wrote citations for carbon "crimes."[108] In 2011, AFP launched a "Running on Empty" website and national tour featuring a 14-foot inflatable gas pump to link rising gas prices to the Obama administration’s regulation and to promote expanding permitting of offshore drilling.[109][110] Long lines formed when in 2012 AFP offered drivers in Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and Colorado gas discounted to the price in effect when Obama took office.[111][112][113]

In Kansas AFP led a campaign to overturn a mandate that 20% of the state's electricity come from renewable resources. AFP's campaign compared the mandate to the Affordable Care Act. The repeal passed the Kansas Senate in May 2014 but failed in the Kansas House of Representatives.[114]

In the 2016 presidential primaries, AFP plans to oppose Republican candidates who support a carbon tax. “They would be at a severe disadvantage,” AFP president Phillips said.[115]

Health care[edit]

AFP president Tim Phillips speaking at an AFP health care rally next to the United States Capitol in October 2009

Americans For Prosperity describes itself as “the nation’s largest grassroots champion for health care freedom.”[6] AFP sponsored two other groups advocating against the Obama administration's proposed health care reform, "Patients United Now" and "Patients First."[97]

In May 2009, AFP launched Patients United Now, which opposed a single-payer health care system and a government-funded health insurance option. It purchased television advertisements warning of "government-controlled health care" or a "Washington takeover" of health care.[100] In one Patients United Now television advertisement, a Canadian woman, Shona Holmes, said she could not get timely treatment in Canada and ultimately was treated in the U.S.[116] Patients United Now staged more than three hundred rallies to oppose the Obama administration's proposed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA.[7][117]

In summer 2009, Patients First, described as an "arm" of AFP, sponsored a six-week "Hands Off My Health Care" bus tour.[118] "Hands Off My Health Care" events included rallies protesting against the health care plan and collected signatures in an effort to raise awareness about free-market-based health care reforms.[119][120] AFP held "Hands Off My Health Care" events in more than 250 cities, according to AFP president Phillips.[121]

After the ACA became effective, Americans For Prosperity worked for its repeal[2] and took part in a campaign to block states from accepting federal funds made available to states under the ACA to expand Medicaid, an effort described by AFP president Phillips as "trench warfare" and "a crucial aspect of the overall long-term effort to roll back Obamacare.” In opposing Medicaid expansion, the organization targeted Virginia state senators Emmett Hanger and John Watkins, both Republicans; for example, it bused in volunteers to attend a hearing in the state capital and oppose the Medicaid expansion and to call constituents, distribute flyers, and send mailings.[122] AFP campaigned against Medicaid expansion in Michigan, Louisiana, and Nebraska.[67] AFP helped defeat Medicaid expansion in Florida. AFP president Phillips advocates for Congress to repeal portions of the ACA in order to keep the issue "in front of the public" and to use Obama's veto to portray him as "unwilling to take some reasonable commonsense reforms."[44]

In the 2014 mid-term elections, AFP targeted legislators who had supported the Affordable Care Act four years earlier.[18] AFP's first campaign advertisement aired in September, 2013,[123] and by January, 2014, AFP had spent $20 million,[124] by May, $35 million,[125] and by July, $44 million,[18] on television advertisements in congressional races, amounts unprecedented so early in a political campaign cycle.[44] Senators targeted included Democrats Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.[124] Between January 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014, in the campaign to control the Senate, AFP aired more than 27,000 television advertisements, about one in every 16 ads, according to the Center for Public Integrity.[126] AFP president Phillips told the New York Times that a broader goal of the anti-ACA advertising spending was to present the ACA as a "social welfare boondoggle" which would foster opposition to spending on climate change.[127][128][129]

In early 2014, Americans for Prosperity released nationwide advertisements relating stories about people whose health care, the ads said, had changed because of the law's requirements. One television spot targeting Democratic Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, a candidate for the Senate, featured leukemia patient Julie Boonstra and stirred controversy regarding her claim that she could no longer afford the cost of her treatment.[130][131] The Washington Post, however, reported that the advertisement had "significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions."[132] Boonstra would save at least $1,000 a year under the Affordable Care Act, according to The Detroit News.[133][134] AFP releasing another television advertisement in which Boonstra said Peters was “trying to silence me.”[135] AFP apologized for another television advertisement that attacked the Affordable Care Act and Democratic Senator Mark Udall, a candidate for re-election, using images of a somber Obama and Udall from their visit to Aurora, Colorado in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting.[136]

AFP with support from the California-based Tea Party Express organized a rally at the Capitol during the Supreme Court's oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.[76]

Fiscal policy advocacy[edit]

AFP advocates limited government.[137] AFP opposes raising the minimum wage.[138][139] In 2011, AFP opposed the extension of unemployment benefits, writing that unemployment benefits increase unemployment.[140][141]

In February, 2009, Americans for Prosperity launched a website "nostimulus.com" which featured an online "No Stimulus" petition addressed to US Senators, notifying them that the vote on the "so-called" American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would be included in the AFP's Congressional rankings and urging a "no" vote. The petition characterized the Act as "dramatically increasing federal debt and spending" "under the pretense of stimulus or recovery." Internet traffic overwhelmed the website.[142][143]

AFP opposed a proposed federal relief bill after Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.[144][145] AFP's New Jersey director questioned the federal government's role in natural disaster relief, saying it should be limited to the repair of federal buildings.[146]

In 2013, AFP launched a “Spending Accountability Project” which supported letting the $85 billion in automatic cuts to federal spending required by the budget sequestration take effect.[147][148] "Government overspending is the greatest threat to economic prosperity," according to AFP.[149][150] AFP opposed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, also known as the Ryan-Murray deal, which proposed $40 billion in spending in excess of the sequestration. AFP called the deal "not just bad policy, it is bad politics" and noted the loss of the "hard-won bipartisan spending limits set by the sequester."[151][152]

In 2013 in Indiana AFP ran a television advertising campaign in support of Governor Mike Pence's ten percent state income tax cut.[153]

AFP is a critic of the Export-Import Bank of the United States[154] and has joined with a coalition of other groups to call for its end.[155][156][157]

Other policy positions[edit]

AFP is a member of the Internet Freedom Coalition that opposes net neutrality.[158][159][160] AFP's vice president for policy Phil Kerpen chaired the Coalition, and wrote essays and posted podcasts against the policy, including writing that net neutrality is a "Washington take-over" of the internet and an example of "the White House's abuse of regulatory power."[161] AFP supported January 2014's federal appeals court ruling against the FCC's authority to enforce net neutrality.[137][162] AFP urged Congress to legislatively pre-empt regulation of the internet.[163]

AFP advocates for the protection of property rights.[164][165]

Annual events[edit]

In 2007 AFP began hosting a yearly Defending the American Dream Summit, now the second-largest annual gathering of conservatives in Washington, D.C. (after the Conservative Political Action Conference).[166][167] In conjunction with the July 2008 Netroots Nation conference in Austin, Texas, AFP hosted RightOnline, a conference of conservative bloggers and activists that aimed to develop conservative social media strategies.[168][169] This conference has since become an annual event.[170]

Leadership and structure[edit]

Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.[46] AFP and the AFP Foundation share offices and staff.[171]

The AFP Foundation is the "educational" arm of the AFP, according to The Nation.[172] David H. Koch chairs the board of directors of the AFP Foundation.[173][174] AFP Foundation board members include Pfotenhauer, Richard Fink, an executive vice president of Koch Industries, and George Mason University professor of economics Walter E. Williams, a guest host of The Rush Limbaugh Show.[7][175] The AFP Foundation is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a national network of free-market oriented think tanks.[176][177]

"Americans for Prosperity is the political arm of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation," according to the Los Angeles Times.[38] New Jersey business woman Frayda Levin of the Moving Picture Institute chairs the board of directors of AFP.[178] The AFP board of directors includes former Federal Trade Commission chair and Ronald Reagan Budget Director James C. Miller, former mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan James E. Stephenson, Koch Industries executive Richard Fink, and former AFP president Nancy Pfotenhauer.[179] Policy analyst Phil Kerpen was AFP's vice president for policy and a contributor to Fox News and the National Review.[7][180]

Funding[edit]

AFP reported revenue of $44.2 million and expenditures of $34.8 million in 2013.[181] The AFP Foundation reported revenue of $13.3 million and expenditures of $17.7 million in 2013.[173]

AFP and the AFP Foundation have received financial support from the Koch brothers.[122][135] AFP and the AFP Foundation funding from the Koch family foundations includes the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation ($3.17 million to the AFP Foundation from 2005 to 2007),[182] the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation ($1 million to the AFP and the AFP Foundation in 2008), and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($67,556 in 2009).[183] Other Koch-funded grantors of AFP and the AFP Foundation include the non-profit Freedom Partners ($32.3 million to AFP in 2012 and $1.5 million in 2013),[184][185][186] the Center to Protect Patient Rights ($4.2 million to AFP as of 2013),[95] and the donor-advised fund Donors Trust. AFP received $11 million from Donors Trust between 2002 and 2010. In 2010, the AFP Foundation received $7 million from Donors Trust, nearly half of the AFP Foundations's revenue that year.[187][188][183] Slate magazine called AFP "the Koch brothers’ flagship political operation."[189]

According to AFP, 90,000 people across 50 states have made donations of under $100 to AFP or the AFP Foundation.[190][183] In 2010, the AFP Foundation received $1.35 million from the John William Pope Foundation, chaired by North Carolina philanthropist Art Pope,[183][191] a founding board member of AFP and a former chairman of the AFP board.[192][193] AFP major corporate donors include tobacco company Reynolds American and the American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry.[194][195] AFP received $25,500 in 2010 and $15,000 in 2012 from the American Petroleum Institute.[196][197][198] AFP received $50,000 from Reynolds American in 2012.[199]

The AFP Foundation files with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization; as a charity, contributions to the AFP Foundation are tax deducible, but charities are largely prohibited from political activity.[200] AFP files with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) non-profit, tax-exempt organization; as a "social welfare" organisation, AFP is legally required to operate as non-partisan, neither endorsing nor opposing political candidates; its primary purpose may not be political.[89]

In contrast with political action committees, 501(c) non-profit organizations are generally not required to disclose their donors.[200] Questioned by a reporter from Patch Media before the 2012 Wisconsin recall elections, AFP's Wisconsin director said "We're not dealing with any candidates, political parties, or ongoing races. We're just educating folks on the importance of the reforms."[54][201] The Washington Post editorialized in 2010, "voters ought to know who is paying for this citizen education."[202] As of 2014, the IRS is engaged in rule-making to clarify limits on the political activities of social welfare non-profits, including AFP and the liberal political advocacy group League of Conservation Voters.[203] In 2014, an AFP spokesperson said AFP had the right to keep its donors private, citing NAACP v. Alabama, a 1958 Supreme Court ruling that protected donors to the NAACP from potential harassment.[204] In February 2015, a federal judge granted the AFP Foundation's motion for a preliminary injunction staying California Attorney General Kamala Harris's request for the names and addresses of AFP Foundation donors, pending resolution of the legality of the request. The Foundation said its associates have received serious threats, including "threats to kill or maim, to threats to firebomb buildings."[205][206]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "About Americans for Prosperity". Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Beckel, Michael (November 14, 2013). "Americans For Prosperity Spent Record Cash In 2012". The Huffington Post. Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved March 24, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.  Also see "GuideStar Summary". GuideStar. 
  4. ^ Gold, Matea (June 18, 2014). "An expanding Koch network aims to spend $300 million to shape Senate fight and 2016". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  5. ^ Bump, Philip (June 19, 2014). "Americans For Prosperity may be America’s third-biggest political party". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Americans for Prosperity". FactCheck.org. October 10, 2011. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Mayer, Jane (August 30, 2010). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
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  203. ^ Hicks, Josh (June 18, 2014). "IRS chief: Agency working on specific limits for nonprofits’ political activities". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  204. ^ Alpert, Bruce (September 6, 2014). "Americans for Prosperity on why it keeps donors secret and SEC won't appeal Stanford ruling: On the Hill". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  205. ^ Pettersson, Edvard. "Koch Group Gets to Keep Donors Secret in California Lawsuit". Bloomberg. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  206. ^ Americans for Prosperity v. Kamala Harris (California Central District Court February 23, 2015). Text

External links[edit]

  • [1] Americans for Prosperity website
  • [2] Americans for Prosperity Foundation website
  • [3] Tax information on Americans for Prosperity, Pro Publica
  • [4] Tax information on Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Pro Publica

Coordinates: 38°53′30″N 77°05′07″W / 38.8918°N 77.0854°W / 38.8918; -77.0854