Americans for Prosperity
|Americans for Prosperity|
|Type||Non-profit political advocacy group|
|Purpose/focus||AFP is committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process.|
|Headquarters||Arlington, Virginia, U.S.|
|Chief Operating Officer||Luke Hilgemann|
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an American conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. AFP's stated mission is "educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process". The group played a major role in the 2010 Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, and has been called "one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics".
Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004 when Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) split into FreedomWorks and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (formerly the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation). Dick Armey, who had become chair of CSE in 2003 after retiring from Congress, remained chairman of FreedomWorks, while David H. Koch remained chairman of the AFP Foundation. Like CSE, AFP was founded with the support of David H. Koch and Charles Koch, both of Koch Industries.
Americans for Prosperity describes its mission as educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing them as advocates of lower taxes and limited government. The organization focuses on eight issue areas: budget and spending; taxes; property rights; health care and entitlements; banking and financial services; labor, education, and pensions; energy and environment; and technology.
According to AFP, their mission is to promote "limited government and free markets on the local, state, and federal levels", and to do so, they support:
- Cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens by fighting proposed tax increases and pointing out evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse.
- Removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship and opportunity by sparking citizen involvement early in the regulatory process in order to reduce red tape.
- Restoring fairness to the judicial system.
Leadership and structure
Like its predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy, and other advocacy groups (for example, the National Taxpayers Union), Americans for Prosperity consists of two separate entities: Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) organization established in 2004, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1984.
On the national level, Americans for Prosperity is led by its president, Tim Phillips. From 2003-2007, AFP was led by Nancy Pfotenhauer, the president of MediaSpeak Strategies. Other current executive staff include Chief Operating Officer Luke Hilgemann and Vice President of State Operations Teresa Oelke. James C. Miller, James E. Stephenson, Frayda Levy, Richard Fink, and Nancy Pfotenhauer serve on the board of directors.
In its 2007 annual tax return, the AFP Foundation reported revenue of $5.7 million with expenditures of nearly $6.8 million. Of these expenditures, $2.1 million went to national office operations and $2.9 million went to the state-based chapters. By 2010, AFP's and the AFP Foundation's combined budget was $40 million.
Based on the AFP Foundation's financial operations and programs, the independent nonprofit review organization, Charity Navigator, gave it a three-star rating out of four stars overall – four stars for financial operations, and two for accountability and transparency – and 53.8 out of a possible 70 points.
According to AFP, 90,000 people across 50 states have donated to AFP or the AFP Foundation.
Since 2007, the AFP Foundation has hosted the "Defending the American Dream Summit", which is now the second largest annual gathering of conservatives in Washington, DC (the first is the Conservative Political Action Conference). Topics have included government spending and taxation, health care reform legislation, economic policy, and proposed energy legislation. Presidential candidates who attended the inaugural event included Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. 2,000 people attended the 2011 summit.
To "send a message to the bureaucrats that energy rationing will kill jobs, raise taxes, and crush our freedoms", AFP created the "Cost of Hot Air Tour", a nationwide tour that included webcasts from the United Nations meetings COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 and COP16 in Cancun in 2010.
In 2008, in the same city (Austin, Texas) and at the same time (July) as the liberal Netroots Nation conference, AFP hosted RightOnline, a conference of conservative bloggers and activists that aimed to develop conservative social media strategies. RightOnline has since become an annual event, with 1,500 attendees in 2011.
In 2011, in conjunction with Sarah Palin, AFP helped lead a counterprotest in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker's budget and labor-law initiatives had drawn considerable opposition in the streets. President Phillips said Walker's proposed cuts were necessary and "represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits". After the budget reforms in Wisconsin passed, the AFP Foundation initiated an advertising and town-hall effort called "It's Working!" to promote them.
Also in 2011, AFP sponsored the first debate among the Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire. Candidates who participated included Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain.
No Climate Tax Pledge
In 2008, AFP circulated an anti-tax pledge to government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. A candidate who signs the "No Climate Tax Pledge" vows to "oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in state or local government revenue".
As of August 2010, more than 600 lawmakers and candidates, primarily Republicans, had signed the pledge. Prominent signers include Senators Pat Roberts and Roger Wicker and Representatives Michele Bachmann, Jeff Flake, and Fred Upton. Of the 12 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2011, nine have signed the pledge.
In May 2009, AFP launched "Patients United Now", a project to, according to their website, oppose "a government takeover of the United States health care system".
Patients United Now ran television ads advancing this viewpoint. In one ad, a Canadian woman, Shona Holmes, says she was not able to get timely treatment for brain tumor surgery and ultimately was treated in the U.S. Columnist David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times responded that the Canadian government does not offer medical treatment but has a government-run insurance program. Amy Menefee, a spokeswoman for Patients United Now, stated that "The point of the ad is to show the extremes where things could go. This would be a bigger role for government than we've ever seen. It's a power grab in this area of the economy."
Also in 2009, AFP initiated the "Hands Off My Healthcare Tour", which sponsored 250 rallies and collected signatures in an effort to raise awareness about free-market-based health care reforms.
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 Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010, five benefitted from AFP ads and grassroots activity.
In June 2011, Americans for Prosperity placed a handful of fake eviction notices on people's doors in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit. The group's state director said that the intent was to get peoples' attention and to startle residents into lobbying against the building of the Detroit River International Crossing bridge because, as 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".
In August 2011, AFP "sent absentee voter applications instructing voters to return the paperwork two days late in at least two recall elections". In addition, the PO Box that was listed on the "Ballot Application" is the address of an anti-abortion group, Wisconsin Family Action, as opposed to an official state address. AFP responded, claiming that the misleading date was the result of a mistake and "was only intended for voters in the two districts where Democrats are set to face recalls on a later date, August 16".
In 2011, AFP said that it would review payments it had made to Mark Block's Prosperity USA, which allegedly made improper payments to the Herman Cain presidential campaign, 2012. As a tax-exempt charity, Prosperity USA is prohibited from donating money or services to a political campaign. According to an internal review, the payments were proper since they occurred before Cain launched his campaign.
2012 presidential election
From 2011–2012, in what the Wall Street Journal called "perhaps the biggest attack on Mr. Obama so far in the 2012 election campaign", AFP spent $8.4 million ($2.4 in 2011 and $6 million in 2012) on television ads that criticized the federal loan to now-bankrupt manufacturer of solar panels, Solyndra.
In September 2012, the Washington Post called AFP "One of the major players on the right", reporting that AFP planned to spend $125 million on the 2012 United States presidential election. President Phillips said the organization has 116 staff members on the ground targeting 9 million voters who are undecided about how to assess Obama's economic record. AFP wound up spending a record $122 million in 2012.
In August 2010, the Democratic Party and the Obama White House argued that AFP and the AFP Foundation are a de facto political action group, thus violating their tax-exempt status. President 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." The administration later called AFP a "special-interest front group run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers", who it said are "obsessed with making Barack Obama a one-term president". In response, Phillips called the idea that AFP is taking money from foreign sources "ludicrous". He also noted that following the President's statement, AFP saw an increase in financial contributions, explaining that "they know if the president of the United States is attacking you because you're opposing his agenda, you're probably doing something that's effective".
Also in August 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) filed a complaint against AFP for running political advertisements that allegedly constitute intervention in political campaigns. A spokesman for the AFP Foundation said the DCCC complaint was a "nuisance complaint to intimidate" and was without merit. On May 6, 2011, the Federal Election Commission dismissed the complaint.
A May 2012 ad criticizing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was rated by the nonpartisan fact checking organization PolitiFact.com as one of "the sneakiest" of the election cycle to that point. Claims from the ad were judged to be "Mostly False", "False", and "Pants on Fire", the organization's lowest rating of truth. A separate analysis of the entire ad showed problems with the truth of every one of the ad's claims.
- "About Americans for Prosperity". Retrieved 9 March 2012.
- Temple-West, Patrick; Alina Selyukh (2012-06-29). "IRS steps up scrutiny of tax-exempt political groups". Reuters (Washington). Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Wealthy outside political groups find a home in Minnesota". MPR News. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
- "Cato Institute Is Caught in a Rift Over Its Direction," New York Times, March 6, 2012
- "Behind the Cato-Koch Kerfuffle," Slate, March 1, 2012
- "Dick Armey to lead Citizens for a Sound Economy". January 8, 2003.
- Zernike, Kate (October 19, 2010). "Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead". New York Times.
- Mayer, Jane (2009-01-07). "The billionaire Koch brothers' war against Obama". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 15 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
- Overby, Peter (February 19, 2010). "Who's Raising Money For Tea Party Movement?". "David Koch has directly taken credit for founding Americans for Prosperity, saying, "Five years ago my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start the Americans for Prosperity.""
- "Staff". Americans for Prosperity. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
- "Directors". Americans for Prosperity. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
- "Tim Phillips, New York Times, March 3, 2012, accessed Mar 2012". Charitynavigator.org. Retrieved 2012-03-18.
- "Nonprofit Report for Americans for Prosperity Foundation". GuideStar. GuideStar USA, Inc. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- "Charity Navigator, rating of AFP Foundation, accessed Aug 2011". Charitynavigator.org. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-11.
- Browning, William (October 17, 2011). "Americans for Prosperity by the Numbers". Yahoo! News Contributor Network. Retrieved May 8, 2012.[dead link]
- Phillips, Tim (November 8, 2011). "'Occupiers' Attack Defending the American Dream Summit". Americans for Prosperity. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- "Hot Air Tour Live from Cancun". Americans for Prosperity. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- "Hot Air Tour". Hot Air Tour. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- Vargas, Jose Antonio (July 18, 2008). "In Texas, the Right Boots Up to Gain Strength Online". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
- Schatz, Amy (July 18, 2008). "In Online Politicking, Republicans Play Catch-Up". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Conservative Fun with Andrew Breitbart et al. at Right Online – Tina Dupuy – Politics – The Atlantic".
- Schultz, Zac (April 16, 2011). "Sarah Palin Travels To Madison". WMTV. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- Lipton, Eric, "Billionaire Brothers' Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute", The New York Times, February 21, 2011 (February 22, 2011 p. A16 NY ed.). Retrieved 2011-02-22.
- "Capitol rally to mark one year since Act 10 – JSOnline". JSOnline. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
- "Americans For Prosperity Dinner live blog – Political Intelligence – A national political and campaign blog from The Boston Globe – Boston.com". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
- Pear, Robert (March 9, 2012). "White House Works to Shape Debate Over Health Law". New York Times.
- Group against taxes seeks pledges from candidates, Lawrence Journal, July 22nd, 2008
- Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power, Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2011
- Group against taxes seeks pledges from candidates, About | Patients United Now
- "Healthcare debate framed by fear-mongering ads". Los Angeles Times. 2009-08-09. Retrieved 2010-10-21.
- Phillips, Tim (February 29, 2012). "President Obama's health care law is unraveling". The Daily Caller. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- Group protests Obama's push for health care reform, July 22, 2009
- Americans for Prosperity protest the President's health care plan August 7, 2009
- Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (October 18, 2013). "States Are Focus of Effort to Foil Health Care Law". New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Hamburger, Tom; Kathleen Hennessey, Neela Banerjee (2011-02-06). "Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
- John Gallagher, Conservative group: Fake eviction notices were 'meant to startle people' Detroit Free Press Jun. 7, 2011
- Opoien, Jessica. "Unofficial absentee ballot mailings raise voter intimidation issues in Wisconsin recall elections". Retrieved November 2011.
- Sargent, Greg. "Americans for Prosperity sent misleading absentee ballot far more widely than previously known". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
- Stone, Peter H. "Koch-related group is reviewing financial transactions with Cain aide's charity." iWatch News, 3 November 2011.
- Bice, Daniel. "State firm's cash to Herman Cain may breach federal campaign, tax laws." Journal Sentinel, 30 October 2011.
- Benjamin, Mark. "The Other Cain Scandal: Campaign Transactions May Have Broken Federal Law." Time Magazine, 1 November 2011.
- Eggen, Dan. "Herman Cain campaign's financial ties to Wisconsin charity questioned." Washington Post, 31 October 2011.
- "Americans for Prosperity: Our Reimbursements to Herman Cain Were Legal," John McCormack, Weekly Standard, November 9, 2011
- Americans for Prosperity to Air Ads Slamming Obama's Ties to Solyndra," Brody Mullins, Washington Wire, January 14, 2012
- "Koch-Fueled Americans for Prosperity Spends $2.4 Million on Solyndra Attack Ad (VIDEO)", Stephen Lacey, ThinkProgress, November 28, 2011)
- "Americans for Prosperity to Air Ads Slamming Obama's Ties to Solyndra," Brody Mullins, Washington Wire, January 14, 2012
- Peter Wallsten; Tom Hamburger (September 20, 2012). "Conservative groups reaching new levels of sophistication in mobilizing voters". Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
- Maguire, Robert; Novak, Viveca (15 November 2013). "Americans for Prosperity Helped Churn Koch-Linked Money". opensecrets.org. OpenSecrets.org. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- Remarks by the President at a DNC Finance Event in Austin, Texas
- Sonmez, Felicia (August 26, 2010). "Who is "Americans for Prosperity"?". Washington Post.
- Pappas, Alex. "Americans for Prosperity cashing in on Obama attacks on them". Daily Caller. Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved December 2011.
- McKinnon and Martin Vaughan, John D. (August 28, 2010). "Democrats Criticize Group Over Attack Ads, Tax Violations". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Weekly Digest: Week of May 2 – 4". Federal Election Commission. May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 8, 2012.[dead link]
- "Ad says stimulus tax credits funded traffic lights in China". PolitiFact.com. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- "Ad says stimulus tax credits funded jobs in Finland". PolitiFact.com. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- "Ad says stimulus tax credits funded a solar company building a Mexico plant". PolitiFact.com. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- Bowers, Becky (May 4, 2012). "Line by line: How an ad uses sleight-of-hand to distort facts on stimulus". PolitiFact.com. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
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