Americans for Prosperity

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Americans for Prosperity
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, US
2.3 million (2013)[2]
Tim Phillips
Chief Operating Officer
Luke Hilgemann
Revenue: $24,029,062
Expenses: $26,587,053
(FYE December 2012)[3]

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an American conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Americans for Prosperity played a key role in the achievement of the 2010 Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives.


Americans for Prosperity had 2.3 million members and chapters in 34 states, as of November 2013.[2] AFP had a staff of 116, as of September, 2012, according to AFP's president.[4] AFP has its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. AFP's stated mission is "educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process". [1]


Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004 when internal rivalries caused a split from the conservative political advocacy group Citizens for a Sound Economy.[5] The founding of AFP was funded by businessmen and philanthropist brothers David H. Koch and Charles Koch, both of Koch Industries.[5][6][7] “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.[8] "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," David Koch reflected.[9] The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is David Koch’s primary political advocacy group.[8]

From 2004 to 2007, AFP was led by Nancy Pfotenhauer. Prior to joining AFP, Pfotenhauer was a lobbyist for Koch Industries. Pfotenhauer left AFP to become an advisor to US Senator John McCain's presidential campaign.[10] The Koch brothers hired political strategist Tim Phillips to work at AFP in 2005.[11]

In 2009 the AFP helped transform the nascent tea party movement into a political force.[12][13] "Americans for the Tea Party era evolved into one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics," Bloomberg Politics reporter David Weigel wrote on the online magazine Slate.[14] AFP provided education on policy, training in methods, and lists of politicians to tea party activists.[5] AFP helped tea party groups organize voter registration drives.[6] AFP helped organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies in Sacramento, Austin, and Madison in April, 2009.[8] In October, 2010 AFP sponsored a workshop on the political use of the internet at a tea party convention in Virginia.[15] In 2010 AFP played a key role in achieving a Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives. AFP supported tea party groups and purchased negative advertisements.[16] 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 benefitted from AFP advertisements and grassroots activity.[17]

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

AFP bussed in hundreds to counterprotest at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker's agenda of reduced spending, cuts to union benefits, and limits on collective bargaining had drawn opposition in the streets. “We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” said AFP president Phillips.[18] 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 in at the capitol in Madison.[19] On the first anniversary of Walker's signature legislation, the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which limited collective bargaining rights for most public employees, the AFP staged town-hall meetings called "It's Working Wisconsin!"[20]

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 Detroit River International Crossing bridge.[21]

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 a "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" but the Post Office Box was that of Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage group.[22][23] Responding to charges of voter suppression, AFP said the incorrect date was a "printing mistake" and was only intended for voters in the two districts where Democrats are set to face recalls on a later date, August 16.[24][25] The Wisconsin state board of elections opened an investigation.[26] In April, 2014, AFP mailed voters in at least eight West Virginia counties “misleading and confusing” material that may led them to believe they were ineligible to vote, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State.[27] In September, 2014, the AFP was investigated by the state board of elections of North Carolina for a voter registration mailing labelled “official application form” containing inaccurate information including an incorrect filing deadline.[28][29] AFP said the mistakes in the North Carolina mailings were "administrative errors."[30]

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.[31][32][33][34]

2012 presidential election[edit]

Campaign finance watchdogs and Democrats criticized AFP as an example of the funding of political causes by nonprofit organizations who need not disclose their contributors.[16] On August 9, 2010 at a Democratic National Committee event, 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."[10][35]

and "They don't want you to know who the Americans for Prosperity are, because they're thinking about the next election."[36][35] The Obama re-election campaign website described AFP a "special-interest front group run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers."[37] 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.”[5] AFP president Phillips called the idea that AFP is taking money from foreign sources "ludicrous" and 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."[38][39] In August, 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that the AFP Foundation funded political advertisements in Kansas, Missouri and Michigan in contravention of federal tax law applicable to the foundation's tax exempt classification. AFP said the charges were without merit.[40]

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.[41][42]

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.[43][44][45] AFP said it had financial transactions with Prosperity USA. A charity may not use intermediaries to contribute to a political campaign. AFP said that it would review the transactions.[46] AFP said the transactions were reimbursements from AFP to the Cain campaign for travel, for Cain and a staff person to attend AFP or AFP Foundation events, that occurred before Cain launched his campaign.[47]

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.[48] In their voter canvassing operations, AFP utilized a 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.[48][49][50] "Our geo-targeting looks at everything from voting data to Census data to consumer-purchasing information. We know their magazine subscriptions. In some cases, we know the websites they prefer to surf," AFP president Phillips said.[51] 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.[4]

In August, 2012, AFP spent $25 million on television commercials attacking Obama. AFP said the commercials were voter education.[51] AFP purchased a bus, painted "Obama's Failing Agenda Tour" on the side, and sponsored a nationwide bus tour condemning Obama's policies.[52] From 2011–2012, AFP spent $8.4 million ($2.4 in 2011[53] and $6 million in 2012[54]) on television ads that criticized the federal loan to now-bankrupt manufacturer of solar panels, Solyndra.[54] In September 2012, the Washington Post reported that AFP planned to spend $125 million on the 2012 United States presidential election.[4] AFP spent $122 million in 2012, more than in the previous eight years since its founding combined.[55][2] AFP raised $140 million in the 2012 election cycle, including more than $44 million from Koch-related funds.[56]

Programs and advocacy[edit]

Energy and environment[edit]

AFP helped defeat proposed US legislation embracing cap and trade, a market-based approach to control pollution by providing economic incentives, which in 2008 had the support of both US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and in 2009 was pending in the US Congress as the American Clean Energy and Security Act.[11][57] AFP opposed President Obama's efforts to address global warming.[58] "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 their 2012 documentary Climate of Doubt.[59]

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.[57][60][61] By July 2013, 411 lawmakers and candidates, including a quarter of US senators and more than one-third of US representatives, primarily Republicans, signed the pledge.[57] 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.[62]

AFP created the nationwide "Hot Air Tour," which involved floating hot air balloons in protest of what AFP described as "global warming alarmism"[10][63] and included webcasts from the United Nations meetings COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009[64] and COP16 in Cancun in 2010.[citation needed] The side of the balloon read "Cap and trade means: higher taxes, lost jobs, less freedom." AFP flew their balloon over Al Gore's house in Tennessee.[11]

AFP sponsored a "Regulation Reality Tour" to foment opposition to climate change legislation and federal regulation of carbon emissions. Cap and trade was described as “the largest excise tax in history.”[65] The tour involved "carbon cops" with fake badges in green Smart cars with flashing lights who wrote citations for carbon "crimes."[66]

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 Obamacare. The repeal passed the Kansas Senate in May, 2014 but failed in the Kansas House of Representatives.[67]

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.[68]

Health care[edit]

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

In May 2009, AFP launched "Patients United Now," a project to stop proposed health care reforms. Patients United Now opposed a single-payer health care system and a government-funded health insurance option. Patients United Now purchased television advertisements warning of "government-controlled health care" or a "Washington takeover" of health care.[58] Patients United Now staged hundreds of rallies to oppose President Obama's heath care legislation, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[69]

In one Patients United Now television advertisement, a Canadian woman, Shona Holmes, said 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."[70][71][72]

In the summer of 2009, AFP sponsored the six-week "Hands Off My Health Care" bus tour.[73] "Hands Off My Health Care" events included rallies protesting against Obama's health care plan and collected signatures in an effort to raise awareness about free-market-based health care reforms.[74][75] According to AFP, AFP "held Hands Off My Health Care events in over 250 cities."[76]

AFP advocated for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.[2] AFP participated in a state-level effort described by AFP President Phillips as "trench warfare...a crucial aspect of the overall long-term effort to roll back Obamacare.” AFP targeted Republican Virginia state senators Emmett Hanger and John Watkins, bussing in volunteers to attend hearings, call constituents, distribute flyers, and send mailings.[77]

In early 2014, Americans for Prosperity released nationwide advertisements targeting legislators who supported the Affordable Care Act and telling the stories of people whose healthcare changed because of the Act's mandates. One television advertisement targeting Democratic Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, a candidate for the US Senate, featured leukemia patient Julie Boonstra and stirred controversy regarding her claim that her costs are no longer affordable.[78][79] The advertisement had "significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions," according to The Washington Post.[80] Boonstra would save at least $1,000 a year under the Affordable Care Act, according to The Detroit News.[81][82] AFP releasing another television advertisement in which Boonstra said Peters was “trying to silence me.”[83] AFP apologized for another television advertisement that used images of a somber Obama and Democratic Senator Mark Udall, a candidate for re-election, from their visit to Aurora, Colorado in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting to attack Udall and the Affordable Care Act.[84]

AFP with support from the California-based Tea Party Express organized a rally at the US Capitol during the Supreme Court's oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.[37]

Net neutrality[edit]

AFP has been an active member of the Internet Freedom Coalition, a group that opposes net neutrality.[85][86] Kerpin, AFP's Vice President for Policy, called Net Neutrality a clear example of the White House's abuse of regulatory power and rallied a series of writing and broadcast efforts against the policy.[87]

AFP lauded January 2014's DC Appeals Court ruling against net neutrality[88] while pressing Congress to use their legislative authority to preempt regulatory schemes that could infringe on the open internet.[89]

Property rights[edit]

AFP lists the protection of property rights as one of its most important goals.[90] They have, in conjunction with similarly-minded organizations, supported legislation in the House and Senate regarding federal protections for Property Rights[91][92]

Banking and financial services[edit]

AFP has advocated against what it calls "crony capitalism," in which it believes that some businesses have been granted an unfair advantage with taxpayer money.

AFP is a very strong critic of the Export-Import Bank of the United States[93] and has joined with a coalition of other groups to call for its end.[94][95][96]


Americans For Prosperity has advocated both a low federal tax rate, and a simpler federal tax code.[97] AFP has been particularly vocal in their objection to a soda tax and an internet sales tax.[citation needed]


On May 17, 2013, Americans for Prosperity sent an open letter to the Rep. Tom Price expressing their support for his bill the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013 (H.R. 1874; 113th Congress).[98] The bill would require the Congressional Budget Office to provide a macroeconomic impact analysis for bills that are estimated to have a large budgetary effect.[99] AFP argued that requiring the CBO to use dynamic scoring in its reports would give Congress a more realistic estimate of the fiscal impact of federal legislation.[98] Americans For Prosperity argue that under the current system, which, according to them, fails to account for how the economy will react to new policies such as higher taxes, there is a bias in favor of big-government policies.[98]


AFP has hosted or co-hosted a number of events to promote their agenda.

Defending the Dream Summit[edit]

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.[100] US Senator from Florida, Republican Marco Rubio has been a frequent speaker.[101]


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.[102][103] RightOnline has since become an annual event, with 1,500 attendees in 2011.[104]

Leadership and structure[edit]

Tim Phillips is president of Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.[18]

David H. Koch chairs the board of directors of the AFP Foundation.[105] The AFP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1984.[citation needed] As a charity, contributions to the AFP Foundation are tax deducible, but charities are largely prohibited from political activity.[106] The AFP Foundation is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a U.S. national network of free-market oriented think tanks.[107][108]

"Americans for Prosperity is the political arm of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation."[17] AFP is a 501(c)(4) organization established in 2004.[citation needed] As a non-profit "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.[109] 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, Frayda Levy of the Moving Picture Institute, Koch Industries executive Richard Fink, and former AFP president Nancy Pfotenhauer.[110]


AFP reported revenue of $44.2 million and expenditures of $34.8 million in 2013.[111] The AFP Foundation reported revenue of $13.3 million and expenditures of $17.7 million in 2013.[112]

AFP is supported financially by the Koch brothers.[83] The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, one of the Koch family foundations, granted over $3.17 million to the AFP Foundation from 2005 to 2007, which was one fourth of the AFP Foundation’s revenue and one fourth of the Lambe Foundation's dispersements in that period.[72] AFP and the AFP Foundation were granted $1 million from the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2008 and $67,556 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2009.[113]

In 2010, the AFP Foundation received a $7 million grant from Donors Trust, the conservative donor advised fund, nearly half of its revenue that year.[114] AFP received $11 million from Donors Trust between 2002 and 2010.[115] As of 2013, AFP received $4.2 million in grants from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a nonprofit based in Arizona.[55] According to AFP, 90,000 people across 50 states have made a donation of under $100 to AFP or the AFP Foundation.[116]


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.[1]

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:[1]

  • 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.

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.  Also see "GuideStar Summary". GuideStar. 
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External links[edit]

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