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
2.3 million (2013)[2]
Tim Phillips
Chief Operating Officer
Luke Hilgemann

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), founded in 2004, is one of the most influential conservative political advocacy groups in the United States. It was established by businessmen and philanthropist brothers David H. Koch and Charles Koch and is their primary political operation.

After the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, AFP helped transform the Tea Party movement into a political force. It organized significant opposition to Obama administration initiatives such as global warming regulation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid and economic stimulus. It helped turn back "cap and trade," the major environmental proposal of Obama's first term. AFP advocated for limits on the collective bargaining rights of public-sector trade unions and for right-to-work laws, and it opposed raising the federal minimum wage. AFP played an active role in the achievement of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives in 2010 and in the Senate in 2014.

In the 2014 mid-term election cycle, AFP led all outside groups (that is, groups other than political action committees) in spending on political television advertising. Its scope of operations has drawn comparisons to political parties. The extent of AFP's political activities, while operating as a tax-exempt, educational social welfare non-profit, raised concerns regarding its funding transparency with Obama, campaign finance watchdogs, and others.

Founding and growth[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,[3] dividing it into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.[4] Citizens for a Sound Economy was renamed "Americans for Prosperity."[5]:105 The founding of AFP was funded by businessmen and philanthropist brothers David H. Koch and Charles Koch, both of Koch Industries.[3][6][7] The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is the Koch brothers’ primary political advocacy group;[8][9] Slate and Mother Jones magazines called AFP the Koch's "flagship" political operation.[10][11] AFP is best known for its television advertising and its financing by the Kochs, according to NPR.[12] AFP's stated mission is "educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process."[1] "AFP seeks to support free markets and entrepreneurship by advocating lower taxes and limited government spending and regulation," according to[13]

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.[14] The Koch brothers hired political strategist Tim Phillips to work at AFP in 2005.[15]

AFP had a staff of 116 in September 2012,[16] and the next year it had chapters in 34 states and claimed 2.3 million members[2] In June 2014 it had 240 employees in 32 states.[17] AFP was active in national, state,[2][18][19] and some local elections.[20][21] AFP registered to lobby in 2014.[22] According to the consumer-advocacy website, by 2011, AFD "had emerged as one of the most influential conservative issue advocacy groups on the national and state political scene."[13] In 2014, a Washington Post political columnist wrote that AFP could be considered the third-largest political party in the nation.[23] Kenneth Vogel, chief investigative reporter at Politico, wrote that AFP's 2014 plans "resembled those of a national political party."[8] The Los Angeles Times said AFP performed roles typical of national and state political parties.[24]

Tea Party and 2010 midterm[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.[25][26]

AFP helped organize and publicize a "Porkulus"-themed protest on the state capitol steps in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 2009 in conjunction with Obama signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[5]:31[27] Within hours of CNBC financial reporter Rick Santelli's remarks February 19, 2009, broadcast live from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that criticized the Act and called for a "Chicago tea party," AFP registered the domain name and launched the website "," calling for protests against Obama.[5]:32 AFP helped organize Taxpayer Tea Party rallies in Sacramento, Austin, and Madison in April, 2009.[9] 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.[4]

In the 2010 midterm elections, AFP played a major role in achieving a Republican majority in the US House of Representatives, reported Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times. AFP supported tea party groups, purchased negative advertisements,[28] and sponsored a nationwide "November is Coming" bus tour to recruit organizers and canvassers.[29] AFP helped Tea Party groups organize voter registration drives.[6] An AFP website offered "Tea party Talking Points." The organization provided Tea Party activists with education on policy, training in methods, and lists of politicians to target.[3] In October 2010, AFP sponsored a workshop on the political use of the internet at a Tea Party convention in Virginia.[30] 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.[31]

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."[32] "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.[33] AFP was a "major force behind the Tea Party movement," according to[13] National conservative groups AFP, FreedomWorks, and DontGo led the tea party movement in April, 2009, according to The Atlantic magazine.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36]

Wisconsin collective bargaining[edit]

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

Americans for Prosperity advocates for cuts to public sector 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.[37] AFP views themselves as a counterbalance to a network of liberal activist organizations and unions. Its activities in Wisconsin developed the state into "the country's foremost battleground for conservatives and progressives," according to the National Journal,[38] and AFP used tactics in Wisconsin that were applied in later campaigns.[16]

AFP has been a major supporter of Wisconsin Republican politician Scott Walker.[20] 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.[33] When Governor Walker's agenda of reduced spending, cuts to union benefits, and limits on public sector collective bargaining drew thousands in opposition to the streets around the state capitol in Madison, AFP bussed in hundreds to counter-protest.[39] AFP spent $320,000 on television advertisements, published a website "" which featured an online petition,[40][41] and sponsored a "Stand With Walker" bus tour.[42] 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.[43][44] 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.[45]

AFP spent $3 million in support of Walker's gubernatorial recall election campaign in 2011–2012 and sent 75 trained canvasers to Wisconsin.[46] Days before the recall election, AFP sponsored the ten-city "A Better Wisconsin” bus tour.[47] 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!"[48] AFP's role in promoting Walker's agenda and recall election campaign was the subject of the 2013 documentary Citizen Koch.[49] In the context of Walker's 2014 re-election campaign, AFP purchased television issue advertisements in support of Act 10.[50]

Michigan right-to-work[edit]

Americans for Prosperity's Wisconsin campaign curtailing collective bargaining rights and turning back a recall demonstrated to AFP that similar efforts could succeed in Michigan, the birthplace of the modern labor movement.[51] A top priority of AFP in Michigan was right-to-work legislation, which prohibited employers from deducting union dues from employee pay checks and prohibited labor contracts from excluding non-union members.[52] AFP's Michigan director said, "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,"[53][54] and "We fight these battles on taxes and regulations, but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees, so they don't have the resources to fight these battles."[55][56]

AFP had opposed Michigan Governor Republican Rick Snyder on number of issues, including the Detroit River International Crossing Bridge project, an expansion of Medicaid funded by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and a road bill which raised taxes.[53][57] AFP coordinated support for right-to-work in Michigan.[53][58] 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, 2012, and some three hundred protestors showed up.[53] AFP bussed in activists[52] and offered supporters $25 gas cards, free lunch, and drinks.[54] AFP reserved space and erected a large heated tent near the Capitol steps for supporters.[59] On the morning of December 6, 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, as protesters and counterprotesters demonstrated outside.[60] Michigan state police responded. AFP said protesters tore down the AFP tent. No arrests were made.[59] 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."[61][62] Snyder signed the legislation on December 11.[60][63] In 2014, Snyder ran for re-election and AFP posted an online advertisement praising his legislative record.[64]

Obama re-election[edit]

AFP ran an "early and relentless" television advertising campaign opposing Obama's re-election, according to the Washington Post.[65][66][67][68] Whereas previously AFP had run issue advertising that attacked Obama's programs, in August 2012 the organization shifted to express advocacy, which explicitly called for his defeat.[69][70] That month, it spent $25 million on television commercials attacking Obama. AFP said the goal of the commercials was to educate voters.[71] AFP raised $140 million in the 2012 election cycle, including more than $44 million from Koch-related funds,[72] and it spent $122 million, more than in all the previous eight years since its founding. The organization spent more than $33.5 million on television advertisements opposing the President's reelection.[2][16][73]

In 2011 and 2012, AFP spent $8.4 million in swing states on television advertisements denouncing a loan guarantee the Department of Energy had made to Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar panels: Solyndra was the first recipient of such a guarantee under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the company went bankrupt.[74] The Wall Street Journal described the AFP campaign as "perhaps the biggest attack on Mr. Obama so far."[75][76] As another example of its expenditures, AFP painted "Obama's Failing Agenda Tour" on the side of a bus which it sent on a nationwide tour condemning the administration's policies.[77]

In April, 2011, in New Hampshire, AFP sponsored an informal gathering of five Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain.[78][79] 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.[80] 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.[80][81][82] 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.[16] 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 websites.[71]

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."[83]

Energy and environment[edit]

AFP supports oil and gas development and opposes regulation, including environmental restrictions.[84] 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.[85]

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.[15][86] AFP opposed President Obama's efforts to address global warming.[87] "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.[88]

In 2008, AFP circulated the "No Climate Tax Pledge" to government officials at the federal, state, and local levels, a pledge to oppose any legislation including spending relating to climate change unless it also included an equivalent amount of tax cuts.[86][89][90] 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.[86] 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.[24]

AFP held more than eighty events in opposition to cap and trade.[3] AFP created the nationwide "Hot Air Tour," which involved floating hot air balloons in protest of what AFP described as "global warming alarmism."[14][91] 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.[15] AFP described cap and trade as “the largest excise tax in history.” AFP sponsored a "Regulation Reality Tour" to foment opposition to climate change legislation and federal regulation of carbon emissions.[92] The tour involved "carbon cops" with fake badges in green Smart cars with flashing lights who wrote citations for carbon "crimes."[93] In 2011, AFP launched a "Running on Empty" website and a national tour featuring a 14-foot inflatable gas pump intended to link rising gas prices to the Obama administration’s environmental regulations and to promote offshore drilling for oil.[94][95] Long lines formed when in 2012 AFP offered gas discounted to the price in effect when Obama took office to drivers in Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and Colorado.[96][97][98]

In February, 2015, AFP organized supporters to telephone the White House to urge Obama to sign legislation authorizing the Keystone XL Pipeline.[99] AFP led an effort to repeal a federal tax credit for wind power.[100][101] In Kansas, Ohio, North Carolina, and other states, AFP campaigned to overturn renewable portfolio standards, state laws that mandated a percentage of the state's electricity come from renewable resources.[102][103][104][105] AFP plans to oppose Republican candidates who support a carbon tax in the 2016 presidential primaries. “They would be at a severe disadvantage,” AFP president Phillips said.[106]

Health care and 2014 midterm[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.”[13] AFP sponsored two other groups advocating against the Obama administration's proposed health care reform, "Patients United Now" and "Patients First."[83]

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.[87] 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.[107] Patients United Now staged more than three hundred rallies to oppose the Obama administration's proposed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).[3][108]

In summer 2009, Patients First, described as an "arm" of AFP, sponsored a six-week "Hands Off My Health Care" bus tour.[109] "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.[110][111] AFP held "Hands Off My Health Care" events in more than 250 cities, according to AFP president Phillips.[112]

After the ACA became law, Americans For Prosperity worked for its repeal[2] and campaigned to block states from accepting federal funds made available under the ACA to expand Medicaid, an effort described by AFP president Phillips as "a crucial aspect of the overall long-term effort to roll back Obamacare.” State legislators who supported Medicaid expansion were targeted, including Republican Virginia state senators Emmett Hanger and John Watkins. AFP bused in volunteers to a hearing in the state capital and to call constituents, distribute flyers, and send mailings.[113] AFP campaigned against Medicaid expansion in Michigan, Louisiana, and Nebraska[57] and helped defeat Medicaid expansion in Florida. AFP has advocated for repeal of the ACA to keep the issue "in front of the public" and to use the threat of a presidential veto to portray him as "unwilling to take some reasonable commonsense reforms," according to AFP president Phillips.[38] Phillips told the New York Times that a broader goal of AFP's anti-ACA advertising spending was to present the ACA as a "social welfare boondoggle" which would foster opposition to spending on climate change.[114][115][116]

In the 2014 mid-term elections, AFP helped Republicans achieve a majority in the U.S. Senate, according to the National Journal.[117] AFP targeted legislators who had supported the ACA four years earlier.[67] AFP's first campaign advertisement aired in September, 2013,[118] and by January 2014 the organization had spent $20 million,[119] by May, $35 million,[120] and by July, $44 million,[67] on television advertisements in congressional races, amounts unprecedented so early in a political campaign cycle.[38] Senators targeted included Democrats Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.[119] In early 2014, AFP ran nationwide advertisements relating stories about people whose health care, the ads said, had been compromised by the ACA, whom AFP termed "ObamaCare victims."[121][122]

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.[123] AFP was one of the leading spenders on political advertising in 2014.[124] AFP lead all outside groups, that is, organizations that are not political action committees, in terms of spending on television air time for political advertisements in the 2014 election cycle through April, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.[125]

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 ACA.[126]

Fiscal policy advocacy[edit]

AFP advocates limited government.[127] Within two days of Obama's inauguration in February, 2009, Americans for Prosperity launched a television advertising campaign and a website "" which featured an online "No Stimulus" petition addressed to U.S. Senators, notifying them that the vote on Obama's first major legislative initiative, the 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.[5]:109[128][129] In 2011, AFP opposed the extension of unemployment benefits, writing that unemployment benefits increase unemployment.[130][131] AFP opposed raising the minimum wage.[132][133] In late 2012, AFP opposed a proposed federal relief bill after Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.[134][135] 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.[136]

"Government overspending is the greatest threat to economic prosperity," according to AFP.[137][138] 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.[139][140] 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."[141][142]

AFP advocates for lower taxes.[13][89] In 2013 in Indiana AFP ran a television advertising campaign in support of Governor Mike Pence's ten percent state income tax cut.[143]

AFP advocates for free market solutions.[17] In 2011, AFP sent mailings and funded radio advertisements criticizing the proposed construction of a Detroit River International Crossing bridge, a publicly financed project that would compete with the nearby privately owned Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit, Michigan, with Windsor, Ontario; AFP charged that the project would be a waste of taxpayer money if toll revenues did not cover debt service.[144][145]

AFP advocated the dissolution of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.[146][147][148][149]

Other policy advocacy[edit]

AFP opposes consideration of race and economic class in the assignment of students to schools. It describes this position as advocating for "neighborhood schools"; critics have characterized this position as advocating "re-segregation." According to AFP's North Carolina state director, in 2009 AFP did voter education and supplied volunteers in school board-elections in Wake County, North Carolina. Wake County includes the state capital, Raleigh, and has the 18th largest school district in the US. AFP supported a slate of candidates that opposed desegregation busing, which the AFP has called "forced busing."[21][150][151][152][153] AFP ran phone banks and canvassed in another school board election in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2014.[20]

AFP is a member of the Internet Freedom Coalition, which opposes net neutrality.[154][155][156] AFP's vice president for policy Phil Kerpen chaired the Coalition.[157] AFP supported January 2014's federal appeals court ruling against the Federal Communication Commission's authority to enforce net neutrality.[127][158] AFP urged Congress to legislatively pre-empt regulation of the internet.[159]

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).[160][161][162] 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,[163][164] which become an annual event.[165] AFP participates in the Koch brothers' twice-yearly, invitation-only donors conferences.[166][167]

Voter information accuracy[edit]

The accuracy of some of the information distributed by AFP has been challenged.[168] Of 15 AFP statements fact-checked by PolitiFact, more than 80% were rated "Pants on Fire," "False," or "Mostly False," and an AFP statement has never been rated "True" or "Mostly True."[169][170]

In June 2011, AFP placed fake eviction notices on doors in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit, stating that homes might be taken to make way for the Detroit River International Crossing project.[171]

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.[172][173] 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.[174][175] The state board of elections opened an investigation.[176]

In 2013 in Virginia and 2014 in Arkansas, the AFP Foundation mailed "voter history report cards," which included the public-record voting history of both the addressee and of his or her neighbors, a technique that was described as "voter shaming."[177][178][179][180]

A 2014 television advertisement targeting Democratic Senate candidate Representative Gary Peters of Michigan for his support of the Affordable Care Act featured leukemia patient Julie Boonstra who claimed she could no longer afford the cost of her treatment after the ACA.[181][121][122] The Washington Post reported that the advertisement had "significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions."[182] Boonstra would save at least $1,000 a year under the ACA, according to The Detroit News.[183][184] AFP aired another television advertisement in which Boonstra said Peters was trying to silence her.[122][185] AFP apologized for another television advertisement that attacked the ACA and Democratic Senator Mark Udall, a candidate for reelection, using images of a somber Obama and Udall from their visit to Aurora, Colorado, in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting.[186]

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 in an upcoming primary election, according to the West Virginia Secretary of State. The mailings, received just before the deadline to update voter registration, included registration cards and prepaid return envelopes addressed to county clerks, with a message cautioning voters that if they did not update their voter registration, they might lose their right to vote in the upcoming primary election. AFP's West Virginia director said the mailings were a non-partisan, get out the vote effort targeting unregistered voters.[187]

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.[188][189] AFP said the mistakes in the North Carolina mailings were "administrative errors."[190]

Leadership, structure and funding[edit]

Tim Phillips is president of both AFP and the AFP Foundation. AFP has been called the "political" or "educational" arm of the AFP Foundation. AFP and the AFP Foundation share offices and staff.[31][39][191][192]


New Jersey businesswoman and former Ronald Reagan administration official Frayda Levin chairs the board of directors of AFP.[13][193] Other directors include Pfotenhauer, executive vice president of Koch Industries Richard Fink, former Ann Arbor, Michigan mayor James E. Stephenson, and former Reagan Budget Director James C. Miller.[194]

As a 501(c)(4) non-profit, tax-exempt, social welfare organization, contributions to AFP are not tax deducible, and AFP is legally required to operate as non-partisan, neither endorsing nor opposing political candidates; its primary purpose may not be political.[82]

AFP Foundation[edit]

David H. Koch chairs the board of directors of the AFP Foundation.[195] Other directors include Pfotenhauer, Fink, and George Mason University professor of economics Walter E. Williams.[3][196] The AFP Foundation is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a national network of free-market oriented think tanks.[197][198]

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt charity, contributions to the AFP Foundation are tax deducible, and charities are largely prohibited from political activity.[199]


In contrast with political action committees, 501(c) non-profit organizations are generally not required to disclose their donors.[199] Campaign finance watchdogs and Democrats criticized AFP as an example of politically active nonprofit organizations that did not need to disclose their contributors.[28] On August 9, 2010, 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.[14][200][201]

Later that month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service charging that the AFP Foundation had funded political advertisements in violation of law applicable to the foundation's tax-exempt classification; AFP replied that the charges were without merit.[202][160] AFP president Phillips called the idea that AFP was taking money from foreign sources "ludicrous" and said financial contributions to AFP increased after Obama's statement.[203][204] Journalist Lee Fang wrote that the Obama re-election campaign erred in challenging AFP.[5]:86

On September 28, 2010 in an editorial entitled "Americans for Prosperity's big-bucks attack ads," The Washington Post wrote, "voters ought to know who is paying for this citizen education."[205] In 2011, AFP reported to the IRS that it was not involved in political activities.[206] 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.[207]

Questioned by a reporter 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."[47][208] 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 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) donors from potential harassment.[209] In 2014, AFP president Phillips said that protecting donors' identities was prudent given the Obama administration's ideology-based IRS targeting of citizens.[210][211] The AFP Foundation said its supporters have received serious threats. In February 2015, a federal judge granted the Foundation's motion for a preliminary injunction staying California Attorney General Kamala Harris's request for the names and addresses of Foundation donors, pending resolution of the legality of the request.[212][213]


While AFP does not disclose its funding sources, some supporters have acknowledged their contributions and investigative journalism has documented others.

David Koch was the top contributor to the founding of AFP at $850,000.[25][26] "Five years ago, my brother Charles and I provided the funds to start Americans for Prosperity," Koch reflected at AFP's 2009 "Defending the Dream" summit.[7][49][214][215] Other Koch-funded grantors included the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Freedom Partners. Freedom Partners granted AFP $32.3 million in 2012 and $1.5 million in 2013.[73][216][217][218]

State Farm Insurance, and to a lesser amount 1-800 Contacts, medical products firm Johnson & Johnson, and carpet and flooring manufacturer Shaw Industries contributed to the founding of the AFP Foundation.[25][26]

In 2010, the AFP Foundation received $1.35 million from the John William Pope Foundation, chaired by North Carolina philanthropist Art Pope,[219][220] a founding board member of AFP and a former AFP board chair,[221][222] and AFP received half a million dollars from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.[223][224] AFP received smaller grants in 2012 from tobacco company Reynolds American and in 2010 and 2012 from the American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry.[225][226][227][228][229] The donor advised fund Donors Trust granted $11 million to AFP between 2002 and 2010 and $7 million to the AFP Foundation in 2010 – nearly half the Foundation's revenue that year.[219][230][231]

Ongoing funding for AFP and the AFP Foundation has come from Koch family foundations.[219][232] Other Koch-funded grantors included the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Freedom Partners. Freedom Partners granted AFP $32.3 million in 2012 and $1.5 million in 2013.[73][233][234][235] The Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics reported that about 21% of the $140 million raised by AFP in the 2012 election came from Koch funds.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ a b c d e f Mayer, Jane (August 30, 2010). "Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 20, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Pilkington, Ed (September 18, 2009). "Republicans steal Barack Obama's internet campaigning tricks". The Guardian. Retrieved April 5, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Fang, Lee (2013). The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right. New York: The New Press. ISBN 9781595586391. 
  6. ^ a b Zernike, Kate (October 19, 2010). "Secretive Republican Donors Are Planning Ahead". New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Overby, Peter (February 19, 2010). "Who's Raising Money For Tea Party Movement?". National Public radio. 
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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