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 a conservative political advocacy group in the United States. It is one of the most influential American conservative political advocacy organizations.

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 cap and trade, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid and economic stimulus. 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.

AFP, an educational social welfare organization, and the associated Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a public charity, are tax-exempt non-profits.

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 (CSE), dividing it into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.[3] CSE was renamed "Americans for Prosperity".[4]:105 AFP's stated mission is "educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process".[1] According to, "AFP seeks to support free markets and entrepreneurship by advocating lower taxes and limited government spending and regulation".[5] AFP viewed itself as a counterbalance to a network of liberal activist organizations and unions.[6]

From 2004 to 2007, AFP was led by Nancy Pfotenhauer who was an advisor to Senator John McCain's presidential campaign.[7] In 2005, political strategist Tim Phillips was hired to work at AFP.[8]

AFP had a staff of 116 employees in September 2012,[9] 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.[10] AFP was active in national, state,[2][11][12] and local elections.[13][14] AFP registered to lobby in 2014.[15] According to, by 2011, AFP had "emerged as one of the most influential conservative issue advocacy groups on the national and state political scene".[5][16] The Los Angeles Times said AFP performed roles typical of national and state political parties.[17] ABC News said in August 2014 that AFP was "poised to be the most influential conservative group in the nation this year, and among the most influential and heaviest spending across the political spectrum this year and into the looming presidential race".[18]

Leadership and structure[edit]

Tim Phillips is president of both AFP and the AFP Foundation. AFP and the AFP Foundation share offices and staff.[19][20]


New Jersey businesswoman Frayda Levin chairs the board of directors of AFP.[21] Other directors include Pfotenhauer, Richard Fink, former Ann Arbor, Michigan mayor James E. Stephenson, and former Reagan Budget Director James C. Miller.[22] AFP is a 501(c)(4) non-profit, tax-exempt, social welfare organization.[23]

AFP Foundation[edit]

David H. Koch chairs the board of directors of the AFP Foundation.[24] Other directors include Pfotenhauer, Fink, and economist Walter E. Williams.[25] The AFP Foundation is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a national network of free-market oriented think tanks.[26][27]

Tea Party and 2010 midterm election[edit]

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

AFP helped transform the nascent Tea Party movement into a political force.[28][29]

AFP supported the Tea Party movement by obtaining permits and supplying speakers for rallies.[30] 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.[4]:31[31] Within hours of CNBC on-air editor Rick Santelli's remarks on February 19, 2009, that criticized the Act and called for a "Chicago tea party," AFP registered and launched the website "," calling for protests against Obama.[4]:32 AFP was one of the leading organizers of the September 2009 Taxpayer March on Washington, also known as the "9/12 Tea Party," according to The Guardian.[3] On April 16, 2011, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker at an AFP annual tax day tea party rally at the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.[32]

In the 2010 midterm elections, AFP played a role in achieving a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. AFP supported tea party groups, purchased political advertisements,[33] and sponsored a nationwide bus tour themed "November is Coming" to recruit organizers and canvassers.[34] In October 2010, AFP sponsored a workshop on the political use of the internet at a Tea Party convention in Virginia.[35] Of the six freshman Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in 2010, five received AFP advertisements.[19]

David Weigel wrote in Slate that AFP "in the Tea Party era evolved into one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics."[36] AFP and the Tea Party share many of the same principles.[37] In 2010, AFP was one of the most influential organizations in the Tea Party movement, and the largest in terms of membership and spending.[38][39]

Obama re-election[edit]

AFP ran an early television advertising campaign opposing Obama's re-election.[40][41] Previously AFP had run issue advertising that opposed Obama's programs, in August 2012 the organization shifted to express advocacy, which explicitly called for his defeat.[42][43] AFP raised $140 million in the 2012 election cycle, 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 Obama's re-election.[9][44]

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.[45] AFP sent a bus on a nationwide tour condemning Obama's economic policies called the "Obama's Failing Agenda Tour."[46]

In April 2011 in New Hampshire, AFP sponsored an informal gathering of five Republican presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain.[47][48] AFP employed methodologies developed in its efforts in support of Scott Walker during his attempted recall, including deploying a smartphone application called "Prosperity Knocks" to canvassers.[9] AFP canvassers utilized "Themis," an online voter database of millions of Americans.[49]

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

AFP has described itself as the nation’s largest grassroots champion for health care freedom.[5] 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.[50] 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.[51] Patients United Now staged more than three hundred rallies to oppose the Obama administration's proposed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.[52]

In summer 2009, Patients First sponsored a six-week "Hands Off My Health Care" bus tour.[53] 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.[54][55] AFP held Hands Off My Health Care events in more than 250 cities, according to AFP president Phillips.[56]

After the ACA became law, AFP worked for its repeal[2] and campaigned to block states from accepting federal funds made available under the law to expand Medicaid. State legislators who supported Medicaid expansion were targeted, including Republican Virginia state senators Emmett Hanger and John Watkins. AFP bussed in volunteers to a hearing in the state capital and to call constituents, distribute flyers, and send mailings.[57] AFP campaigned against Medicaid expansion in Michigan, Louisiana, and Nebraska[58] and helped defeat Medicaid expansion in Florida. AFP president Phillips said AFP 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 Obama as "unwilling to take some reasonable commonsense reforms."[6] 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.[59][60][61] In March 2012, 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.[62]

AFP played a major role in the 2014 midterm elections,[63] helping Republicans achieve a majority in the U.S. Senate.[64] AFP targeted legislators who had supported the ACA four years earlier.[41] AFP's first campaign advertisement aired in September 2013,[65] and by January 2014 the organization had spent $20 million,[66] by May, $35 million,[67] and by July, $44 million,[41] amounts unprecedented so early in a political campaign cycle.[6] Senators targeted Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, and Jeanne Shaheen, all Democrats.[66] In early 2014, AFP ran nationwide advertisements featuring stories victims of Obamacare, people whose health care had been compromised by Obamacare."[68]

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.[69] AFP was one of the leading spenders on political advertising in 2014.[70] AFP lead all non-political action committees in terms of spending on television air time for political advertisements in the 2014 election cycle through April.[71]

Programs and advocacy[edit]

Energy and environment[edit]

AFP supports oil and gas development and opposes over-regulation, including environmental restrictions.[72] [50] AFP was important in creating the Tea Party movement and in encouraging the movement to focus on climate change.[73] AFP helped defeat proposed U.S. legislation embracing cap and trade.[8][74]

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.[74][75][76] By July 2013, 411 lawmakers and candidates, including a quarter of U.S. Senators and more than a third of U.S. Representatives, primarily Republicans, had signed the pledge.[74] Of the twelve Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2011, nine signed the pledge.[17]

AFP held more than eighty events in opposition to cap and trade, including the nationwide Hot Air Tour, which involved floating hot air balloons in protest of what AFP described as "global warming alarmism."[7][77] AFP flew its balloon over Al Gore's house in Tennessee.[8] 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.[78] The tour involved "carbon cops" with badges in green Smart cars with flashing lights who wrote citations for "carbon crimes" like running a lawn mower.[79] In 2011, AFP launched a Running on Empty website and 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.[80][81] Long lines formed in several states in 2012 when AFP offered drivers gas discounted to the price in effect when Obama took office.[82][83] In 2012, AFP campaigned against Republican political candidates who supported the theory of climate change.[84]

AFP advocates for the construction of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline; in February 2015, AFP organized supporters to telephone the White House to urge Obama to sign legislation authorizing the project.[85] AFP led an effort to repeal a federal tax credit for wind power.[86][87] 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.[88][89][90] AFP announced plans to oppose Republican candidates who support a carbon tax in the 2016 presidential primaries.[91]

Labor issues[edit]

AFP advocates for a reduction in public sector union benefits and pensions, in conjunction with curtailments of public sector collective bargaining rights.[92][93] AFP has opposed raising the minimum wage.[94][95]


AFP's activities in Wisconsin developed the state into the nation's foremost conservative-progressive battleground,[6][96] and AFP used tactics in Wisconsin that were applied in later campaigns.[9] AFP has been a major supporter of Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.[13] AFP spent $3 million in opposition to the recall campaign against Walker in 2011–2012 and sent 75 trained canvassers to Wisconsin.[97][98] After the passage of Walker's signature legislation, the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which limited collective bargaining rights for most public employees, AFP ran advertisements and held town-hall meetings with the theme "It's Working Wisconsin!"[99][100] Days before the recall election, AFP sponsored a ten-city bus tour themed "A Better Wisconsin."[37] In the context of Walker's 2014 re-election campaign, AFP purchased television issue advertisements in support of Act 10.[101]


Americans for Prosperity's Wisconsin campaign regarding collective bargaining rights and turning back a recall demonstrated to AFP that similar efforts could succeed in Michigan.[102] 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.[103]

AFP had opposed Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, on a 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,[58] but they sided with Snyder on the issue of right-to-work in Michigan.[104] 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.[105] 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."[106][107] Snyder signed the legislation on December 11.[105][108] In 2014, Snyder ran for re-election and AFP posted an online advertisement praising his legislative record.[109]

Fiscal policy[edit]

AFP advocates limited government.[110] 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 AFP's congressional rankings and urging a "no" vote. The petition stated the Act as "dramatically increasing federal debt and spending...under the pretense of stimulus or recovery." Internet traffic overwhelmed the website.[4]:109[111] In 2011, AFP opposed the extension of unemployment benefits, writing that unemployment benefits increase unemployment.[112][113] In late 2012, AFP opposed a proposed federal relief bill after Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.[114][115] 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.[116] AFP opposed smoking bans in Texas and Virginia.[117][118]

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.

"Government overspending is the greatest threat to economic prosperity," according to AFP.[119][120] 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.[121][122] 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."[123][124]

AFP advocates for lower taxes.[5][75] AFP opposed a 2006 cigarette tax hike in Indiana[125] and helped fund the "No on 29" effort in opposition to California Proposition 29 (2012), which would have placed a $1 excise tax on tobacco products.[126][127] In 2013 in Indiana AFP ran a television advertising campaign in support of Governor Mike Pence's ten percent state income tax cut.[128] AFP advocates for the repeal of the estate tax, which many opponents call the "death tax".[129]

AFP advocates for free market solutions.[10] 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.[130][131]

AFP advocated the dissolution of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.[132][133]

Other policies[edit]

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 AFP has called "forced busing."[14][134] AFP ran phone banks and canvassed in another school board election in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2014.[13]

AFP is a member of the Internet Freedom Coalition, which opposes the Obama administration's regulations on net neutrality. AFP's vice president for policy Phil Kerpen chaired the Coalition.[135][136] AFP supported January 2014's federal appeals court ruling against the Federal Communication Commission's authority to enforce net neutrality.[110][137] AFP urged Congress to legislatively pre-empt regulation of the internet.[138]

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.[139] In conjunction with the July 2008 Netroots Nation conference in Austin, Texas, AFP hosted RightOnline, a conference of conservative bloggers and activists aimed at developing conservative social media strategies,[140][141] which become an annual event.[142]

Voter information efforts[edit]

In June 2011, AFP placed eviction notices on doors in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit, stating that homes might be taken to make way for the New International Trade Crossing bridge project (NITC). While not real, the organization said they were intended to "startle" the residents of the neighborhood, and get them to contact their local officials to learn more about the effects of the NITC.[143]

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. In addition, the return envelopes were addressed to an "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center" with the post office box number of Wisconsin Family Action, a pro-family group, rather than to the clerk's office.[144][145] Responding to charges of voter suppression, AFP said the incorrect date was a printing mistake and were intended only for voters in the two districts where Democrats were set to face recalls on a later date.[146]

In 2013 in Virginia, the AFP Foundation, along with other organizations such as the left-leaning Voter Participation Center, mailed "voter history report cards," which included the public-record voting history of both the addressee and its neighbors.[147]

A 2014 television advertisement targeting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters of Michigan for his support of the Affordable Care Act featured leukemia patient Julie Boonstra, who said she could no longer afford the cost of her treatment after the ACA.[68][148] A Washington Post blog reported that the advertisement made "a claim that doesn't add up."[149] Other critics claim that Boonstra would actually save at least $1,000 a year under Obamacare, although those numbers have not been verified.[150] AFP aired another television advertisement in which Boonstra said Peters was trying to silence her.[68][151] AFP apologized for another television advertisement that criticized Obamacare and Democratic Senator Mark Udall, a candidate for reelection, which used images of a somber Obama and Udall from their visit to Aurora, Colorado, in the wake of the 2012 Aurora shooting.[152]

In April 2014, AFP conducted a mailing which they claimed was a non-partisan get out the vote effort targeting unregistered voters in at least eight counties in West Virginia. Democrat opponents claimed that the mailers might have caused confusion in some voters, leading them to believe they were ineligible to vote in an upcoming primary election.[153]

In September 2014, 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 labeled "official application form", which contained conflicting information, including an incorrect filing deadline which was five days before the actual deadline.[154][155] AFP stated the mistakes in the North Carolina mailings were "administrative errors."[156]

See also[edit]


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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