Americans for Prosperity

Political leaningsConservative/Libertarian

Spending target: Part of a network aiming to spend $400 million

Americans for Prosperity is a “social welfare” organization that belongs to an influential network of politically active groups backed by Charles Koch, the libertarian billionaire owner of Koch Industries.

In June, company officials announced that David Koch, the other half of the famous “Koch brothers,” was stepping away from the family business he co-owned, and the conservative political operation he helped establish, because of health complications.

Active since 2004, AFP currently has 36 state chapters and says it “exists to recruit, educate, and mobilize citizens in support of the policies and goals of a free society at the local, state, and federal level.” The group’s longtime president is Tim Phillips, a Republican campaign strategist, and its five-person board of directors includes James Miller III, a former Federal Trade Commission chairman and budget director under President Ronald Reagan.

Americans for Prosperity is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) and does not, nor is it required to, disclose its donors. The free market advocacy group claims it “has received financial support from more than 100,000 Americans in all 50 states.”

AFP is also the sister organization of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a public charity registered as a 501(c)(3), and is linked to Americans for Prosperity Action, or AFP Action, a super PAC (political action committee) that was unveiled in September.

As a super PAC, AFP Action can raise unlimited amounts of money for elections, so long as it doesn’t donate directly to candidates or coordinate its spending with their campaigns. It must also periodically report its donors to the Federal Election Commission.

AFP reported receiving nearly $108 million in contributions and grants during the previous two-year election cycle, according to the 990 form it filed with the IRS for 2016. It also reported spending more than $13.4 million on “political campaign activities,” which were almost exclusively independent expenditures, or TV ads and other forms of political communication, that advocated against the election of Democrats in nine Senate and House contests. All but one of the candidates AFP targeted in 2016 lost their races.

It was widely reported in January that the Koch network of groups planned to spend as much as $400 million during the 2018 midterms. For its part, Americans for Prosperity already had spent nearly $9 million as of mid-October on independent expenditures, with more than $6.3 million going to oppose two Democratic incumbents, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. 

Americans for Prosperity Action says on its website that it is “committed to working with anyone to advance positive policies” that will, among other things, “foster economic growth,” “eliminate burdensome regulations,” “eliminate trade barriers,” and “get our veterans the care they deserve.” But it, too, has spent millions of dollars on independent expenditures that only oppose Democrats or support Republicans.

In the Senate race in Tennessee, for example, AFP Action has spent over $2 million on ad campaigns promoting Rep. Marsha Blackburn and attacking former Gov. Phil Bredesen on health care.

And the super PAC recently “announced a seven-figure digital ad buy to supplement its grassroots and direct-mail efforts urging Floridians to vote against” Sen. Bill Nelson. Nelson “had 30 years” in the Senate “and made health care worse,” the ad says.

Information on how much AFP Action has raised, or who its donors are, is not currently available. Bill Briggs, a spokesman, told us the group will file quarterly financial reports to the FEC, which means it’s not required to submit its first report until Oct. 15.

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