Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity (AFP)

 Background

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a conservative think-tank established in Washington, D.C. in 2003 to replace the Citizens for a Sound Economy. It was founded by David Koch, and Conservative Transparency describes the organization as “the centerpiece of the Kochs’ political machine.” AFP is also connected to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. [16]

AFP is the sister organization to FreedomWorks, an organization that formed in 2004 when Citizens for a Sound Economy merged with the think tank Empower America. Both the Citizens for a Sound Economy and Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation were created by the Koch brothers. [13]

As of 2011, AFP described itself as a grassroots organization that is committed to engaging “citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state, and federal levels.” It educates citizens about economic policy and attempts to mobilize those citizens to become advocates in the public policy process. 

Their revised mission is to “[M]obilize citizens to advocate for policies that cut red tape and increase opportunity, put the brakes on government overspending, and get the economy working for hard workers– not special interests.” [1], [14] 

As of 2015, AFP lists state chapters in thirty-four states.

David Koch, who has been a key figure in funded think-tanks and organizations distorting climate change science, is listed as the chairman of the AFP Foundation, and as a founder of Americans for Prosperity. [2]

Stance on Climate Change

AFP's official statement on Energy & Environment is as follows: [15]

“Abundant, affordable energy is a key driver of prosperity. We must unleash resources by removing regulatory barriers and keeping taxes low.  The environment improves with economic growth and prosperity, so an overriding goal of environmental policy should be to avoid burdening employers and entrepreneurs.”

 Funding

Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity is a non-profit organization that does not to disclose its donors. The Media Transparency project reports that the group has 90,000 individual donors, but a significant portion of its funding is tied to the Koch brothers. Although the group does not have to disclose its donors, two organizations associated with the Kochs, Freedom Partners and the Center to Protect Patient Rights, have reported contributions totaling more than $48 million since 2009. [16]

As of 2015, with funding data from 2004 to 2011, Conservative Transparency summarize AFP's funding as follows: [17]

American Energy Alliance $100,000
American Petroleum Institute $139,000
Armstrong Foundation $5,000
Castle Rock Foundation $50,000
Center to Protect Patient Rights $15,791,079
Chase Foundation of Virginia $285,500
Claws Foundation $82,800
Foundation for Economic Education $1,000
Freedom Partners $33,765,000
Leadership Institute $500
MyWireless.org $45,000
Philip M. McKenna Foundation $10,000
Reynolds American $50,000
TC4 Trust $1,391,800
Tepper Family Foundation $1,500
The Randolph Foundation $310,000
The Rodney Fund $12,000
The Roe Foundation $5,000
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation $32,500
The Whitcomb Charitable Foundation $1,000
Wellspring Committee $1,651,811
Grand Total $53,730,490

The AFP is the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations, behind the Cato Institute and the George Mason University Foundation. According to Greenpeace, AFP received a combined $5,760,781 from Koch foundations between 2005 and 2009. [3]

Before 2003, when the AFP was still named the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, it received $18,460,912 in funding. 84% of that funding came from the Koch Family Foundations ($12,906,712) and the Scaife Family Foundations ($2,510,000).

Koch Family Foundations is funded by Koch Industries. According to Forbes, Koch Industries is the second largest privately-held company and the largest privately owned energy company in the United States. 

According to ExxonSecrets, between the years 1998-2001, Citizens for A Sound Economy and Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation received $380,250 from ExxonMobil. [4]

Americans for Prosperity Foundation

The Conservative Transparency database reports contributions to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation from 2004 to 2013: [18]

Abstraction Fund $5,000.00
American Democracy Alliance $6,000.00
Armstrong Foundation $70,000.00
Barney Family Foundation $400,000.00
Castle Rock Foundation $50,000.00
Cato Institute $2,500.00
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $110,929
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $4,693,225
David H. Koch Charitable Foundation $1,000,000
Deramus Foundation $1,000
Donors Capital Fund $1,413,000
DonorsTrust $11,724,911
Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Foundation $25,000
Ed Uihlein Family Foundation $80,000
Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice $168,500
Heartland Institute $50,000
Jaquelin Hume Foundation $25,000
JM Foundation $60,000
John Dawson Foundation $325,000
John Templeton Foundation $100,000
John William Pope Foundation $2,775,000
Lovett and Ruth Peters Foundation $100,000
Marshall Heritage Foundation $1,550,000
National Christian Foundation $61,000
PhRMA $35,000
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation $3,000,000
Ruth & Lovett Peters Foundation $100,000
Searle Freedom Trust $371,000
Tepper Family Foundation $1,500
The Challenge Foundation $567,600
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $760,000
Walton Family Foundation $250,000
Grand Total $29,881,165

Key People

As of 2015, AFP's primary staff is as listed below: 

Leadership Team [19]

  • Tim Phillips — President
  • Luke Hilgemann —  Chief Executive Officer
  • Chris Fink — Chief Operating Officer
  • Robert Heaton — Chief Financial Officer
  • Dennis D. Vegas — Chief Marketing Officer
  • Teresa Oelke — Vice President, State Operations
  • Adam Stryker — Vice President, Strategic Initiatives
  • Brent Gardner — Vice President, Government Affairs
  • Victor E. Bernson, Jr. — Vice President, General Counsel

Board of Directors [5]

Board of Directors (AFP Foundation) [2]

  • David Koch — Chairman. Executive vice president and member of the board of directors for Koch Industries, Inc.
  • Richard Fink — Director. Executive vice president and member of the board of directors of Koch Industries, Inc.
  • Debra Humphreys — Director.
  • Walter Williams — Director. Professor of Economics at George Mason University.
  • Nancy Pfotenhauer — Director
  • Cy Nobles — Director

A past Director for the AFP Foundation was Art Pope, The President and Vice-Chairman of the board of directors for Variety Wholesalers Inc.

 Actions

July, 2015

As reported at the Huffington Post, there is speculation that the Koch Brothers have influenced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's decision to withdraw Jersey from the regional carbon reduction program, known as RGGI. [24]

In a New York Times profile of Christie's refusal to participate in RGGI, an AFP representative said, “We were exceedingly pleased that the governor got New Jersey out of the R.G.G.I. boondoggle. … It's something that A.F.P. in New Jersey worked hard on.” According to the Times, the AFP representative “said the move would be sure to help Mr. Christie's efforts in the Republican primaries, should he run.” [25]

July, 2011

Americans for Prosperity filed a lawsuit in New York's Supreme Court seeking to reverse a key piece of state action on climate change. 

New York joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2005 when former governor George Pataki (R) approved the state’s participation in the program. The Competitive Enterprise Institute also supportd the lawsuit, reported the Times Union. [21]

The suit alleged that New York is illegally (coercively) taxing residents by taking part in the market-based 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The AFP complaint also asserts that carbon emissions trading is unconstitutional because it infringes on federal authority to set rules on air pollution and electrical power transmission across states. [22], [23]

June, 2011

AFP took their “Running on Empty” campaign tour to Virginia, Michigan, and Ohio with the purpose to “teach” Americans about how AFP believes President Obama is making them pay higher prices at the pump.

AFP claims that Obama is intentionally keeping gas prices high because he refuses to allow oil companies to drill for oil in protected areas of the United States.

March, 2011

Americans for Prosperity sent memos to U.S. senators to support an attack on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's lawful regulation of greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act. [6]

2011

Americans for Prosperity is behind the “No  Climate Tax Pledge” promising not to spend any federal money to fight climate change without equal tax cuts. According to a 2013 investigative Report on Koch Industries, most pledge signers had also received campaign contributions from Koch Industries. [26]

March 22, 2010

AFP’s 2010 Regulation Reality Tour, featuring Smart cars and “carbon cops” at stops across the country, was launched to obstruct U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation of major greenhouse gas emitters and undermine the seriousness of climate change. [12]

Citizens observing the tour were given fake citations for mowing their lawns or filling gas tanks, falsely alleging that the EPA would regulate individual consumers. [7]

December 2, 2010

At the 2010 international climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, AFP had a live broadcast of its Hot Air Tour featuring Senate climate denier James Inhofe (R-OK) and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. Video below:

September, 2010

AFP California supported Proposition 23, the ballot attack on state climate legislation that was heavily financed by Koch Industries and other oil companies.

AFP's California director has said that the Prop 23 is the group's “top priority.” [8]

April, 2009

AFP led attacks on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a climate pollution reduction program by pressuring state lawmakers to repeal from the program despite its economic successes. [9]

February 2009

Americans for Prosperity started a nation-wide campaign to stop the senate and congress from passing President Obama’s $827 Million Stimulus Plan. The key to AFP’s campaign was a petition which stated:

Congress should not enact an expensive spending bill under the pretense of stimulus or recovery. We cannot spend our way to prosperity, and such an expansion of the federal government will put a crushing burden on taxpayers in the long-term.”

The “No Stimulus” campaign did not prevent the bill from passing, although the campaign were lauded by Senator James Inhofe for bringing awareness to the public. [10]

April 2008

AFP embarked on a nation wide campaign against global warming titled the “Hot Air Tour.” AFP traveled in a hot air balloon to forty cities in the United States and held events in those cities. 

The tour carried the slogan, “Global Warming Alarmism: Lost Jobs, Higher Taxes, Less Freedom.”

During the Hot Air Tour, AFP president Tim Phillips said that AFP's purpose was to prevent cap-and-trade and other climate change legislation from being passed in government. He declared if any cap and trade legislation were passed it would create a massive tax burden on American citizens, kill the economy, and harmfully infringe on personal freedoms. 

In a public address, Tim Phillips stated there would be a $1.2 Trillion tax increase if a cap-and-trade bill was passed and that 1.2-1.8 million jobs would be lost with cap-and-trade legislation. He cited the “American Capital Formation Foundation” as his source. While the American Capital Formation Foundation does not in fact exist, the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) does, and it has consistently lobbied in Washington against green initiatives, especially the Kyoto protocol, claiming these actions would have severe effects on the national economy.

On its website, the ACCF calls itself “one of the most influential organizations operating behind the scenes in the Washington policymaking arena.” According to ExxonSecrets, between 1998-2006, the American Council for Capital Formation received $1,674,523 from ExxonMobil. The group has also received funding from Koch foundations. [11], [20]

Related Organizations

On its website (as of December, 2011), AFP describes its “featured partners” as being the Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change, the Internet Freedom Coalition and Townhall.com.

From 2003-2008, Americans for Prosperity was formally affiliated with the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). 

A 2003 press release explained the relationship: “while the two organizations will share leadership and senior staff and be co-located in IWF’s new suite of offices in Washington, D.C., each will be a separate organization with its own board of directors.” According to the IWF, as of July 2005, the “IWF and AFP have had no formal relationship.” 

The president of the Independent Women’s Forum, Nancy Pfotenahuer, also acted as the president of Americans for Prosperity, but that arrangement ended in July 2005, and Pfotenhauer is now solely the president of IWF and not an employee of AFP.

AFP is also a member of Internet Freedom Coalition whose members include Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, the Independent Women's Forum, and the Reason Foundation.

 Resources

  1. About Americans for Prosperity,” AFP. Archived March , 2011.

  2. Board of Directors,” Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Archived July 10, 2015.

  3. Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP),” Greenpeace. Archived July 10, 2015.

  4. ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Citizens for A Sound Economy and CSE Educational Foundation.

  5. Our Board of Directors,” Americans for Prosperity. Archived July 10, 2015.

  6. Ben Geman. “Coal group presses senators on looming vote to kill EPA climate rules,” E2 Wire, March 25, 2011. Archived July 10, 2015.

  7. Carbon Cops,” Regulation Reality Tour. Archived January 2, 2011.

  8. The Koch brothers' dirty money in California,” Polluterwatch, September 23, 2010.

  9. David Anderson. “Koch-funded group mounts cut-and-paste attack on regional climate initiatives,” Grist, March 16, 2011.

  10. Senator James Inhofe speaks at AFP NoStimulus Rally,” YouTube Video. Uploaded by AforP, February 6, 2009.

  11. ExxonSecrets Factsheet: American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research, ACCF.

  12. 'Regulation Reality Tour' Peddles Polluter Lies, Endangering American Prosperity,” Thinkprogress, March 20, 2010. Archived July 10, 2015.

  13. Dan Morgan. “Think Tanks: Corporations' Quiet Weapon,” Washington Post, January 29, 2000. Archived August 4, 2011.

  14. About Americans for Prosperity,” Americans For Prosperity. Archived July 10, 2015. 

  15. Energy & Environment,” Americans for Prosperity, January 21, 2012. Archived July 10, 2015.

  16. Americans for Prosperity & Americans for Prosperity Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Archived July 10, 2015.

  17. Americans for Prosperity,” Conservative Transparency. Archived July 10, 2015.

  18. Americans for Prosperity Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Archived July 10, 2015.

  19. Leadership Team,” Americans for Prosperity. Archived July 10, 2015. 

  20. About Us,” American Council for Capital Formation. Archived July 10, 2015. 

  21. Brian Nearing. “Group linked to billionaire Koch brothers seeks end to New York role in greenhouse gas curb,” Times Union, June 29, 2011. Archived July 10, 2015.

  22. RGGI Complaint,” Accessed online at Scribd. Archived July 10, 2015.

  23. Suit hits Cuomo, DEC, NYSERDA over cap-and-trade,” Capitol Confidential, June 28, 2011. Archived July 10, 2015.

  24. Heather Taylor-Miele. “Chris Christie Not 'Telling It Like It Is' on Climate Change,” Huffington Post, July 9, 2015. Archived July 10, 2015.

  25. Coral Davenport. “With Eye on 2016, Christie Resists Climate Change Plan,” New York Times, September 18, 2014.

  26. CHARLES LEWIS , ERIC HOLMBERG , ALEXIA FERNANDEZ CAMPBELL , LYDIA BEYOUD. “Koch millions spread influence through nonprofits, colleges,” Investigative Reporting Workshop. July 1st, 2013. Archived July 10, 2015.

  27. Koch Industries: Stil Fuelling Climate Denial 2011 Update,” Greenpeace report.

  28. Degrading the American Dream: inside Koch’s Americans for Prosperity convention,” Greenpeace, November 10, 2011.

  29. Americans for Prosperity,” FactCheck.org, August 9, 2010.