Phil Kerpen

Phil Kerpen

Credentials

Background

Phillip G. Kerpen is the president of American Commitment, a conservative 501(c)(4) group largely funded by Freedom Partners, a group controlled by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. He previously served as the vice president of Americans for Prosperity[2]

Kerpen has previously worked with other key groups in the Koch network including the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute. Kerpen also worked with Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation for over five years in various capacities including vice president for policy. [3]

Kerpen is chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition (IFC), a group that opposes net neutrality regulation on Internet service providers (ISPs). According to IFC, there are “ three basic threats to Internet Freedom”—taxes, regulations, “and any attempt by the United Nations to manage the Internet.” American Commitment is a member of the coalition, along with other conservative or libertarian groups including the American Conservative Union, American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Discovery Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Heartland Institute, Independent Women's Forum, Reason Foundation, and others. [4], [5], [6]

In 1999, Kerpen began as an intern at the Cato Institute working for Stephen Moorewhose work he admired.” Kerpen stuck close to Moore, describing his loyalty as part of his success. When Moore was being removed from an organization they both worked, Kerpen “immediately quit” and went with Steve. “Some others came over later, but I was the only one who quit on the spot. I’m proud of that,” Kerpen said in an interview. Kerpen eventually helped in the founding of the Free Enterprise Fund, started by Moore. (Moore's controversial history led Trump to withdraw his name from contention for appointment to the Federal Reserve, though Kerpen defended him.) [7], [41], [27]

Kerpen and REINS

Kerpen has consistently written in favor of the the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2017. As DeSmog reported, REINS has long been a legislative priority for the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Industries and Koch-funded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). [8]

REINS dictates that a “major rule shall not take effect unless the Congress enacts a joint resolution of approval” and won't become law if Congress does not pass that resolution by “70 session days or legislative days, as applicable.” [8]

This radical departure from the longstanding separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches would delay and, in many cases, thwart implementation of statutory mandates and execution of duly-enacted laws, create business uncertainty, undermine much-needed protections of the American public, and cause unnecessary confusion,” OMBwrote in July 2015. [9]

By replacing this well-established framework with a blanket requirement of Congressional approval, H.R. 427 would throw all major regulations into a months-long limbo, fostering uncertainty and impeding business investment that is vital to economic growth.”

Then-President-elect Donald Trump spoke to Kerpen, in what appears to be his first official statement on the record on the tobic about REINS:

I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed,” Trump said in a statement quoted in Kerpen's December 30, 2016 op-ed in USA Today titled “It's time to rein in regulators.” [10]

In his 2011 book Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America - and How to Stop Him, written while he still worked for AFP, Kerpen devoted an entire chapter in support of REINS[8]

During that time, AFP also ran ObamaChart.com, a website DeSmog tracked down using internet archives, which depicted the REINS legislation as the solution for reversing “how it has become standard procedure in the Obama administration not to take no for an answer.” [8]

Image credit: Way Back Machine

In the introduction to Democracy Denied, Kerpen says the book “is an extended commentary on the chart”: [8]

Support for the REINS Act needs to be a basic litmus test for candidates for the House of Representatives, Senate, and president of the United States,” wrote Kerpen in his book. “Candidates who refuse to promise to restore accountability for legislative decisions to Congress are not worthy of support.” [8]

Kerpen and American Commitment later launched a social media campaign around REINS, and purchased the web domain REINSAct.com in July 2015, and started an online petition campaign advocating for REINS' passage. A January 14, 2018 update of the petition readsL “Senator Rand Paul has introduced the REINS Act! President Trump wants this bill on his desk, let's make sure it gets there.” [11]

On December 20, 2016, AFP included passage of the REINS Act in its list of “7 Things That Should Be On Everyone’s Wishlist for Our New Congress” and on January 4, the group published a press release calling for its passage, while Kerpen posted an article saying “We were never closer to seeing REINS Act become law.” [12], [13], [14]

Koch Industries first began lobbying on the REINS Act in the third quarter of 2010. Along with like-minded groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Heritage Foundation's Heritage Action for America. [15], [16]

Stance on Climate Change

November 17, 2016

In an article urging President Trump to abandon the Paris climate treaty, Kerpen claimed models showed “minimal” global warming: [17]

“The Midwest delivered the White House to Trump, who dominated among the working class voters who care far more about how much they are paying to fill up the gas tank and keep their lights on than they do about what United Nations computer models predict about the climate in decades or centuries – the results of which show minimal change anyway,” Kerpen wrote at American Commitment. 

He added: “The Paris treaty is a magnificent example of the bad deals made for America that ultimately paved Donald Trump’s path to the White House.”

October 25, 2010

At an event hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), Kerpen claimed Americans for Prosperity doesn't engage in climate science before immediately pivoting to question the science: [18]

“We don't engage the science of global warming, or we try not to. […] The truth is, regardless of the climate sensitivity — and I do think there's some question about the sensitivity — do you not? Do you think the GCMs [global climate models] are perfect in terms of the sensitivity to a doubling of CO2? […] I think that there's actually a lot of questions […]” [18]

Key Quotes

July 2018

Commenting on a carbon tax bill introduced by Republican lawmaker Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Kerpen was quoted in The Hill: [19]

There is no appreciation to be gained by the real Democrats by pretending to be a Democrat,” Kerpen said of Curbelo. “There’s a Republican consensus against this bill. It’s a bad idea, and any Republican who is tempted to embrace it will see very little friends on both sides of the aisle.”

August 2015

In an article entitled “Obama’s Draconian Carbon Caps ‘Will Bankrupt’ the Coal Industry,” Kerpen opposed cap-and-trade legislation in the Clean Powe Plan and urged state lawmakers to work against President Obama to block it: [20]

“The Clean Power Grab similarly seeks to lock itself in permanently, even if eventually found illegal, by coercing states to do most of the dirty work of enacting draconian caps on fossil fuel use into state law,” Kerpen claimed in the article at CNSNews. “Those laws would continue in effect after the EPA rule is struck down, and would create permanent rent-seeking corporate cronies who benefit from emissions trading and renewables mandates that would make the laws almost impossible to repeal.”

“All state leaders should protect their citizens from higher electricity prices and job losses by rejecting the Obama administration’s call to submit a state plan,” he concluded.

September 2009

As DeSmog reported, celebrating the removal of Van Jones from his position as a special advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Kerpen wrote on his involvement [21][22]

“It started July 9, when 'FOX & Friends' asked me if I'd come on the show the morning of July 10 to explain what 'green jobs' are. It meant an early morning the next day, but I was glad to do it, because exposing the green jobs scam is critical to fight cap-and-trade, my top legislative priority for the year. The producer asked me if I knew anything about green jobs 'czar' Van Jones. I didn't but said I would find out.”

[…]

I spent the next two weeks researching everything I could find about Jones and the Apollo Alliance (much of which is still to be published, including a forthcoming paper from the Capital Research Center next month), the national umbrella organization for coordinating between the environmentalists, the labor unions, and the social justice street organizers that Jones has served as a board member and a primary national spokesman for.”

[…]

“As I explained previously on the FOX Forum, the push for 'green jobs' has everything to do with funding the far-left political activities that Van Jones so adamantly believed in. Green jobs are not economic jobs but political jobs, designed to funnel vast sums of taxpayer money to left-wing labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice community organizers.”

Key Deeds

June 2019

Phil Kerpen said his staff at American Commitment had sent a “large bulk submission”—amounting to nearly 1,600 comments—solicited from the group's supporters supporting a freeze on fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles proposed by the Trump administration, The New York Times reported. [23]

“We can’t count on the automakers to carry this fight,” Kerpen said, echoing sentiments by Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). A set of emails released as part of a freedom of information request by the Sierra Club revealed Ebell and CEI “weighed in at a critical juncture in the policymaking process” to push Trump to roll back emissions standards. [23]

The automakers are not going to help and may be part of the opposition,” wrote Ebell in a May 2018 email. [23]

“We understand that some in the automaker community have expressed concerns about your current plans to reform the program,” Ebell along with two other people that had assisted with the transition wrote in a May 10, 2018 letter to Trump. “Their main concern is the expected legal battle with California,” they wrote. “In fact, what many liberal California politicians really want to do is ban gasoline-powered cars altogether.” Their letter went on to say: “You should dismiss this concern. We agree that in an ideal world, California would negotiate with you in good faith, but we all know that is not a reality in this current political climate.” [23]

May 15, 2019

Phil Kerpen wrote an op-ed for the AP News arguing that Congress should let the electric vehicle tax credit expire. [40]

May 9, 2019

Phil Kerpen of American Commitment was signatory to an open letter to Congress urging the discontinuation of the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, DeSmog reported. The letter echoed a similar one from the previous September, which had also included many of the same signatories. [24], [25]

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) has organized a coalition to proclaim in one unified voice that there should be no expansion of the misguided electric vehicle tax credit,” Tom Pyle, president of the AEA and a former lobbyist for Koch Industries, wrote in a statement, first published by The Daily Caller News Foundation. [26]

Notably, that statement was published at 5:10 am EDT on Thursday, before the letter could have been delivered. Evidently, the Koch-funded think tanks gave the Koch-funded website an advance copy. The Daily Caller News Foundation has received more than $2.6 million from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation since 2013

April 24, 2019

Phil Kerpen wrote an article at CNSNews.com suggesting that Stephen Moore—who is also listed as a board member of the American Commitment Foundation—would be the best pick for the Federal Reserve. [27]

“Stephen Moore would bring to the Fed decades of original economic thinking and an impressive track record of getting it right when so many others got it wrong. That's why he's the most qualified person for the job. And the most independent, too,” Kerpen claimed in the article. [27] 

March 18, 2019

Kerpen signed on to an open letter to President Trump supporting the creation of a proposed President’s Commission on Climate Security that would be led by climate change denier William Happer. [28]

“The commission would consist of a small number of distinguished experts on climate-related science and national security. It would be charged with conducting an independent, high-level review of the Fourth National Climate Assessment and other official reports relating to climate and its implications for national security,” the letter claims. [28]

“Among major issues that have been raised and that we hope the commission will scrutinize: the models used have assumed climate sensitivities to CO2 concentrations significantly higher than recent research warrants; the models used have predicted much more warming than has actually occurred; predictions of the negative impacts of global warming have been made based on implausible high-end emissions scenarios; the positive impacts of warming have been ignored or minimized; and surface temperature data sets have been manipulated to show more rapid warming than has actually occurred.” [28]

April 23, 2018

American Commitment, represented by Phil Kerpen, was among 22 groups signed on to an open letter asking President Trump to ignore recent criticism of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. [29]

In a speech to the U.S. Senate, a group of Democratic senators identified the organizations as front groups for the Koch Brothers and other wealthy donors, nicknamed the “Web of Deceit.” The senators outlined how, in addition to funding from the Koch network, many of the groups use untraceable “dark money” funneled through groups like Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust to influence legislation, particularly with regards to climate and pollution., represented by Lisa B. Nelson, was among 22 groups signed on to an open letter asking President Trump to ignore recent criticism of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt[29]

Senator Whitehouse outlined it as “a web of deceit conceived and bankrolled by the Koch brothers and other self-interested billionaires to advocate for very selfish and unpatriotic policies.” Whitehouse added: “This web of deceit has infiltrated and populated the Trump administration, and it is swamping the interests of everyday Americans. [30]

March 28, 2018

Kerpen and American Commitment signed on to an open letter to then-EPA-Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for “the revocation of California’s waiver from the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to decouple from Federal policy and impose strict emission standards on automobiles.” [31]

“Our coalition calls for the repeal of the Clean Air Act waiver in California, while encouraging market solutions over wasteful taxpayer funding,” the letter read. [31]

When asked about this at the BNEF Future of Energy Summit, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, told DeSmog, “I don't think they're going to do that.” [32]

February 12, 2018

Kerpen and American Commitment was part of a coalition led by Americans for Prosperity to oppose a federal gas tax increase. Groups joining AfP were groups including the National Taxpayers Union, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax ReformClub for GrowthHeritage Action, and numerous others. [33]

Raising the gas tax is a bad idea. It will make the burden of government on families and businesses heavier,” the coalition open letter read. While the Trump administration's infrastructure proposal did not include a gas tax increase, AfP noted that several increases had been proposed. [33]

July 12, 2017

American Commitment promoted a joint letter supporting the Davidson Climate Amendment that would prevent the Department of Defense from implementing policies or programs to combat climate change. American Commitment president Phil Kerpen was a signatory of the letter. [34]

Other signatories included Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, E. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance, John Droz of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, and Craig Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change[34]

January 12, 2017

Phil Kerpen was a signatory to a official letter of support (PDF) for Scott Pruitt, in which numerous groups, including The Heartland InstituteAmerican Energy Alliance (AEA), and others, declared that the Senate should “swiftly approve his nomination” for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [35]

May 31, 2017

Kerpen appeared on PBS NewsHour in a discussion on “What leaving the Paris Accord could mean for U.S. and the world”: [36]

“I think the key point to understand is that the Paris treaty has no discernible impact on global average temperature, and therefore the alleged climate benefits are illusory,” Kerpen said. 

“This is an agreement that if every country met its obligations according to the conventional EPA model would reduce global average temperature less than two-tenths of a degree in the year 2100. But of course, most of these countries are not meeting their obligations. […] The U.S. commitment would only avert an increase in temperature of about fifteen-thousandths of a degree by the year 2100. 

So, there's really not much upside here, but there's tremendous downside because this agreement locks in those EPA regulations you were just talking about in the introduction—the Clean Power Plan—which increases electricity prices about twenty to thirty percent. That has a very negative impact on consumers across this country with no benefit to show for it.” [36]

2012

American Commitment launched an initiative, KeystoneXLNow.com, calling for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and opposing a carbon tax. [37]

DeSmog reported on the launch of the then-new website in July 2012: [38][37]

KeystoneXLNow.com invites users to send a message directly to the State Department to counterbalance “the crazy lefties [who] are already pouring in comments to give Obama an excuse to kill the pipeline.” The site calls on users to “push back by filling the official State Department docket with comments demanding they stop stalling and approve the Keystone XL pipeline now!” (emphasis added). [37]

KeystoneXLNow.com now redirects to a subdomain of American Commitment. The website registration for KeystoneXLnow.com shows the site was registered by Phil Kerpen. [37]


According to its website, American Commitment is “dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.” [37]

October 2009

Kerpen, while working as AFP’s vice president of policy, moderated a panel at the AFP’s annual summit where the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell told AFP members that global warming is “phony.” [39]

The panel also included Phelim McAleer and Daniel Simmons[39]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Phil Kerpen is listed as an author at the conservative news source CNSnews.com. Below are some sample publications:

Books

Resources

  1. Phil Kerpen,” Old-Friends. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/RjXiO

  2. About,” Freedom Partners. Archived May 18, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/hWcnz

  3. Americans for Prosperity Foundation Commends Phil Kerpen, Wishes Him Well,” Americans for Prosperity, April 12, 2012. Archived May 17, 2012. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/6rzhV

  4. Phil Kerpen,” LinkedIn. Accessed July 3, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  5. About Us,” Internet Freedom Coalition. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/LToHc

  6. Coalition Members,” Internet Freedom Coalition. Archived July 3, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/KfhxN

  7. Jacqueline Otto. “Profiles in Liberty: Phil Kerpen,” America's Future Foundation, May 23, 2012. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/pa8DE

  8. Steve Horn. “GOP Congress, Trump Already Pushing Koch Industries' Bill to Hobble Regulatory Agencies,” DeSmog, January 5, 2017.

  9. STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY H.R. 427 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015” (PDF), Executive Office of the President. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  10. Phil Kerpen. “It's time to rein in regulators,” USA Today, December 30, 2016. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/eI8li 

  11. REINSAct.com: Congress Must Do Its Job,” American Commitment. Last updated January 14, 2018. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/xKeFW

  12. 7 Things That Should Be On Everyone’s Wishlist for Our New Congress,” Americans for Prosperity, December 20, 2016. Archived December 28, 2016. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/Zq7DA

  13. AFP Calls on House to Rein in Regulatory Overreach,” Americans for Prosperity, January 4, 2017. Archived January 5, 2017. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/UwxEt

  14. Phil Kerpen. “We were never closer to seeing REINS Act become law,” Jackson Sun, January 4, 2017. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/HgFzO

  15. LD02 Disclosure Form for Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, 10/19/2010. Retrieved from United States Senate Lobbying Disclosure Electronic Filig System. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  16. Clients lobbying on H.R.3765: Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2009,” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed July 4, 2019.

  17. Phil Kerpen. “TRUMP SHOULD LET THE SENATE KILL OBAMA’S CLIMATE TREATY,” American Commitment, November 17, 2016. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/tTHSW

  18. Phil Kerpen: 'We Don't Engage The Science Of Global Warming',” YouTube video uploaded by user “climatebra,d November 17, 2010. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  19. Miranda Green. “Conservatives come out against carbon tax bill from GOP lawmaker,” The Hill, July 23, 2018. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/zuGSc

  20. Phil Kerpen. “Obama’s Draconian Carbon Caps ‘Will Bankrupt’ the Coal Industry,” CNSNews.com, August 7, 2015. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/3rRXu

  21. Kevin Grandia. “The Right Wing Attack Machine Behind the Van Jones Affair,” DeSmog, September 9, 2009.

  22. Phil Kerpen. “How Van Jones Happened and What We Need to Do Next,” Fox News, September 6, 2009. Archived July 4, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/G0MlW

  23. Hiroko Tabuchi. “Climate Change Denialists Dubbed Auto Makers the ‘Opposition’ in Fight Over Trump’s Emissions Rollback,” The New York Times, July 2, 2019. Archived July 3, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/Dr5mP

  24. Ben Jervey. “Koch-Funded Groups Still Begging Congress to Kill the Electric Car Tax Credit,” DeSmog, May 9, 2019.

  25. Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” (PDF). Retrieved from E&E News. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  26. CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITSOVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH’,” The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/me1Fe

  27. Phil Kerpen. “Stephen Moore Does Not Lack Independence, Is Best Pick for Fed,” CNSNews.com, April 24, 2019. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/OhtxI

  28. “Dear President Trump” (PDF), March 18, 2019. Retrieved from heartland.org. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  29. Coalition letter to the President on Scott Pruitt,” (PDF)Heartland Institute, 2018. Archived .pdf on file with DeSmogBlog.

  30. Senator Whitehouse. “Time to wake up: Web of Deceit” April 23, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.li/HzIsa

  31. “Dear Administrator Pruitt” (PDF), March 28, 2018. Retrieved from the American Consumer Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  32. Ben Jervey. “Koch vs. California: These Groups Are Pushing Pruitt to Undo the State’s Right to Regulate Auto Emissions,DeSmog, April 10, 2018.

  33. Americans For Prosperity Leads Coalition Against Gas Tax Hike,” Americans for Prosperity, February 12, 2018. Archived February 20, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/vNQMN

  34. Joint Letter in Support of Davidson Climate Amendment,” American Commitment, July 12, 2017. Archived June 5, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  35. Dear Senators,” (PDF)Competitive Enterprise Institute, January 12, 2017. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  36. What leaving the Paris Accord could mean for U.S. and the world,” YouTube video uploaded by user “PBS NewsHour,” May 31, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  37. KeystoneXLNow.com: YES to Pipeline; NO to Steyer's Carbon Tax,” American Commitment. Archived September 21, 2015. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/toNEM

  38. Emma Pullman. “Latest Pro-Keystone XL Website Backed by GOP Special Interest Group,” DeSmog, July 27, 2012.

  39. Brad Johnson. “Americans For Prosperity Lies: ‘We’re Not Arguing The Science Of Climate Change’,” ThinkProgress, October 25, 2010. Archived .mp4 video also on file at DeSmog.

  40. Phil Kerpen: Let the electric vehicle subsidies die on schedule,” AP, May 15, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  41. Christopher Rugaber. “Trump Fed choice Stephen Moore withdraws amid controversy,” AP, May 2, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Other Resources