Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the "Tea Party" efforts. AFP's message is in sync with that of other groups funded by the Koch family’s other special interest groups working against progressive or Democratic initiatives and protections for workers and the environment. Accordingly, AFP has opposed health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s "green jobs" czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks. According to an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, the Kochs are known for "creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names," that "make it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington." 
AFP was established in late 2003 as a successor to the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, an industry-funded think tank, following an internal rift between Citizens for a Sound Economy and its affiliated foundation. The October 2003 Washington Times report on the formation of AFP stated, "Nancy Pfotenhauer, an executive of Citizens for a Sound Economy [CSE] in the 1990s who helped defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care reform proposal, has been tapped to head a new national advocacy organization to protect 'every American's fundamental right to pursue prosperity.'" Before joining the Independent Women's Forum in 2001 and AFP in 2003, Pfotenhauer headed the Washington office of Koch Industries.
Description(AFP), a section 501(c)(4) organization, and Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation), a section 501(c)(3) organization, state that they are "committed to educating citizens about economic policy and a return of the federal government to its Constitutional limits." On its website it states that it supports "cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens by fighting proposed tax increases and pointing out evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse."
AFP was one of the lead organizations behind the Tax Day Tea Party protests April 15, 2009. Its Director is Art Pope, an ex-legislator who has been dubbed "The Knight of the Right" by Raleigh News and Observer journalist Rob Christensen.
In mid-2009, Americans for Prosperity launched an advertising and advocacy campaign opposing U.S. health care reform named Patients United Now.
On its website it describes its "featured partners" as being the Heartland Institute's International Conference on Climate Change, the Internet Freedom Coalition and Townhall.com.
Background and historyAFP was established in late 2003 as a successor to the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, an industry-funded think tank, following an internal rift between Citizens for a Sound Economy and its affiliated foundation. AFP was formally affiliated with the Independent Women's Forum. Both organizations shared the same Washington address, and formerly shared most of the same operational staff. In 2008, IWF moved to separate office space.
The October 2003 Washington Times report on the formation of AFP stated, "Nancy Pfotenhauer, an executive of Citizens for a Sound Economy [CSE] in the 1990s who helped defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care reform proposal, has been tapped to head a new national advocacy organization to protect 'every American's fundamental right to pursue prosperity.'"
"Before joining the Independent Women's Forum in 2001, [Nancy] Pfotenhauer headed the Washington office of Koch Industries, a conglomerate with holdings in oil and gas, chemicals, minerals, ranching, and securities; Koch Executive Vice President David Koch was a founder and a chairman of the CSE Foundation and is now on the AFP board," reported the National Journal in November 2003. "Pfotenhauer worked with Koch in the mid-'90s, when she was executive vice president of both CSE and the CSE Foundation. But she has an even longer history with AFP board member Walter Williams, for whom she was a graduate research assistant at George Mason University 20 years ago."
Tobacco industry involvementAFP advocates pro-tobacco industry positions on issues like cigarette taxes and clean indoor air laws. The name "Americans for Prosperity" will sound familiar to tobacco prevention policy advocates, as Americans for Prosperity worked around the U.S. in recent years to defeat both smokefree workplace laws and cigarette excise tax increases.
Americans for Prosperity opposed a proposed Texas smoking ban in 2005. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “A proposed statewide smoking ban appears all but dead, supporters acknowledged Monday as they waged a frantic battle to bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate. ‘I think the bill is dead,’ said Peggy Venable, Texas director of Americans for Prosperity, which opposed the legislation, arguing that it is an intrusion on private-property rights." The strategy of portraying smoking as a "property right" can be traced to Philip Morris which, in the mid-1990s, introduced bills in state legislatures nominally to protect property rights as a means of fighting smoking bans. Venable called the smoke-free measure a "reckless expansion of government" that "set a dangerous precedent." Although Venable did not testify against the bill directly on behalf of the tobacco industry, the Houston Chronicle reported in 2007 that Americans for Prosperity had, in fact, been underwritten by tobacco companies in other states.
Americans for Prosperity opposes smoking bans by using slippery-slope arguments ("Where will it stop?") and erroneous arguments that smoking restrictions are economically damaging.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) also opposed an Illinois state tax on cigarettes in 2008, claiming it would eliminate jobs.
AFP opposed a clean indoor air law in Washington, D.C. in 2006.
AFP opposed a clean indoor air law in Kansas City, portraying the issue as one of personal liberty and economics rather than public health.
Involvement in protesting health care reform
Americans for Prosperity created an offshoot front group called Patients United Now, which organized what is estimated to be in excess of three hundred rallies against health-care reform. Patients United Now also helped organize "Kill the Bill” protests outside the Capitol, in March 2010, where Democratic supporters of health-care reform alleged that they were spat on and cursed at.
In 2009 Americans for Prosperity, along with The 912 Project, was one of the conservative groups involved in organizing "town hall protests" and "recess rallies" where participants oppose health care reform by rambunctiously shouting down members of Congress while they are holding public meetings to inform the public about the proposals.
AFP started a group called "Patients First" to oppose health care. Patients First conducts bus tours around the country to create opposition to health care reform. Americans for Prosperity/Patients First visit cities and speaks to rally people and encourage them to oppose health care reform.
AFP has been accused of likening Democratically-proposed health care reform to the regimes of Mugabe, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot as the SEIU-produced video here demonstrates. A speaker at an AFP co-sponsored event in Pueblo, Colorado repeated the discredited conservative idea that Democratic health care reform will mandate physician-assisted suicide or death for older members of society. "Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders -- he called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours," he said. The speaker further advises audience to "go to offices of members of Congress and put the fear of god in them." 
Anti-Astroturf signsAfter being accused of astroturfing for corporate interests, Americans for Prosperity volunteers started making hand-made signs for rally participants to gave more of an appearance of an actual grassroots crowd. Many of the pre-made signs had small “AFP” markers on them. Speakers at AFP rallies started mocking the "AstroTurf" and "Brooks Brothers" themes in nearly every speech at the rallies.
A week before the Nov. 2, 2010 mid-term elections, AFP began running an ad featuring a Canadian resident, identified on the AFP website as Shona Holmes, who said she developed a brain tumor in Canada and would be dead if she had relied upon the country's state-run health care: “Many Americans wonder what the new health care bill will do. Well, I know. If I had waited for treatment in my government-run health care system, I’d be dead.” The ad does not mention that the U.S. health care bill does not, in fact, legislate public health care.
AFP reports that "the $607,000 ad buy will run on National cable networks starting today [Oct. 27, 2010] and continuing through November 1st." On the ad, AFP President Tim Phillips said: “Our health is too important to leave in the hands of a government bureaucrat. Shona is a sobering example of how patients in other countries look to the U.S. for more choice and availability in health care when their own government-controlled systems fail.”
According to the Ottawa Citizen, Holmes' "brain tumour" was actually a Rathke's Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. On Holmes, the John Wayne Cancer Center stated: "Rathke's Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts."
Hot air tourDuring 2008, Americans for Prosperity ran its Hot Air Tour campaign, a hot air balloon cross-country tour with the slogan, "Global Warming Alarmism: Lost Jobs, Higher Taxes, Less Freedom." According the the Hot Air Tour website, "Climate alarmists have bombarded citizens with apocalyptic scenarios and pressured them into environmental political correctness. It's time to tell the other side of the story. Americans for Prosperity is working hard to bring you the missing half of the global warming debate. What will the impacts of reactionary legislation be for you, your family and our economy?"
AFP has received millions from fossil fuel interests, including $5 million from Koch Industries foundations.
Influence over House energy and commerce committee chair Fred UptonIn early January 2011, House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Fred Upton coauthored a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, about new EPA regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They wrote that the EPA "presumes that carbon is a problem in need of regulation. We are not convinced." They also said the carbon regulation rules are "an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs." Koch Industries was among Upton's top contributors in the 2010 election cycle, along with several other energy companies.
In the past, Upton has advocated taking action on global warming: "I strongly believe that everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions," he once stated on his website, which has since been removed. Following the 2010 Tea Party-aided Republican takeover of the House and a heated fight for the chairmanship of the energy and commerce committee, Upton's position on climate change has veered closer to those of global warming skeptics, like most Republican congressional members. Upton is considering using the Congressional Review Act to block the EPA's new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, in which Congress can overturn regulations from the executive branch within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register, although the President retains the right to veto.
No stimulusBeginning in 2009, Americans for Prosperity launched the website nostimulus.com, a grassroots website intended to address concerns regarding government spending and growth.  The site also contained a petition against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that became so popular that it crashed the website in early February 2009.
State budget lobbying"According to the Americans for Prosperity Web site, some 28 Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature signed a 'no tax increase' pledge with the organization," along with two Democrats, wrote Dave Zweifel in October 2007. He blamed pressure from no-tax groups on delays with Wisconsin's state budget, more than three months overdue. When these legislators "already had announced they had closed their minds -- even to an increase in cigarette taxes to expand health care to kids -- how really could there be compromise?" he asked. 
Americans for Prosperity, which held an anti-tax rally in Madison on October 17, 2007,  has also been active in other states. In March, Americans for Prosperity put pressure on Kansas legislators as they debated their state budget. The group patched in calls from residents to legislators' offices, but "they weren't quite clear why they were calling in," said one office assistant, referring to the callers. "Something about state spending," but the Kansans "couldn't tell her who had made the call or any specifics on what they were told," reported the Capital-Journal in Topeka. 
November Is ComingAutomated phone calls promoting seven rallies. Stated objective is to send a message to Senator Boxer. The phone call implies that they oppose Senator Boxer's re-election. This may be a violation of their non-political 501(c)(3) tax status.
Claims that Senator Boxer's support for cap-and-trade climate legislation will result in much higher prices for gasoline and electricity and less jobs. Rallies in Carson City, Reno, Las Vegas, Henderson, Nevada and Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, California from June 15th to June 17th, 2010.
Americans for Prosperity and the Tea PartyAccording to a 2010 article on Koch Industries and the billionaire Koch brothers in The New Yorker, the advocacy wing of Americans for Prosperity organized a July 4th 2010 weekend summit called Defending the American Dream in Austin, TX. Five hundred people attended the summit, which The New Yorker said served, in part, as a training session for Tea Party activists in Texas. An advertisement cast the event as a populist uprising against vested corporate power: “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests. But you can do something about it” without making any mention of its corporate funders. The White House has expressed frustration that such sponsors have largely eluded public notice - David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, said, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”
Reports indicate that the Tea Party Movement benefits from millions of dollars from conservative foundations that are derived from wealthy U.S. families and their business interests. Is appears that money to organize and implement the Movement is flowing primarily through two conservative groups: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.
In an April 9, 2009 article on ThinkProgress.org, Lee Fang reports that the principal organizers of Tea Party events are Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, which it described as two "lobbyist-run think tanks" that are "well funded" and that provide the logistics and organizing for the Tea Party movement from coast to coast. Media Matters reported that David Koch of Koch Industries was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). David Koch was chairman of the board of directors of CSE. CSE received substantial funding from David Koch of Koch Industries, which is the largest privately-held energy company in the country, and the conservative Koch Family Foundations, which make substantial annual donations to conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, etc. Media Matters reported that the Koch family has given more than $12 million to CSE (predecessor of FreedomWorks) between 1985 and 2002.
RightOnlineIn July 2008, Americans for Prosperity hosted RightOnline, a conference of conservative bloggers in Austin, Texas. The conference brought together conservative activists to develop strategies to counter left-wing bloggers and develop conservative "New Media" techniques. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Texas AFP chapter's conference.
2011 Wisconsin Protests
Koch Industries and Scott WalkerIn Feb. 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker introduced a governor’s budget repair bill that would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers, and included language that would allow for the selling off of state-owned power plants, as well as enable officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
Among those supporting the bill were Americans for Prosperity, with state records showing that Koch Industries, whose energy and consumer products conglomerate is based in Wichita, Kansas, was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Walker. Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities throughout Wisconsin, including in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan.
The bill included a Governor's request for sole power to sell off Wisconsin state owned power plants: “the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).” (Budget Repair Bill, Section 44, 16.896).
According to N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman: "The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be 'considered to be in the public interest.'” Koch Industries has denied that it has any interest in buying the power plants.
Anonymous targets Americans for Prosperity in retaliationOn February 27, 2011, the activist group Anonymous announced an attack on Koch Industries as a response to the Wisconsin protests. Between 1997 and 2008, David and Charles Koch collectively gave more than $17 million to groups lobbying against unions; the Kochs are one of (Republican) Governor Walker's largest corporate supporters. Anonymous accused the brothers of attempting "to usurp American Democracy" and called for a boycott of all Koch Industries products.
Under "Operation Wisconsin," Anonymous members took down the website of the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity with a distributed denial of service attack on Feb. 27, 2011. In a press release, Anonymous wrote:
"Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin. Governor Walker's union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly unnoticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process. The Koch's have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state's power supplies."
FundingOn its website, Americans For Prosperity states that "AFP gets its support from individuals and corporations which share its vision." However, it does not disclose which corporations fund its operations.
Kevin Grandia, of DeSmogBlog, who has researched funding the AFP states on his blog that:
The AFP is the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations, behind the Cato Institute and the George Mason University Foundation. 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. Koch industries has made its money in the oil business, primarily oil refining. Presently, it holds stakes in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, forest products, and chemical technology. Americans for Prosperity is also connected to oil giant ExxonMobil. 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.Media Transparency notes that Americans for Prosperity Foundation has received seven grants totaling $1,181,000 between 2004 to 2006. Grants to the foundation have included:
- $1,000 in 2006 from the Roe Foundation;
- $50,000 in 2005 from the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation;
- $5,000 in 2005 from the Armstrong Foundation;
- $125,000 from three grants over 2004 and 2005 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; and
- $1,000,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.
Income for the Foundation since its formation in 2003 has been:
- 2003: $3,451,636
- 2004: $1,190,470
- 2005: $3,600,966
- 2006: $4,223,218
StaffThe first president of Americans for Prosperity was Nancy Pfotenhauer who, prior to the groups foundation in 2003, had been an executive with the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation. Pfotenhauer later left AFP and in 2007 joined the John McCain campaign. Pfotenhauer was simultaneously the president of the Independent Women’s Forum. From 1996 to 2001, Pfotenhauer was the director of the Washington office of Koch Industries.
A full staff list can be found at Americans for Prosperity - National and State staff The following are the key AFP staff members.
- Tim Phillips, President
- John Flynn, Executive Vice President and General Counsel
- Phil Kerpen, Director of Policy was paid over $89,000 in 2007;
- James Valvo, Government Affairs Manager
- Carl Oberg, Policy Associate
- Dr. Larry Hunter, Senior Fellow
- Alan Cobb, National Director of State Operations Arizona was paid over $114,000 in 2007;
- Tom Jenney, State Director, Arizona
- David Spady, State Director California
- Jeff Crank, State Director Colorado
- Virginia Galloway, State Director Georgia
- Joe Calomino, State Director Illinois
- Jim Raftis, Legislative Liaison Illinois
- Derrick Sontag, State Director Kansas
- Scott Hagerstrom, State Director Michigan
- Carl Bearden, State Director Missouri
- Travis Fitzwater, Field Director, Missouri
- Michelle Colbert, Field Director, Missouri
- Brad Stevens, State Director Nebraska
- Corey Lewandowski, State Director New Hampshire
- Colette Campbell, State Director, New Jersey
- Steve Lonegan, Senior Policy Director New Jersey was paid over $93,000 in 2007;
- Dallas Woodhouse, State Director, North Carolina
- Jack Boyle, State Director, Ohio
- Jeff Kropf, State Director, Oregon
- Stuart Jolly, State Director, Oklahoma
- Peggy Venable, State Director Texas was paid over $72,000 in 2007;
- Ben Marchi, State Director,
- Mark Block, State Director Wisconsin
Board of DirectorsThe following are listed as members of the Americans for Prosperity board, in the group's 2007 IRS report  and/or on its website, as of February 2009: 
- Art Pope, Director
- James C. Miller, III, Director
- James E. Stephenson, Director
- Frayda Levy, Director
- Michelle Korsmo, Secretary - paid $62,475 in 2007
- Tim Phillips, President - paid $60,646 in 2007
- Ed Frank, Treasurer - paid $60,441 in 2007
Americans for Prosperity FoundationThe Americans For Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) is "a nationwide organization of citizen leaders committed to advancing every individual's right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFPF believes reducing the size and scope of government is the best safeguard to ensuring individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. AFPF educates and engages citizens in support of restraining state and federal government growth, and returning government to its constitutional limits."
Board membersThe members of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation board, as of November 2008, are:
- David H. Koch, Chairman
- Art Pope, Director
- Dr. Wayne E. Gable, Director
- Debra Humphreys, Director
- Walter Williams, Director
- Michelle Korsmo - AFPF paid $96,883 in salary and $12,651 in benefits in 2007
- Tim Phillips - AFPF paid $185,843 in salary and $17,236 in benefits in 2007
- Ed Frank - AFPF paid $62,059 in salary and $5,401 in benefits in 2007
Contact informationAmericans For Prosperity Foundation
1726 M Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202 349-5880
Toll Free 866 730-0150
Email: info AT AFPhq.org (sub @ for AT)