CMD superman logo.jpg SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy,

depends on donations from people like you!

Click here to make a tax-deductable contribution.

American Action Network

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

American Action Network (AAN) is a "501(c)4" Washington, D.C.-based "action tank" created in February 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision permitted corporations to spend unlimited money influencing elections. AAN spent $26 million on ads in 2010, making it the second-most active outside political spending group that year behind the Chamber of Commerce.[1] As a 501(c)(4), the American Action Network does not have to disclose its donors.[2] The organization is run by Republican political operatives (including engineers of Nixon's illegal and unethical campaign activities) and billionaires (some of whom personally benefitted from the Wall Street bailout).

Organizers have described the group as a center-right version of the Center for American Progress, [3] but rather than working on policy analysis, it has just been spending large sums of money running ads attacking Democrats.Politico refers to the group as one of the "key outside forces on the right". [4]

In January 2011, AAN created the Hispanic Leadership Network to bring more Hispanics to the Republican party.[5]

American Action Network is linked to Karl Rove's American Crossroads PAC; in fact, they share office space.[6][7]

See also: American Crossroads

2012 Election Activities

In the 2012 elections, AAN principally spent in the House races, they also invested heavily in the Senate primary in Indiana, taking out ads against Richard Mourdock.[8] In July 2012, they announced they would devote a minimum of $10 million to establish a legislation-focused ground game in a number of states where there are competitive House races, but state parties with little ability to provide lift.[4] The group considers states where the party is weak but have races key to holding and expanding the Republican hold of the House as "orphan states."[4] In total, the American Action Network spent about $11.6 million influencing house elections in the 2012 election cycle. [9] The sections below detail the AAN's spending in each race.

Three Stooges Ads In early July, the American Action Network began running ads throughout California and New York, targeting Democratic congressmen in both states for supporting the 2010 affordable care act, sections of which were recently defined as a tax increase by the supreme court. The ads attacked congressmen Bill Owens, Tim Bishop, and Louis Slaughter in New York, and Lois Capps, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney in California. These ads were ostensibly "issue ads" and their cost was never reported. Both ads feature the congressmen and shots from old "Three Stooges" films.

  • Repeal (New York): July 3rd, 2012: No Reported Spending
  • Repeal (California): July 3rd, 2012: No Reported Spending
"Repeals"

Ads Attacking Jose Hernandez in California American Action Network's biggest target in 2012 was Jose Hernandez, a Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 10th District. American Action Network spent over $2.5 million opposing Hernandez. [10]



Ad Attacking Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire

"Rubber Stamp"

in New Hampshire, the American Action Network invested $2 million in a single ad buy attacking Democrat Carol Shea Porter. The buy was made in mid-October.



Ads Attacking Rick Nolan in Minnesota

"Seventies"

In Minnesota, the American Action Network spent at least $1.6 million attacking Rick Nolan, a Democrat running for the U.S. House in District 8.[15]



Ads Attacking David Gill in Illionois

"Birds"

In Illinois, the American Action Network spent $1.4 million attacking David Gill, a Democrat running for the U.S. House in District 13.[19]



Ads Attacking Val Demmings in Florida

"Heartbeat"

In 2012, The American Action Network spent just under $1.2 million attacking Democrat Val Demmings in Florida's 10th District. [22] This money was spent in the form of 2 ad buys made on in October.

  • Heartbeat: October 29th, 2012: $488,480
  • Tax and Spend: October 17th, 2012: $487,832
  • "Digital Advocacy": October 18th, 2012: $110,000



Ad Attacking John Oceguera in Nevada

"Pumping Iron"

On October 29th, the American Action Network launched a single ad attacking Nevada Democrat John Oceguera, who was running for Congress in Nevada's 3rd District. The ad, entitled "pumping iron" attacked him for extravagant spending, including the installation of a new gym in his office. The ad cost $628,412 to produce and air.[23]

Ad Attacking Katy Hotchul in New York

"3 Wishes"

On October 16th, the AAN began running an ad in New York's 27th district, attacking Democrat Katy Hotchul. The Ad, entitled "3 wishes," cost $700,000 to produce and air.[24]

Influencing the 2012 Indiana Senate Primary

The American Action Network also ran ads opposing Republican Richard Mourdock during the Indiana Senate Primaries. The AAN was unsuccessful in stopping Mourdock from becoming the Republican Nominee, despite spending at least $645,000 to run attack ads against him [25] Their ad buys began running in April and attacked Mourdock for missing meetings and financial impropriety while working as Indiana's State Treasurer.

  • Bets: April 23rd, 2012: $262,583
  • Promises: April 23rd, 2012: $262,583

2010 Midterm Election Activities

In the 2010 midterm elections, American Action Network is spending $25 million opposing Democrats in Senate races in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Washington, and Florida. AAN is also running nearly identical ads praising GOP incumbents Dave Reichert of Washington and Pat Tiberi of Ohio, and has also helped Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The group has spent over $750,000 in Washington State opposing Patty Murray,[26] $900,000 against Paul Hodes in New Hampshire, and $750,000 to target Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.[27]

Political Attack Ads Without Transparency

In its efforts to "create, encourage and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national security," AAN is expected to spend $25 million dollars influencing the 2010 Congressional mid-term elections,[6] particularly on opposing Democrats in Senate races in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Washington, and Florida.

However, as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, AAN is not required to disclose its donors, and can legally operate under a veil of secrecy.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's January 2010 Citizens United decision, groups like American Action Network can legally advocate for or against political candidates without restrictions on the amount of money they can raise from individuals and corporations. And thanks to the Court's 2007 FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life decision, "independent" groups organized under 501(c) of the tax code can run "issue-oriented" political ads without disclosing their the individuals and corporations who fund their efforts.

Despite the donors' anonymity, the AAN's board membership may provide some insight into the group's motivations, and provide voters some insight into who is trying to influence them (see the "Leadership" section, below).

Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan campaign-finance-reform group, tells TIME Magazine that "shadow Republican groups formed by longtime party officials and party operatives are raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this election ... most of which is going to come in the form of secret undisclosed contributions."[7]

501(c)(4): Primary Purpose Non-Political, to Advance Social Welfare?"

According to the New York Times, "[t]he rule of thumb . . . is that more than 50 percent of a 501(c)(4)’s activities cannot be political;."[28] however, a 501(c)(4) is permitted to "intervene in political campaigns as long as its primary purpose is the promotion of social welfare." Based on the GOP credentials of AAN's leadership and how the group has spent its money, it is certainly debatable whether the American Action Network's primary purpose is to promote "social welfare," and less than 50% of its activities are focused on campaign efforts, or whether its primary mission is to defeat Democrats and elect Republicans.

The distinctions between 501(c)(4)s, Political Action Committees, 527s, and other political groups are explained in this New York Times graphic.

AAN's Efforts to Avoid Disclosure to the Federal Elections Commission

In addition to not disclosing funders, AAN tries to avoid reporting its spending to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). According to the Washington Independent, "[T]he American Action Network filed an independent expenditure report with the FEC Aug. 5 indicating that it is spending nearly $435,000 for cable television and radio ads in the New Hampshire campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat. The report listed no donations funding this spending ... The American Action Network has indicated on its website that it also sponsored ad campaigns focused on Senate races in Washington state and Florida; however, it filed no reports with the FEC on its spending in those states. The group indicated in press releases that it considered its efforts in these races to be “issue advocacy” not subject to any FEC reporting rules."[29]

Criticism of AAN Attack Ads

Media Matters has repeatedly criticized AAN attack ads, calling them "stripped of the facts," "chock full of falsehoods," "bogus," and "deceptive."

In a commentary article, the Nashua Telegraph described AAN as a "pro-fossil fuel group" and reports the group spent $450,000 on TV and radio ads attacking U.S. Representative Paul Hodes for his vote for the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The ads also support Kelly Ayotte, Hodes’ leading opponent to fill Senator Judd Gregg’s Senate seat. The commentary called the ads run by AAN "grossly and dangerously misleading."[30]

AAN's Connection with American Crossroads PAC and Republican Governors Association

In a September 2010 article, TIME Magazine reports that AAN and Karl Rove's American Crossroads (which plans to spend $50 milllion influencing elections) share an office space, and that the groups are coordinating with right-wing organizations like the Republican Governors Association.[7] According to TIME, coordination between the organizations "can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling a friend."

"Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, the current chairman of the RGA, is an adviser to the AAN. The RGA, in turn, is on pace to spend even more than American Crossroads this year — at least $65 million and perhaps far more — in an effort that will be coordinated with Law’s group. A key RGA fundraiser is Fred Malek, a top GOP moneyman who is also on the board of the AAN. (Gillespie has joined Malek on at least one fundraising trip to New York for their respective outfits.) To make things really easy, Gillespie, Malek, Barbour, Law, Coleman and several other Republican fundraisers gather regularly to coordinate strategy. The attendees, who first convened at Karl Rove’s home, even have a nickname for themselves: the Weaver Terrace group, named for the Washington street on which Rove lives."[7]

Known Donors

  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA): gave $4.5 million to AAP in 2010, 15% of the group's income that year [31]
  • Republican Jewish Coalition: gave $4 million[31]
  • American Crossroads: gave $500,000[31]
  • Wellspring Committee: gave $305,500[31]
  • Marcus Foundation: gave $100,000[31]
  • Mississippi Common Trust Fund: gave $100,000[31]
  • Robert K. Steele Family Foundation: gave $50,000[31]
  • American Natural Gas Alliance: gave $35,000[31]

Leadership

Although the American Action Network is not required to disclose the corporations and individuals who provide its funding, its board includes billionaire Republicans who have bankrolled many GOP campaigns, and who are affiliated with some of the wealthiest corporations in the country. Some of the board members include:

Robert Steel

Robert Steel was Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs for 30 years, then served with Henry Paulson at the U.S. treasury and mismanaged the financial crisis, then headed to Wachovia, where he used his Treasury connections to negotiate a sweet merger with Wells Fargo, who then accepted $25 Billion in taxpayer-funded TARP dollars. He was called one of "America's Ten Most Corrupt Capitalists" by AlterNet.[32]

  • While at Goldman Sachs, Steel co-headed the firm’s equities and trading business with Goldman CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein, who sold securities designed to fail (and will still receive a $100 million bonus this year).

For more information on the role Goldman Sachs has played in the financial disaster, check out our Goldman Sachs entry.

  • Steel served as co-chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce anti-regulation crusade before being appointed Under Secretary for Domestic Finance under Henry Paulson in George W. Bush's Treasury Department, where he served from 2006-2008. Paulson and Steel had a "Batman-and-Robin-like relationship," according to the Washington Post.[33]
  • Steel departed from Treasury just before the Wall Street meltdown, and took the helm at Wachovia. As Wachovia was failing, Steel used his connections at Treasury to negotiate a merger with Wells Fargo, which then was bailed out by taxpayers, taking $25 Billion in TARP funds. Steel served on the board of Wells Fargo until July 2010, when he headed off for a post with the city of New York.

For more information about Robert Steel and his illicit dealings, please see our Robert Steel entry.

Fred Malek

AAN Chair Fred Malek was President Richard Nixon's White House personnel chief during the Watergate scandal, "and helped dispense patronage for major Nixon donors as well as serving as deputy director of CREEP" (the Committee to Re-Elect the President). [34] CREEP employed money laundering in its political activities, and was directly and actively involved in the Watergate scandal.[35] "Malek is perhaps most famous for his central role in responding to Nixon's request for a count of Jews employed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics."[36]

  • Malek engineered Nixon's "Responsiveness Program," which aimed to politicize the executive branch and take advantage of the power of the incumbency to direct federal resources towards ensuring Nixon's re-election.[37] [35] This included The "Responsiveness Program" was censured by the Senate Watergate Committee. The committee found that the program was aimed at influencing decisions concerning government "grants, contracts, loans, subsidies, procurement and construction projects," decisions regarding "legal and regulatory actions," and even personnel decisions that affected protected "career positions" -- all to advance Nixon's reelection.[38]
  • In 1971, the Washington Post reported that Malek had ordered the FBI to conduct an investigation of then-veteran CBS correspondent and Nixon critic Daniel Schorr. [38]
  • Malek was known as "the hatchet" in the Nixon administration "because of his alleged ruthlessness in paring the workforce and ousting those deemed disloyal to the Nixon administration."[38]
  • "Malek is perhaps most famous for his central role in responding to Nixon's request for a count of Jews employed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics."[39] "Less than two months later, two senior BLS officials who were Jewish were moved out of their jobs to less visible posts. Malek acknowledges carrying out the disgusting hunt for Jews, but he denies having anything to do with the transfers."[38] However, a recently released memo suggests that he may be lying.
  • Malek was nominated to govern the U.S. Post Office by Ronald Reagaon in 1982, but failed to achieve Senate confirmation not only because of his role in the Responsiveness Program, but also because he made conflicting statements under oath about his role in the program. [38]
  • George H.W. Bush appointed Malek to head the Republican National Committee in 1988, but he was forced to resign after Bob Woodward followed up on his Watergate reporting and reminded America about Malek's BLS "jew-count." [40]
  • Malek's net worth is reportedly $250 million.
  • Malek paid a $100,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission in a case involving a fraudulent pension fund scheme. He was John McCain's National Finance Committee co-chair in the 2008 election. He served as a director of Fannie Mae during the period in which CEO Franklin Raines was forced out by regulators and when Raines left the federal mortgage guarantor with a pension worth over $100,000 a month and over $5 million in stock options. Malek made his initial fortune as CEO of Marriott Hotels and is part of the Carlyle Group. He is also a George W. Bush crony who was part of the syndicate that bought the Texas Rangers, one of Bush's failed businesses. His reputation has been tainted by evidence he carried out some of President Nixon's dirty work in identifying Jewish federal employees, resulting in his resignation as Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee, even though he was George H.W. Bush's pick for that post back in 1988.

Kenneth G. Langone

Kenneth Langone is worth $1 billion, is listed as the 347th richest man in the U.S, and is affiliated with a number of corporations that have influenced or interfered with elections.

  • Langone co-founded ChoicePoint, a "'data-mining" company that collects personal information it then sells to the government and businesses. Among other scandals, ChoicePoint was embroiled in the 2000 Presidential election debacle in Florida-- a ChoicePoint subsidiary ("DBT Online") provided Florida with a list of felons for the state to drop from the election rolls; however, 8000 of those names (most of whom were African-American and Hispanic, and likely Democratic voters) were not actually felons, and were thus prohibited from exercising their legal right to vote. The names were provided under a $4 million no-bid contract to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who also declared George W. Bush the winner of Florida by 1,784 votes. Bush officially became president after five conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the vote recount-- a couple thousand voters turned away could have been the difference, even without the flawed butterfly ballot that added up for Pat Buchanan.[41] The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division identified problems with ChoicePoint's methodology in its report on the 2000 elections. [42]
  • Langone also co-founded the home-remodeling store Home Depot, which was rewarded by Bush/Cheney for its top employees' big donations to the GOP. Home Depot got a $48 million tax break in the Bush/Cheney energy bill (lifting a tariff on Chinese-made ceiling fans), and George W. Bush used the store as the PR backdrop for a speech about the economy.

C. Boyden Gray

C. Boyden Gray, an heir to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company fortune, has played a key role in many right-wing groups like Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded by the Koch Brothers, and is on the Board of Directors of FreedomWorks, the beltway group behind the Tea Party movement.[43] Gray has helped orchestrate everything from the big business attack on the EPA's regulation of air quality standards to the effort to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues through his attack machine, the "Committee for Justice."[44]

Board

  • Fred Malek, Chairman, Network Board, and Chairman, Thayer Capital Partners
  • Senator Norm Coleman, CEO, American Action Network and Forum
    • Served as a “special advisor for policy” on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and also Chairs the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC supporting Republicans in House races.[45][46]
  • Senator George Allen, President, George Allen Strategies, LLC.
  • Isaac Applbaum, founding General Partner, Opus Capital
  • Maria Cino, Vice President of Government Affairs, Pfizer Inc.
  • Dylan Glenn, Senior Vice President, Guggenheim Advisors
  • Ambassador Boyden Gray, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
  • B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., Founder and Senior Vice President of American Commercial Equities Inc.
  • Ken Langone, Founder and Chairman, Invemed Associates LLC
  • Senator Mel Martinez, Chairman of Florida, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, JPMorgan Chase
  • Congressman Jim Nussle, President and CEO, The Nussle Group
  • Congressman Tom Reynolds, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor, Nixon Peabody
  • Ambassador Gregory Slayton, President and CEO, NRX Global
  • Congressman Vin Weber, Managing Partner, Clark and Weinstock

Contact

American Action Network
1401 New York Ave., NW
Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20005
web: http://americanactionnetwork.org/

References

  1. Center for Responsive Politics, "American Action Network: 2010", Organizational Website, Date Accessed: January 8, 2012.
  2. Factcheck.org, AAN entry at FactCheck.Org, organizational website, accessed September 17, 2010.
  3. Jackie Calmes, G.O.P Group to Promote Conservative Ideas, The New York Times, February 3, 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Maggie Haberman, American Action Network launches $10 million effort in 'orphan states', Politico, July 8, 2012.
  5. Hispanic Leadership Network, "The Hispanic Leadership Network: About", organizational website, Accessed January 8, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dan Eggen, ["http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/02/AR2010060204451.html Interest Groups Prepared to Spend Record Amounts in 2010], Washington Post, June 3, 2010.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Michael Crowley, The New GOP Money Stampede, TIME Magazine, September 16, 2010.
  8. Center for Responsive Politics, "American Action Network Receipts, 2012", organizational website, January 8, 2012.
  9. Center for Responsive Politics, American Action Network, organizational website, accessed January 10th, 2013.
  10. Center for Responsive Politics Outside Spending Report for California's 10th District, organizational website, accessed January 10th, 2013.
  11. Dan Conston, American Action Network Launches Ad Campaigns in Four Congressional Races, American Action Network, September 17, 2012.
  12. Alexandra Jaffe, CLF, AAN launch first ads in $13.5 million blitz, The Hill, October 15, 2012.
  13. Federal Electoral Commission, Itemized Independent Expenditures, Schedule 5-E, Accessed May 28, 2013.
  14. Alexandra Jaffe, CLF, AAN launch first ads in $13.5 million blitz, The Hill, October 15, 2012.
  15. Center for Responsive Politics, Outside Spending Report for Minnesota's 8th District, organizational website, accessed January 10th, 2013.
  16. Dan Conston, American Action Network Launches Ad Campaigns in Four Congressional Races, American Action Network, September 17, 2012.
  17. Dan Conston, American Action Network Launches First Series of Ads in October Blitz, American Action Network, October 16, 2012.
  18. Federal Electoral Commission, Itemized Independent Expenditures, Schedule 5-E, Accessed May 28, 2013.
  19. Center for Responsive Politics, Outside Spending Report for Illinois' 13th District, organizational website, Accessed January 10th, 2013.
  20. American Action Network, American Action Network Slams David Gill's "Radical Ideas", Organizational website, September 17, 2012.
  21. Federal Electoral Commission, Itemized Independent Expenditures, Schedule 5-E, Accessed May 28, 2013.
  22. Center for Responsive Politics, Outside Spending Report for Florida's 10th District, organizational website, accessed January 10th, 2013.
  23. Federal Electoral Commission, Itemized Independent Expenditures, Schedule 5-E, Accessed May 28, 2013.
  24. Dan Conston, American Action Network Launches First Series of Ads in October Blitz, American Action Network, October 16, 2012.
  25. Sunlight Foundation: Follow the Unlimited Money Database, Profile for: American Action Network, organizational website, Accessed January 10th, 2013.
  26. Jonathan Martin, Group Uses "Tennis Shoes" Against Murray", POLITICO, July 13, 2010.
  27. T.W. Farnam and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, American Action Network spending, Washington Post, accessed October 6, 2010.
  28. Michael Luo and Stephanie Strom, Anonymous Donors Play Big Role in Midterms, New York Times, Sept. 20, 2010.
  29. Jesse Zwick, New ‘Independent Expenditure Committees’ Disclose Little to FEC, Washington Independent, August 12, 2010.
  30. Jim Rubens and Charlie Niebling, Latest anti-Hodes ads are grossly misleading, Guest Commentary, August 29, 2010.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 31.5 31.6 31.7 Center for Responsive Politics, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to American Action Network, 2010, organizational website, Accessed January 8, 2012.
  32. Zach Carter, America's Ten Most Corrupt Capitalists, Alternet.Org, May 21, 2010.
  33. David Cho, In Times of Crisis, Treasury's No. 2 Plays a Pivotal Role, Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2008.
  34. Jill Abramson, Return of the Secret Donors, New York Times, Oct. 16, 2010.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Nixon Presidential Library and Collection, Committee for the Re-Election of the President Collection: Frederic Malek Papers, organizational website, accessed October 18, 2010.
  36. Justin Elliott, American Action Network: Who's Putting Up the Money?, Talking Points Memo, Feb. 8, 2010.
  37. Mary Ferrell Foundation, "The Responsiveness Program" - The Administration's Basic Plan to Employ Federal Resources to Affect the 1972 Presidential Election, Senate Watergate Report, 1974.
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 Colbert I. KingFred Malek, Then and Now, Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2006.
  39. Justin Elliott, American Action Network: Who's Putting Up the Money?, Talking Points Memo, Feb. 8, 2010.
  40. Timothy Noah, Fred Malek's Anti-Semitic Past Makes Him Unfit to Chair a State Government Panel, SLATE, May 21, 2010.
  41. Gregory Palast, Florida's flawed voter-cleansing program, Salon, 4 December 2000.
  42. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, [www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2000/report/ch5.htm Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election], Civil Rights Commission Report on 2000 Florida Elections, June 2001.
  43. Freedomworks.org, FreedomWorks bio, organizational website, accessed September 19, 2010.
  44. Charles William Pickering, A Price Too High: The Judiciary In Jeopardy, Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2007.
  45. Alexander Burns, Norm Coleman for Romney, Politico, November 9, 2011.
  46. Brett Neely, "Norm Coleman's super PAC could influence Congressional races", Minnesota Public Radio, January 16, 2012.