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American Majority

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American Majority is a 501(c)(3) right-wing nonprofit political training group established in January, 2008 that "trains and equips a national network of leadership committed to individual freedom through limited government and the free market." Its goal is to train budding Tea Party candidates to run for school board, city council or state senate seats in local areas around the U.S., with the hopes that they will eventually run for Congress. The group's strategy is to raise up a "national farm team of conservative leaders." Ned Ryun, one of the group's founders, says "Today’s county commissioner, tomorrow’s congressman. You’ve got to feed the system." Founders, Drew and Ned Ryun are the sons of former Kansas Republican Representative Jim Ryun, who served in the House of Representatives for 10 years. Drew Ryun was a deputy director at the Republican National Committee, and Ned was a writer in the George W. Bush White House.[1]

Training Of Republican Candidates and Operatives Raises Questions Regarding Nonprofit Status

CMD's 2017 expose on the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation included American Majority, as a key component of the right-wing "infrastructure" Bradley was building nationwide.[2]

From the CMD series:

Bradley funds conservative groups that operate a lot like political parties themselves. Bradley has given large grants to a little-known group called American Majority contributing $1.8 million between 2010-2016 (American Majority, Grant Proposal Record, 8/16/16), and $220,000 was recommended for Wisconsin for 2016.
American Majority was founded by the sons of Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS) specifically for the purpose of training people to run for office. “Today’s county commissioner, tomorrow’s congressman. You’ve got to feed the system,” said Ned Ryun (Jim Ryun’s son) at the time. Wisconsin dark money man, Eric O’Keefe, took credit for helping create American Majority while working with his Sam Adams Alliance. In documents listing matching grants, Republican industrialist “Barre Seid” is listed as an anonymous source of additional funds for American Majority, $2.1 million in 2011 alone.
American Majority says on its website that it has trained 38,000 people. The Bradley files describe its electoral activities in Wisconsin: “American Majority’s purpose is to train citizens and grassroots activists in the rules and methods necessary to run a successful political campaign.” “American Majority has trained 3,853 pro-freedom individuals at more than 100 training events. 208 trained candidates have run for state or local office, 181 advanced out of their primaries to the general election. 104 went on to win their elections. These include state legislators, 45 county board supervisors, 27 municipal office holders, 22 school board members and 5 judges.” “In the spring 2014 election American Majority trained New Leaders flipped the Menomonee Falls Village Board and the Kenosha School Board” (American Majority, Grant Proposal Record, 8/19/2014).
In its IRS filings, the group identifies itself as “nonpartisan,” but the institute was set up by Republicans to train Republicans.
Campaign schools have been tried before. In 1986, the National Republican Campaign Committee set up a school to train people for careers as campaign managers, communications directors, finance directors, and other political campaign professionals. They argued that the school offered broad benefits to American society and sought to make the school a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, charitable organization. A U.S. Tax Court took a look at the situation and told them they could not. A school operating for the private benefit of the Republican Party was not a charity, ruled the court.
CMD talked to former IRS official Marcus Owens about these grants and Bradley’s infrastructure investments.
“In the American Campaign Academy v. Commissioner case, the Tax Court held that an organization that offered educational classes on election law and similar subjects for campaign workers, but which was focused on supporting the candidates of one particular political party, was operated for the private benefit of the political party in question and thus not entitled to tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3),” said Owens.
Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at ExposedbyCMD.org.

Media Trackers

Main article: Media Trackers

Media Trackers is an investigative non-profit launched in 2011 in Wisconsin. The organization was sponsored by American Majority, to "dig up dirt on the left" rather than continuing to be "on the receiving end of damaging stories developed by liberal groups such as Media Matters and the Center for American Progress."[3]

According to Politico, Media Trackers "has gotten considerable in-state pick-up on quick-hit videos and pieces aimed at what it says are errors, hypocrisy or offensive behavior by labor unions and their Democratic allies."[3] According to Mother Jones, Ryun formed Media Trackers as a "nimble attack blog . . . that could quickly capitalize on the latest missteps by big-government politicians or the "liberal" media -- essentially hard-hitting, opposition-research-style shops that prize scoops, speed, and scandal over policy briefs and press conferences."[4]

But Media Trackers has a history of "mangl[ing] the truth," according to Mother Jones and such media outlets as PolitiFact and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: An "exclusive" that "a labor-backed progressive group had violated Wisconsin state law by handing out free BBQ to Milwaukee residents in exchange for pledges to vote early in a closely fought state Senate recall election . . . turned out to be dead wrong; the DA found no evidence of wrongdoing." In November 2011, "in another splashy post that was quickly amplified by the right-wing blogosphere, Media Trackers' Wisconsin outlet claimed there were 'no privacy protections' for people who signed a recall petition to recall Walker, leaving them open to harassment and abuse. PolitiFact rated the claim 'Mostly False,' and noted that Media Trackers had given no evidence that harassment was taking place.[5]" And in March 2012, "soon after the Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed an ethics complaint against conservative state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, Media Trackers published a story claiming four of the commission's nine members had signed Walker recall petitions. In fact, none had.[6]"[4]

According to Mother Jones, "After seeing Media Trackers in action, its anonymous donors shelled out enough fresh cash for Ryun to expand into Colorado, Florida, Montana, and Ohio."[4] Indeed, Media Trackers announced its expansion into Colorado and Montana with two similar press releases on May 9, 2012.[7][8] Media Trackers Florida and Ohio seem to have been started in a slightly earlier wave, with organizational "about" pages on each of their websites dated March 16, 2012.[9][10]

In 2017 it was revealed that the Bradley Foundation was providing significant funding to Media Trackers.[2]

Goals and Activities

American Majority states that its goal is to "build a national network of leaders and grassroots advocates who aspire to increase freedom for individuals and freedom in the marketplace." Its headquarters are in Purcellville, Virginia, and the organization has state affiliates in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin (their newest) and plans to open more offices in 2011.[11]

American Majority is involved in organizing protest and the health care "Recess Rallies" occurring in August 2009 in House districts. They also participate in Tea Party rallies, such as an April 15, 2011 rally in Tampa at which "Ken Mayo of American Majority encouraged the crowd to get involved in local elections and stop in-party fighting before the 2012 Republican presidential primary."[12]

Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico.com credited the organization with providing "deep-pocketed backing" of groups involved in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race in 2011, and grouped them with the Tea Party Express.[13]

American Majority works with Michelle Malkin, RedState.com, American Liberty Alliance, Smart Girl Politics, Americans for Limited Government, FreedomWorks, the Sam Adams Alliance and other groups to organize opposition to health care reform. [11]

Funding

According to a 2010 article in AlterNet, and Ned Ryun himself, 75% of the funding for American Majority came from the Sam Adams Alliance a Tea Party group associated with dark money man Eric O'Keefe. In 2008, the year in which American Majority was founded, 88% of the alliance’s money came from a single donation of $3.7 million.[14] [1]

Bradley Foundation

According to CMD’s May, 2017 report, “Weaponized Philanthropy: Document Trove Details Bradley Foundation’s Efforts to Build Right-Wing “Infrastructure” Nationwide”[2], "The Bradley has given large grants to a little-known group called American Majority contributing $1.8 million between 2010-2016 (American Majority, Grant Proposal Record, 8/16/16), and $220,000 was recommended for Wisconsin for 2016." See the August 2016 grant proposal here.

Activism

The American Majority organization encourages followers to:

  • Run for local office
  • Be an activist
  • Support freedom
  • They say "use these phrases to spread the word onTwitter"[15]

Political Activities

American Majority Action, Inc. is listed as a "related tax-exempt organization" on the 2014 990.[16]

Political Training Programs

  • Candidate training, "If you are looking to move beyond protests and rallies"
  • Activist training, learn to organize and communicate
  • Patriot 2.0 Webinars, learn to use the web, for novices or experts
  • Campus Majority, learn to organize students[17]

In April 2011, the Wisconsin planned "seven 'Instant Activism' seminars... across the state," the first taking place in New Richmond, Wisconsin on April 9, 2011, attended by State Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) as well as local American Majority personnel and representatives of other local conservative activist groups.[18] American Majority's Matt Batzel explained, "We do the training in a non-partisan way.... We want to help organizations achieve their political goals. The training sessions have been very well received.”[19]

Brett Farley, executive director of the Oklahoma office, said with regard to the 2011 local Tulsa election, "We intend to play a role in the Tulsa election... I don't think there's going to be anything like this again in our lifetimes." The Oklahoma affiliate claims to have "trained more than 125 candidates last year, including state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Olney, and state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi."[20]

Shaping Online Content and Discussions

According to George Monbiot, in the film (Astro)Turf Wars, Taki Oldham secretly recorded a training session organized by American Majority. The trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to “manipulate the medium” of the Internet: “Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in “Liberal Books”. I go through and I say “one star, one star, one star”. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in “Movies on Healthcare”, I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. … If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”[14]

Core Financials

2015[21]

  • Total Revenue: $1,598,256
  • Total Expenses: $1,279,940
  • Net Assets: $582,307

2014[16]

  • Total Revenue: $945,581
  • Total Expenses: $1,154,170
  • Net Assets: $263,991

2013[22]

  • Total Revenue: $1,209,490
  • Total Expenses: $1,393,707
  • Net Assets: $459,070

2012[23]

  • Total Revenue: $5,221,383
  • Total Expenses: $5,366,064
  • Net Assets: $757,069

2011[23]

  • Total Revenue: $2,957,701
  • Total Expenses: $2,499,074
  • Net Assets: $902,033

Personnel

Board of Directors

As of American Majority's 2015 tax filing:[21]

  • Nate Ryun, CEO and Chairman
  • Peter Samuelson, Secretary and Treasurer
  • Matt Robbins
  • Paul Bonicelli
  • Merrick Carey

Staff

Per American Majority's website:[11]

  • Ned Ryun, Founder and CEO
  • Matt Batzel, National Executive Director
  • Kelly Amorin, Chief Financial Officer
  • Lonny Leitner, Chief of Staff
  • Mike Morrison, Director of Communications
  • Nick McIntyre, Colorado Executive Director
  • Nate Nelson, American Majority Wisconsin Executive Director
  • Angela Kelley, Director of Operations
  • Scott Ellis, American Majority Wisconsin Campus Director
  • Lauren Farrell, Office Coordinator
  • Micah Pearce, American Majority Wisconsin Youth Director

Contact details

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 26-1501154

American Majority Inc.
P.O. Box 87 Purcellville, VA 20134
Phone: (540) 338-1251
Fax: (540) 338-2326
Email: Team@AmericanMajority.org
Website: http://americanmajority.org

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Alex Pappas, American Majority Wants to Infuse New Tea Party Blood in System, The Daily Caller, December 21, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mary Bottari, Weaponized Philanthropy: Document Trove Details Bradley Foundation’s Efforts to Build Right-Wing “Infrastructure” Nationwide, Exposed by CMD, May 5, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kenneth P. Vogel ,Right seeks edge in opposition wars, Politico, April 3, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Andy Kroll, Media Trackers, the Right's New Oppo-Research Attack Dog, Mother Jones, May 21, 2012
  5. Conservative group says signers of petitions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are at risk, PolitiFact, November 17, 2011.
  6. Daniel Bice, Charges against Judicial Commission fall apart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 24, 2012.
  7. Media Trackers Colorado, MEDIA TRACKERS: CO SENATE DEMS SHILLING FOR OBAMACARE WITH UNION BILL, organizational press release, May 9, 2012.
  8. Media Trackers Montana, Media Trackers: Taxpayers take $3 Million Loss in Sale of Story Mansion to Org Led by Former City Planner Epple, organizational press release, May 9, 2012.
  9. Media Trackers Florida, About, organizational website, March 16, 2012.
  10. Media Trackers Ohio, About, organizational website, March 16, 2012, accessed May 2012.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 American Majority, About, organizational website accessed April 29, 2011.
  12. Robbyn Mitchell, Spending rules the day as Rubio rallies tea party crowd in Tampa, St. Petersburg Times, April 16, 2011.
  13. Kenneth P. Vogel Big money, union fight shape Wisconsin court race, Politico, April 4, 2011.
  14. 14.0 14.1 George Monbiot, Are Right-Wing Libertarian Internet Trolls Getting Paid to Dumb Down Online Conversations? AlterNet, Dec. 15, 2010.
  15. Now What?, AfterTheTeaParty.com, accessed November 2010.
  16. 16.0 16.1 American Majority, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, March 21, 2016.
  17. American Majority, Political training, organizational website, accessed November 2010.
  18. Jeff Holmquist Activists seek help with promoting their causes, New Richmond News, April 14, 2011, Google cached copy accessed April 29, 2011.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Wayne Greene Potential candidates for council emerging, Tulsa World, April 24, 2011.
  21. 21.0 21.1 American Majority, [Paper copy on File at CMD 2015 IRS Form 990], Internal Revenue Service, January 12, 2017.
  22. American Majority, 2013 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 4, 2015.
  23. 23.0 23.1 American Majority, 2012 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 3, 2014.

External resources

External articles