Americans for Prosperity in the 2012 Election

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

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). On May 30th, 2012, Politico reported that Americans For Prosperity, along with other conservative interest groups such as Crossroads GPS and the US Chamber of Commerce had pledged to spend at least a billion dollars influencing the 2012 election. [1] Americans for Prosperity disclosed just under $40 million in outside spending during the 2012 election [2] however, their total is likely much higher, as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity does not have to report certain forms of spending. On August 13th, Mother Jones reported that Americans for Prosperity spent an estimated $45 million on ads to influence the 2012 presidential election, exceeding their disclosed spending total for the 2012 year. [3]. They have also spent heavily to influence 2012 senate races, though the amount they have spent is more difficult to estimate. The Center for Media and Democracy estimates that Americans for Prosperity spent at least $66 million in 2011 and 2012 to influence the 2012 election. According to a November 2013 report by the Center for Public Integrity, Americans for Prosperity "spent a staggering $122 million last year as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats," including $83 million on "communications, ads, and media."[4]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Influencing the 2012 Presidential Election

Antistimulus Advertising

On April 27th, 2012, Americans for Prosperity began airing ads in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia attacking Obama's 2009 stimulus. [5]

"Wasteful Spending"

The ad attacks Obama for creating a stimulus plan that ostensibly sent money and jobs overseas instead of helping Americans. The ad specifically mentions solar plants in Mexico, Electric cars in Finland, and traffic lights in China. All three assertions are misleading: The solar company recieved stimulus money in the form of a loan, which will be paid back. The plant they created in Mexico was for a completely unrelated project [6] The electric cars were created in Finland, but were created from parts manufactured in the United States, [7] The streetlights were simply manufactured with foreign made components, some of which were made in China. [8]

AFP's 27 Million Dollar ad buy

In their largest ad buy to date, Americans for Prosperity dumped $27 million dollars attacking President Obama in most key 2012 swing states, including Minnesota, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The ads began airing on August 8th, and vary in tone and content, but all three directly advocate for the election of a candidate other than Barack Obama. This form of expenditure is unusual for Americans for Prosperity, as they usually prefer to manufacture "issue" ads attacking candidates (see below for examples). [9]

"A One Term Proposition"

A One Term Proposition: This ad uses creative editing to make it appear as though Obama promised to decrease the national debt by the end of his first term "or it will be a one term proposition. The ad uses two separate videos of Obama, one from a speech discussing the deficit, the other from an interview on the Troubled Asset Relief Program. [10]. The ad also confuses "the deficit" and "the debt."

"Has President Obama Earned Your Vote"

Has President Obama Earned Your Vote?: This ad features dissatisfied Obama voters explaining why they will not vote for Obama in 2012. Americans for Prosperity insists that all the people in the ad are real voters, not actors. [11] The ad does not directly attack Obama, though it blames him for layoffs and foreclosures. One speaker even volunteers that she thinks Obama is "a great person". The ad closes with the question "Has President Obama Earned Your Vote?" and concludes "It's time for a change."

Presidential Ad Buy Summary

2012 Senate Ads

Attack Ads Against Tammy Baldwin

"Wisconsin moving forward"

Americans for Prosperity spent more money attacking Tammy Baldwin than any other U.S. Senate Candidate. Baldwin was the Democratic nominee to fill Herb Kohl's senate seat in Wisconsin. The Center for Media and Democracy estimates that they spent at least $2.3 million on anti-Baldwin attack ads in 2012.

Their attack ads began On June 18th, the first subtly invoked Scott Walker's recent victory in the 2012 recall election, "After a year of struggle" the ad says, "Wisconsin has a message for Washington Politicians: Stop the wasteful spending that's bankrupting our future." The ad goes on to attack Baldwin for supporting Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's agenda "93% of the time." Again apparently referencing Walker's victory (and hearkening back to Ronald Reagan's classic "Morning in America" ads), the ad says, "Its a new day in Wisconsin and Wisconsin is moving forward. Tell Tammy Baldwin, hard-working taxpayers can't afford more wasteful spending." The ad cost about $400,000 to produce and air in Wisconsin. [12]

"Stop the Wasteful Spending"

On August 16th of 2012, AFP aired a similar ad attacking Baldwin, though this one featured disgruntled Wisconsin voters instead of a narrator. The ad closes by instructing viewers to "Call Tammy Baldwin and tell her to stop wasteful spending." The cost of this ad buy is currently unreported.

Wisconsin Senate Ad Buy Summary

Attack Ads Against Other Senate Candidates

Americans for Prosperity also targeted Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Shelly Berkley in Nevada, and Tim Kaine in Virginia. In each case, the ads targeted a Democratic candidate for US Senate for perceived excesses in Government spending.

Indiana Ad Buy Summary

Nevada Ad Buy Summary

Virginia Ad Buy Summary


  1. Mike Alan and Jim Vandehei: GOP Groups Plan Record $1 Billion blitz Politico, May 30th, 2012.
  2. Opensecrets: Outside Spending Report for Americans for Prosperity, Accessed December 13th, 2012
  3. Andy Kroll: Americans for Prosperity Chief: We don't Know if $27 million in Anti-Obama Ads has had any Effect Mother Jones, September 3rd, 2012
  4. Michael Beckel, "Koch-backed nonprofit spent record cash in 2012," Center for Public Integrity, November 14, 2013.
  5. Americans For Prosperity:AFP Ad Scrutinizes Wasteful Use of Taxpayer Dollars, April 26th, 2012.
  6. Politifact: Ad says Stimulus tax credits funded a solar company in mexico, Accessed August 17th, 2012.
  7. Politifact: Americans for Prosperity Ad says Stimulus Tax Credits funded jobs in Finland, Accessed August 17th, 2012.
  8. Politifact: Ad says Stimulus Tax Credits Funded Streetlights in China, Accessed August 18th, 2012.
  9. Aamer Madhani: Americans for Prosperity to Announce a New 27 Million Ad Buy against Obama USA Today, August 7th, 2012.
  10. Politifact: Did Obama say of the national debt, “If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition”?, accessed August 18th, 2012.
  11. Aamer Madhani: AFP Won't Reveal Much About Former Obama Supporters, USA Today, August 14th, 2012.
  12. Harriet Rowan: Koch-Funded AFP Launches Attack Ad against Tammy Baldwin, PRWatch, June 26th, 2012.