American Family Business Institute

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American Family Business Institute (AFBI) was founded in 1992 and funded some of the earliest efforts to repeal the estate tax.


AFBI was founded by anti-estate tax crusader and Alabama tax attorney Harold Apolinksy, who now serves as its general counsel. It is headed by Executive Director Dick Patten, a Washington state businessman, and its “Funding Chairman” is investment banker Raymond Harbert. [Google cache] Raymond Harbert is the son of Marguerite Harbert, who inherited about $870 million from her husband John in 1995 [1] and is now worth about $1.5 billion, and manages the family fortune. [2] John Harbert contributed seed money for AFBI just before his death. [Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts, ISBN 0691122938, Princeton University Press, 2005, p. 15]


AFBI claims a membership of business owners who own a total of 507 businesses that take in $43 billion in annual revenue, but it discloses no other membership information. [Google cache]


AFBI funded some of the Heritage Foundation’s early anti-estate tax work in the mid-1990’s that is credited with kick-starting this incarnation of the movement. AFBI “apparently raised $100,000” in seed money for the Heritage Foundation’s anti-estate tax work in 1995 and “ultimately contributed much of the $250,000” that Heritage spent on the estate tax through 1999. [Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts, ISBN 0691122938 Princeton University Press, 2005, p. 242] From 2000 through 2004 it has consistently registered to lobby exclusively on the estate tax, spending $880,000 over that time period. [3]

AFBI ran TV and radio ads attacking then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) for his opposition to a repeal when he was up for reelection in 2004. [4]

In June and July of 2005, the AFBI and Free Enterprise Fund began running TV and radio ads pressuring senators to vote against the estate tax in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington state. The groups claimed to have spent $15 million on the ads, some of which featured a World War II veteran and claimed that the “IRS hits this ‘Greatest Generation’ with an unjust double tax, the death tax.” [Mark Wegner, “Groups Intensify Grassroots Pressure for Estate Tax Repeal,” Congress Daily, July 25, 2002] However, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s project reviewed the ads and concluded that they “greatly overstate the burden that the federal estate tax puts on heirs to a family farm or business” and “present a misleading picture of who is actually affected by the tax.” [5] The groups also claimed to have mobilized volunteers in 31 cities and nine states to pressure senators in the summer of 2005. [Mark Wegner, “Groups Intensify Grassroots Pressure for Estate Tax Repeal,” Congress Daily, July 25, 2002]

In July 2005 AFBI conducted and released a study that it claimed refuted the Republican-controlled Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation’s estimate for the cost of repealing the estate tax. [6]


Contact details

American Family Business Institute
1920 L Street, NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 969-2444
Fax: (202) 969-2445 fax

External links