The American Federation for Children
Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.
The American Federation for Children (AFC) is a conservative 501(c)(4) dark money group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues. It is the 501(c)(4) arm of the 501(c)(3) non-profit group the Alliance for School Choice. The group was organized and is funded by the billionaire DeVos family, who are the heirs to the Amway fortune. Former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who was charged with multiple crimes stemming from abuse of his office, is on staff at AFC as Senior Advisor to its Government Affairs Team.
AFC was founded in 1998 in Milwaukee as the American Education Reform Foundation. It was renamed Advocates for School Choice, Inc. in 2004 and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. It later moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C., and its name was changed to AFC in 2009.  American Federation for Children also evolved from the PAC "All Children Matter," another DeVos enterprise which faded from prominence after being fined for violating campaign finance laws in both Ohio and Wisconsin.
In the organization's own words, AFC is "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs."
- 1 News and Controversies
- 2 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 3 2014 Campaign Spending in Wisconsin
- 4 John Doe II Investigation
- 5 Core Finances
- 6 Personnel
- 7 Contact Information
- 8 Articles and Resources
News and Controversies
Distributed Content Meant to Appear as Neutral News to Local TV Stations
As reported by The Intercept in 2021, AFC has worked through a project known as "Ed Newsfeed" since 2018, which produces and distributes content in favor of education privatization to local news stations. TV stations "often air the segments just as they receive them, allowing anchors to recite accompanying scripts word for word. The aired content includes no disclosure that it was produced by the education advocacy group."
Stories that have appeared in these segments include content and/or officials from [[[Connections Academy]] and [K12 Inc.]], organizations with financial ties to AFC that also support charter schools and education privatization efforts.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
AFC was a "Trustee" level sponsor of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 2011 Annual Conference, which in 2010 equated to $5,000. It also sponsored ALEC's 2013 40th Anniversary annual meeting, again at the "Trustee" level. AFC is also a member of ALEC's Education Task Force. Scott Jensen represented the organization on the task force as of July 2011 (ALEC also lists him as representing the 501(c)(3) wing of the group, Alliance for School Choice). AFC sponsored the "Education Savings Account Act" at ALEC's April 2011 meeting in Cincinnati. It was approved by the Education Task Force and, after sign-off by the ALEC Board of Directors, became an ALEC bill.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.
An ALEC Ally in Wisconsin
AFC is an ALEC member and is represented by former Rep. Scott Jensen on the ALEC Education Task Force. Jensen has proposed bills to ALEC on behalf of AFC/ASC that were adopted as “model” legislation. For example, in March 2011, Jensen presented to the ALEC Education Task Force the “Education Savings Account Act,” which creates financial incentives for families to take their children out of the public school system and put them in for-profit primary and secondary schools.
AFC was a "Trustee" level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference – which, according to data from 2010, equated to a $5,000 payment to ALEC.
Model Legislation and Lobbying
AFC works alongside the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to draft and support model legislation promoting "school choice" and tax reform for schools. Regarding education, both ALEC and AFC want to expand funding for charter schools while defunding public schools. You can see the model legislation HERE.
2014 Campaign Spending in Wisconsin
The 2014 Election Impact Report released by AFC denotes Wisconsin as a "major victory," citing victory for AFC-backed candidates in 18 out of 20 races and praising Governor Walker for his "unapologetic leadership for school choice." Furthermore, the group boasts of the $850,000 spent by its independent expenditure committee on behalf of candidates backing school privatization. Notable candidates backed by AFC included Rep. Dave Heaton who unseated school choice critic Mandy Wright, Rep. Todd Novak, Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, Sen. Howard Marklein, Gov. Scott Walker, and Rep. Leon Young who is a Democrat.
John Doe II Investigation
The AFC is part of the web of dark money which flowed into the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin recall elections. AFC received substantial sums both directly and indirectly in 2011 and 2012 from the Wisconsin Club for Growth, whose director Eric O'Keefe received a subpoena in the second John Doe case investigating potential campaign finance violations. In 2011, Wisconsin Club for Growth gave $425,000 to the "Jobs First Coalition," a right-wing spending group with ties to AFC senior advisor Scott Jensen, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Jobs First Coalition then gave $245,000 of this to AFC. The Jobs First Coalition was also an active player in the 2011 recall elections, where it spent $100,000 and sponsored numerous mailings to attack Democratic candidates in contested districts. In 2012, WI Club for Growth gave $250,000 directly to AFC.
2012 Campaign Spending in Wisconsin
AFC reported $345,000 worth of spending to the elections board in Wisconsin for 2012. This directly contradicts the impact brochure released after the elections which boasts spending of almost $2.4 million for the state in 2012, nearly one third of its total national spending of $7.2 million. The difference is likely due to the "issue advocacy" loophole, which requires only limited disclosure for ads that don't explicitly urge viewers to vote for or against a candidate. The clear exploitation of the loophole by AFC sparked controversy and complaints, but was ultimately upheld by Wisconsin's Elections Board.
The impact brochure states that $1.6 million was spent solely on the recall elections. These funds were spent primarily on behalf of Governor Walker but also for additional recall campaigns, notably to defend Sen. Wanggaard who is a member of ALEC.
In the primaries before the 2012 fall election, AFC spent more than $113,000 supporting five Milwaukee Democrats running for State Assembly and Senate who supported expanding school privatization. None of the five AFC-backed candidates won their primary, due in part to their unpopular stances on education.
During the fall election AFC spent $535,000 on 3 Senate and 6 Assembly candidates, according to their impact brochure. $325,000 of this was spent solely in favor of Rick Gudex, a staunchly pro-voucher Republican candidate locked in a competitive Senate race against an anti-voucher Democrat. Only $145,000 of this sum was reported as independent expenditures to Wisconsin's Elections Board.
2011 Wisconsin Recall Election Spending
The AFC invested heavily in the 2011 Wisconsin recall elections to maintain Scott Walker's GOP Senate Majority. In March 2011 the AFC sanctioned automated telephone calls to the districts of eight republican state senators whose recall petitions were being distributed. Some of these recorded calls did not discuss education reform at all, instead arguing that the recall process was inappropriate. One such example was a recorded call sent to voters in Wisconsin's 10th Senate District, which stated that the recall process should take place only in "extreme situations, where an elected official has committed a crime, or engaged in unethical or immoral conduct." The recorded call then urges voters to "let the special interests know it's wrong to recall an elected official just because you disagree with them."
After the petitions against six of these eight senators succeeded, AFC spent $500,000 to defend several of them including Sen. Luther Olsen, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, and Sen. Alberta Darling. Of this sum, nearly half ($230,000) was spent in favor of Sen. Darling, who as the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee was a primary architect of the massive $800 million cuts to Wisconsin's public schools and increases in funding of private voucher programs. Darling tried to hide her correspondence with AFC by denying an open records request by liberal group One Wisconsin Now, who brought the issue to court and prevailed.
- Total Revenue: $5,809,956
- Total Expenses: $7,464,192
- Net Assets: $926,586
- Total Revenue: $6,114,353
- Total Expenses: $6,105,796
- Net Assets: $2,580,811
- Total Revenue: $3,664,953
- Total Expenses: $6,247,366
- Net Assets: $2,572,254
- Total Revenue: $6,126,381
- Total Expenses: $4,817,968
- Net Assets: $5,154,667
- Total Revenue: $7,707,017
- Total Expenses: $5,955,309
- Net Assets: $3,846,254
- Total Revenue: $6,836,681
- Total Expenses: $6,341,822
- Net Assets: $2,094,546
- Total Revenue: $3,638,804
- Total Expenses: $3,843,846
- Net Assets: $1,599,687
Betsy and Dick DeVos
Betsy DeVos was the chairman of AFC's board of directors as of July 2016. She is the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and older sister to [Erik Prince]], the founder of the notorious mercenary company Blackwater USA. Betsy's husband Dick DeVos is the former president of Amway (a direct sales company) and its parent company Alticor. He ran for governor in 2006, but was defeated. In addition to their organization of the AFC, the DeVos family is a major player in the conservative donor class, heavily funding conservative think tanks, Republican candidates, right-wing evangelical organizations, and school-privatization advocacy groups.
Former State Representative Scott Jensen was convicted of three felonies for misuse of his office for political purposes and banned from the state Capitol for five years (though the charges were later reversed and dropped as part of a plea agreement). Jensen has remained involved in state politics by advising and lobbying on behalf of the pro-business Jobs First Coalition and the AFC. Jensen is one of AFC’s registered lobbyists in Wisconsin.
Board of Directors
As of June 2016:
- Betsy DeVos, Chairman
- John F. Kirtley, Vice Chairman
- H. Lee Barfield, II
- Campbell Brown
- Kevin P. Chavous
- Kathy Hubbard
- Joseph Lieberman
- William B. Oberndorf, Chairman Emeritus
Staff and Advisors
As of June 2016:
- Greg Brock, Executive Director
- John Schilling, Chief Operating Officer
- Jonathan Nikkila, Government Affairs Director
- Michael Benjamin, National Director of Grassroots Advocacy & Outreach
- Sean Bradley, National Outreach Advisor
- Scott Jensen, Senior Advisor
- Zack Dawes, National Director of Development
- Elisa Clements, Managing Director of Development
- Jana Gregg, Summit Manager
- Lindsey Rust, National Director of Implementation
- Whitney Marcavage, National Policy Director
- Matthew Frendewey, National Communications Director
- Jennifer Miller, Chief Financial Officer
1660 L Street, NW Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 280-1990
Fax: (202) 280-1989
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- Alliance for School Choice
- Betsy DeVos
- Blackwater USA
- Campbell Brown
- Connections Academy
- Dick DeVos
- John Schilling
- K12 Inc.
- Scott Jensen
- The Intercept
Related PRWatch Articles
- Lisa Graves, ALECexposed: List of Corporations and Special Interests that Underwrote ALEC's 40th Anniversary Meeting, PRWatch, August 15, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, Former Indiana Superintendent, Lauded by ALEC and Education Privatizers, Cheats on School Grading Formula for Top Donor, PRWatch, July 30, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, Cashing in on Kids: 139 ALEC Bills in 2013 Promote a Private, For-Profit Education Model, PRWatch, July 16, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, War on Democracy in Wisconsin: Bill Would Enact Voter ID, End Disclosure, Limit Early Voting, Expand Lobbyist Influence, PRWatch, May 29, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, Scott Walker, GOP Slip ALEC Education Agenda Into Wisconsin Budget, PRWatch, May 23, 2013.
- Brendan Fischer, "Issue Ad" Charade by American Federation for Children Uncovered in Wisconsin, PRWatch, May 8, 2013.
- Harriet Rowan, Conservative School Choice Group Spends Big Supporting Pro-School Choice Democrats, PRWatch, August 10, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Front Groups Dive Into Wisconsin Recall Elections, PRWatch, August 4, 2011.
- Anne Landman, Wealthy Families, Corporate-Backed Foundations Behind Push for School Vouchers, PRWatch, May 27, 2011.
- Dustin Beilke, Wisconsin Education Reform Only ALEC Could Love, PRWatch, March 1, 2012.
- Jennifer Page, Walker Promotes Education Privatization in D.C. Amid Protests, PRWatch, May 11, 2011.
- John Nichols, Right-Wing Billionaires Invest in Wisconsin's Recall Elections to Save School Privatization Agenda, The Nation, August 8, 2011
- ↑ Lisa Graves, Taxpayer-Enriched Companies Back Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education, its Buddy ALEC, and Their "Reforms", PRWatch, November 28, 2012.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 John Nichols, " Right-Wing Billionaires Invest in Wisconsin’s Recall Elections," The Nation, August 8, 2011.
- ↑ Alliance for School Choice, Leadership, organizational website, accessed September 2013.
- ↑ ALEC Exposed in Wisconsin: The Hijacking of a State, ALEC Exposed, May 2012
- ↑ "School choice expanding as record fine languishes," The Associated Press, March 28, 2011.
- ↑ American Federation for Children, Mission, organizational website, accessed September 2013.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Rachel M. Cohen, "School Privatization Lobby Places Fake News on Local Stations", Intercept, June 16, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021.
- ↑ [American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011 Conference Sponsors, conference brochure on file with CMD, August 11, 2011]
- ↑ Lisa Graves, ALECexposed: List of Corporations and Special Interests that Underwrote ALEC's 40th Anniversary Meeting, PRWatch, August 15, 2013.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, Education As of 7/1/2011, organizational task force membership roster, July 1, 2011, obtained and released by Common Cause, April 2012.
- ↑ Bill Lueders, "American Federation for Children played major role in Wisconsin's 2014 elections by exploiting other issues," Isthmus, December 3, 2014.
- ↑ "Hijacking Campaign 2014 | American Federation for Children Action Fund IE Committee Inc," Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, November 3, 2014.
- ↑ "Wisconsin Political Speech Raid," Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2013.
- ↑ "[www.linkedin.com/in/scott-jensen-17855a6 Scott Jensen LinkedIn Profile]," LinkedIn, accessed July 15, 2016.
- ↑ Brendan Fischer, "WI Club for Growth, Target of Walker Recall Probe, at Center of Dark Money Web," Center for Media and Democracy, November 18, 2013.
- ↑ "[http://www.wisdc.org/jobsfirst2011.php Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011|Jobs First Coalition]," Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, January 16,2014.
- ↑ Wisconsin Club for Growth, "2012 Form 990," organizational IRS filing, accessed July 5, 2016.
- ↑ Brendan Fischer, ""Issue Ad" Charade by American Federation for Children Uncovered in Wisconsin," Center for Media and Democracy, May 8, 2013.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 Bill Lueders, "American Federation for Children's campaign donations grease skids for school vouchers in Wisconsin," Isthmus, May 22, 2013.
- ↑ Larry Miller, "PRIMARY RESULTS ARE A MAJOR WIN FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION," School Matters MKE, August 15, 2012.
- ↑ "Hijacking Campaign 2012 | American Federation for Children," Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, January 17, 2014.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 "Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011 | American Federation for Children Action Fund Inc," Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, January 13, 2014.
- ↑ "Hijacking Special Elections and Recall 2011 | American Federation for Children," Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, January 16, 2014.
- ↑ Tome Tolan, "Sen. Darling settles records dispute with Democratic-leaning group," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, accessed June 27, 2016.
- ↑ John Nichols, " Right-Wing Billionaires Invest in Wisconsin’s Recall Elections," The Nation, August 8, 2011.
- ↑ "One Wisconsin Now Prevails in Open Records Lawsuit Against Alberta Darling," One Wisconsin Now, October 27, 2011.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 American Federation for Children [on file with CMD, Form 990], organization annual IRS filing, November 11, 2017.
- ↑ American Federation for Children Form 990, organization annual IRS filing, November 12, 2015.
- ↑ American Federation for Children Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 14, 2014
- ↑ American Federation for Children Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, September 13, 2013.
- ↑ American Federation for Children Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 2, 2012.
- ↑ American Federation for Children Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, August 15, 2011.
- ↑ 33.0 33.1 33.2 "Leadership," American Federation for Children, accessed June 2016.
- ↑ Rick Docksai, "School Choice, But Much More: Making Sense of DeVos Family Philanthropy," Inside Philathropy, March 1, 2016.
- ↑ "Dick DeVos Biography," Dick DeVos's personal website, accessed July 2016.
- ↑ Andy Kroll "Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan's Plan to Defund the Left," Mother Jones, accessed July 2016.
- ↑ Mike Johnson, Jason Stein "Jensen settles misconduct case; felonies dropped; He is likely barred from running for office, must pay fine, court costs," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 20, 2010
- ↑ "Eye on Lobbying | Wisconsin Ethics Commission," Wisconsin Ethics Commission, accessed July 6, 2016.
This is a list of groups or individuals associated in some capacity with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).