Non-profit

American Family Voices

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-2257357

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $251,924
Expenses: $158,048
Assets: $136,128

Type:

Political Advocacy Group

American Family Voices (AFV) is a left-of-center political organization founded by longtime activist and consultant Mike Lux. Founded during the 2000 presidential election between then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and incumbent Vice President Al Gore, Lux created this lobbying organization to support Gore’s campaign. Lux, having worked in Democratic politics in some capacity since 1988 was well positioned to create a political arm to make expenditures during the 2000 campaign. [1]

In 2000, American Family Voices aired attack advertisements against then-Governor Bush. [2] This was in large part thanks to the seed money raised from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) government worker union. [3]  After the election, the group returned to the spotlight in 2002, attacking President Bush for his role with Harken Energy and Vice President Dick Cheney for his ties to Halliburton amid the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. [4] AFV also ran advertisements against the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2006. [5]

Background

American Family Voices was founded in 2000 as a left-of-center advocacy group supporting Democratic political campaigns. It was founded by Mike Lux, at the time a longtime staffer for President Bill Clinton and Democratic operative. According to the New York Times, Lux received $800,000 from the AFSCME government worker union to begin his organization; Lux stated that he raised an additional $700,000 in addition to the AFSCME funds. [6]

The group was created in July 2000, just a few months after Congress required political action committees and other similar “527” political organizations to disclose their donors. Rather than filing as a Political Action Committee, Lux organized American Family Voices as a tax-exempt “social welfare” organization. AFV was able to keep its donors closed from public view in exchange for the ability to spend in great amounts.

It chose to spend its money on 30-second advertisements against then-Governor Bush. In describing the advertisement, the New York Times writes, “[t]he slickly produced advertisement does not urge viewers to vote against Mr. Bush or for Vice President Al Gore, but asks them to call Mr. Bush’s office or visit the sponsoring group’s Web site.” The New York Times described AFV as a political subsidiary of the AFSCME union and as a new way for organized labor to influence elections without directly involving themselves. [7]

Attack Advertisements

2000 Attacks on George W. Bush

In 2000, American Family Voices was the third largest spender in support of the Gore campaign. AFV spent $640,000 on advertisements during the election cycle, behind only the AFL-CIO and Gore: Handgun Control. [8] AFV ran advertisements against then-Governor Bush, excoriating him for receiving funding from the insurance and prescription drug industries which allegedly influenced his policies. The New York Times explained that while the AFV claims were not necessarily false, they were exaggerated and oversimplified to perpetuate a narrative. [9]

Attacks on the George W. Bush Administration

In 2002 and 2003, American Family Voices launched attacks aimed at highlighting President Bush’s connection to Enron, an energy company that contributed to Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns but had, at the time, recently collapsed. [10]

In 2003, AFV began running advertisements that highlighted Vice President Dick Cheney’s connection to Halliburton Energy, a contractor the government had paid to fix much of the energy infrastructure destroyed in Iraq. Mike Allen of the Washington Post stated that American Family Voices had spent more than $300,000 to run advertisements, and that the group found this action beneficial for raising funds. [11] Brian Faler of the Washington Post wrote, “The ads will run for at least a week in the District [of Columbia] and five swing states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The campaign comes at a time when the administration needs to do some persuading. Six in 10 Americans oppose the president’s request, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.” [12]

“Assault on Babies”

In 2011, AFV paid for partisan advertisements and framed Republican efforts to scale back regulations on business from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an “attack on babies.” Lux, per a Washington Post report, said, “‘If we don’t curb those pollutants, they’ll end up in our air, water and food and eventually in our children.’” The advertisement, intended to pull at the heartstrings of those living in the District of Columbia – the advertisement was only aired in D.C. – ran for just a short while. [13]

Recent Activity

AFV has slowed in its visibility and political action as founder Mike Lux has become more involved with other projects. Headed by executive director Lauren Windsor – the only reported paid employee in the organization – AFV has returned to organizing left-progressive action and funding obscure progressive campaigns. [14] It is still not required to release its donor list, and a review of the organization’s 2016 tax returns shows little indication of where the listed $158,048 of expenses went. What the reports do show is a connection to Mike Lux’s media company, Mike Lux Media LLC. AFV appears to contract media work to Mike Lux Media LLC. for $29,235. Lux also has an outstanding loan to American Family Voices worth $25,000. [15]

People

Mike Lux is the founder and president of American Family Voices.

AFV treasurer and secretary Amy Pritchard, another seasoned political operative, has long worked in Democratic politics. She has extensive campaign and organizing experience, starting in 1988 with the presidential campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA). She has worked in consulting since 1996, serving on the board for several notable organizations. She ran a consulting firm with ties to organizations like the AFL-CIO and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). She also sits on the board of AmeriPac – Representative Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) political action committee – as treasurer. [16]

Lauren Windsor is the executive director for American Family Voices, and as the communications director for Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign. She runs her own left-of-center blog, Lady Libertine, and she is a frequent contributor to a number of left-of-center publications. She describes herself as a “Progressive pugilist swamp-slayer.” [17]

AFV board member Caren Benjamin is a communications and public relations specialist. She currently serves on the board of AFV and as an assistant treasurer, but she has also worked on the communications team for U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and with West End Strategies to help craft left-of-center media. [18]

Joel Silberman is a director on the board for American Family Values. He is a liberal blogger, screenwriter, and contributor to HuffPost. [19]

Victoria Duffy-Hopper is a former actress and wife to actor Dennis Hopper. She is a board member for American Family Voices.

Leo Hindery is a board member for AFV. He is a wealthy philanthropist and contributor to HuffPost. He made most of his fortune in television and cable. [20]

Funding

According to AFV’s 2016 form 990, it had a revenue of $93,299, spent $218,500, and had $-14,073 in net assets. [21]

References

  1. “Mike Lux.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individuals/mike-lux. ^
  2. Broder, John M. “The 2000 Campaign: The AD Campaign; A Union-Created Group Attacks Bush on Health Care Issues.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times, August 11, 2000. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/11/us/2000-campaign-ad-campaign-union-created-group-attacks-bush-health-care-issues.html?searchResultPosition=3. ^
  3. Broder, John M. “The 2000 Campaign: The AD Campaign; A Union-Created Group Attacks Bush on Health Care Issues.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times, August 11, 2000. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/11/us/2000-campaign-ad-campaign-union-created-group-attacks-bush-health-care-issues.html?searchResultPosition=3. ^
  4. Altman, Daniel. “Secretive Group Re-Emerges With Advertising Hostile to Bush.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times, July 10, 2002. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/10/business/corporate-conduct-politics-secretive-group-re-emerges-with-advertising-hostile.html?auth=login-email&login=email. ^
  5. “American Family Voices.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/american-family-voices-afv/. ^
  6. Broder, John M. “Finding Another Loophole, a New Secretive Group Springs Up.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times, August 11, 2000. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/11/us/2000-campaign-labor-effort-finding-another-loophole-new-secretive-group-springs.html?searchResultPosition=1. ^
  7. Broder, John M. “The 2000 Campaign: The AD Campaign; A Union-Created Group Attacks Bush on Health Care Issues.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times, August 11, 2000. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/11/us/2000-campaign-ad-campaign-union-created-group-attacks-bush-health-care-issues.html?searchResultPosition=3. ^
  8. “American Family Voices.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/american-family-voices-afv/. ^
  9. Broder, John M. “The 2000 Campaign: The AD Campaign; A Union-Created Group Attacks Bush on Health Care Issues.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times, August 11, 2000. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/11/us/2000-campaign-ad-campaign-union-created-group-attacks-bush-health-care-issues.html?searchResultPosition=3. ^
  10. “American Family Voices.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/american-family-voices-afv/. ^
  11. Allen, Mike. “Cheney’s Ties to Halliburton.” The Washington Post. WP Company, September 26, 2003. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2003/09/26/cheneys-ties-to-halliburton/be76c502-1298-4f82-b716-04e12210d243/. ^
  12. Faler, Brian. “Letterman Jibe Takes on Life as Political Ad.” The Washington Post. WP Company, September 19, 2003. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2003/09/19/letterman-jibe-takes-on-life-as-political-ad/827602f4-ea46-466d-84cd-e78df05109a1/. ^
  13. Sargent, Greg. “New Ad Portrays GOP Attack on EPA as Assault on Babies.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 25, 2011. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/new-ad-portrays-gop-attack-on-epa-as-assault-on-babies/2011/03/03/AFv8RiXB_blog.html. ^
  14. “American Family Voices.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/american-family-voices-afv/. ^
  15. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). American Family Voices. 2016. Schedule L, Part II, IV. ^
  16. “Amy Pritchard.” Discover the Networks. David Horowitz Freedom Center. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individuals/amy-pritchard/. ^
  17. Windsor, Lauren. Lady Libertine. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.ladylibertine.net/. ^
  18. “Caren Benjamin.” Polaris, January 19, 2018. https://polarisproject.org/profile/caren-benjamin. ^
  19. “Joel Silberman.” HuffPost. HuffPost News. Accessed October 9, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/author/joel-silberman2. ^
  20. “Leo Hindery, Jr.” HuffPost. HuffPost News. Accessed October 8, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/author/leo-hindery-jr. ^
  21. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). American Family Voices. 2016. Part I, lines 12, 18, 22. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Mike Lux
    Founder, Board Chair
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $251,924 $158,048 $136,128 $25,000 Y $249,683 $2,241 $0 $41,100
    2015 Dec Form 990 $279,490 $277,495 $42,252 $25,000 Y $271,917 $7,573 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $286,329 $259,028 $40,257 $25,000 N $286,329 $0 $0 $0
    2013 Dec Form 990EZ $141,594 $158,576 $12,956 $25,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2012 Dec Form 990EZ $142 $57,052 $4,938 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,786,727 $1,825,123 $61,848 $0 N $1,786,487 $0 $240 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    American Family Voices

    1250 I ST NW
    WASHINGTON, DC 20005-3922