Non-profit

Americans for Prosperity

Website:

americansforprosperity.org

Location:

ARLINGTON, VA

Tax ID:

75-3148958

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $57,578,959
Expenses: $51,688,505
Assets: $15,506,343

Type:

Center-Right Advocacy Group

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a libertarian advocacy nonprofit associated with billionaire businessman and philanthropist Charles Koch and his late brother David. The organization was formed in 2004 after Citizens for a Sound Economy split into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. AFP engages in direct grassroots lobbying events as well as educational programs, policy research, and activist training. [1] The organization is affiliated with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, its 501(c)(3) educational and research arm.

The organization is one of the largest funders of center-right political campaigns and causes, reporting over $31 million in outside spending for federal races during the 2020 election cycle. [2] AFP has state chapter in 35 states that mobilize right-leaning grassroots activists and fund independent expenditures for some Republican state-level candidates. [3]

The board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation was chaired by David Koch prior to his death and is now chaired by Mark Holden, general counsel and senior vice president of Koch Industries, a privately held industrial conglomerate owned by the Koch family. The organization is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, near the offices of other Koch-backed organizations including the Charles Koch Institute and Stand Together. The foundation promotes right-leaning and libertarian positions on issues including global warming, criminal justice, taxes, and government spending. [4]

Background

The predecessor to Americans for Prosperity and the AFP Foundation was founded in 1984 as the Foundation for a Sound Economy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. In 1988, the Foundation was transitioned to a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization and renamed Citizens for a Sound Economy. [5]

Citizens for a Sound Economy was founded and funded in its early years by Charles and David Koch as well as corporations including tobacco companies Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. Libertarian thinker and former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) was an early chairman of the organization. Citizens for a Sound Economy became one of the first organizations to coin the term “Tea Party” as a movement to oppose left-of-center tax policy and perceived government overreach by starting a U.S. Tea Party website in 2002, although the movement did not take off until 2009. [6]

In 2004, an internal rift in the organization led to its separation into what is now FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, along with their respective affiliates. The organization hired Tim Phillips, a longtime right-leaning grassroots organizer and political operative who had previously worked with evangelical activist Ralph Reed. Phillips also worked as a co-founder of Reed’s Century Strategies, which later became ensnared in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Following the separation between Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity became the main outlet of political activities for Charles and David Koch, and they ceased involvement with FreedomWorks. [7]

AFP and the AFP Foundation began to gain political traction at the grassroots level as a catalyst of the Tea Party movement and a staunch opponent of the economic policies of the Obama administration. The work of AFP in the year following the inauguration of President Barack Obama helped mobilize the Tea Party movement and turn it into a political force. The organization worked alongside the Mercatus Center, a right-leaning think tank operated by George Mason University, to oppose the 2009 economic stimulus package supported by the Obama administration. The organization also emerged as an opponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and created an offshoot organization called Patients United Now to oppose the legislation. In the early days of the Obama administration, AFP also opposed the appointment of White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs Van Jones and opposed international climate agreements. [8]

Activity Overview

Americans for Prosperity engages in direct advocacy and grassroots lobbying at the state and local levels. AFP has state chapters in 35 states that employ field staffs similar to those of political campaigns. At the state level, AFP promotes right-leaning policies in each state capital and engages local right-leaning activists to attend in-person lobbying days and rallies. AFP also encourages supporters to write and call legislators in support of the organization’s right leaning policy priorities. [9]

State chapters also support candidates for public office at the state level and engage in independent expenditures. AFP’s advocacy work is supported by the AFP Foundation, which provides policy research, educational materials on public policy, and trainings for the millions of grassroots activists in the AFP state network. [10]

At the federal level, AFP is among the top 25 largest political spenders in the United States and is often the largest spending organization that is not a political action committee. During the 2020 election cycle, the organization reported over $31 million in independent expenditures targeting federal elections, with $26.9 million benefiting Republican candidates and $4.9 million opposing Democrats. AFP similarly spent $15.7 million on federal races in the 2018 election cycle and $13.3 million in 2016 cycle. [11]

Federal reporting of independent expenditures, however, only encapsulates a portion of the total political spending conducted by AFP and other Koch-backed organizations. In 2016, the Koch network disclosed an $889 million budget for political spending among its various groups during that election cycle at an annual meeting of donors. During the 2020 election cycle, AFP announced that it would not engage in the presidential election. Still, the organization announced that 2020 would be its largest year of political spending yet and that it would look at the possibility of supporting Democratic candidates who had collaborated with the organization on issues such as criminal justice reform. While examples of AFP supporting Democrats are rare, the organization endorsed a Democratic state senator in Mississippi in 2019 and praised then-U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-MT) during the 2018 election cycle. [12]

Policy Positions

AFP supports a slate of right-leaning positions, while also holding some left-of-center positions on issues such as criminal justice reform. The organization supports lower taxes, decreased government spending, and a reduction in the size of the federal government. AFP has called on states to limit or eliminate state income taxes and has advocated for a reduction in corporate income taxes. [13]

AFP also supports expanded access to immigration, permanent residency for DACA recipients, and a wide array of left-of-center criminal justice policies. AFP has been active in advocating for criminal justice reform, calling on legislation to limit civil asset forfeitures by police, change laws around criminal intent, and limit the ability to hold individuals in jail before trial. [14]

Connected Organizations

In addition to its state chapters, AFP operates several organizations focusing on influencing specific populations of grassroots activists and voters. AFP operates Concerned Veterans for America, an organization centered around engaging veteran voters on right-leaning policy issues and mobilizing them to vote for certain Republican candidates in targeted races. The organization also supports “dovish” foreign policies, including a full withdrawal from Afghanistan; ending wars centered around nation-building; and ending continual deployments to regions including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and the horn of Africa. The organization also advocates for a wide-ranging reform of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including changing the structure of VA disability benefits. [15]

AFP also previously operated a spin-off organization called Generation Opportunity, which centered around replicating the grassroots activism work of AFP to target millennial voters. The organization used social media and non-conventional methods to attempt to reach young voters, including an advertising campaign in which a “Creepy Uncle Sam” urged young people to opt out of the Affordable Care Act. Generation Opportunity was run by Evan Feinberg, who had previously worked for the Heritage Foundation and U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). [16] In 2018, Americans for Prosperity ended Generation Opportunity and absorbed it into AFP. [17]

People

Mark Holden is the board chairman for Americans for Prosperity and the AFP foundation. Holden was a longtime employee of Koch Industries, where he was a senior vice president and general counsel. Holden currently works as a senior vice president at Stand Together, an advocacy group associated with Charles Koch. Holden formerly worked as chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and as president and COO of the Legal Division of Koch Companies Public Sector. [18]

Tim Phillips has served as president of Americans for Prosperity since 2006. A longtime Republican political operative, Phillips was former U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)’s first campaign manager in 1992 and worked as Rep. Goodlatte’s chief of staff for four years. Phillips ran grassroots efforts for dozens of Republican campaigns at all levels and co-founded Century Strategies with Ralph Reed. [19]

In 2017, Emily Seidel was named CEO of AFP to run the organization’s daily operations. Seidel previously worked for Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of Koch Industries, where she created some coalition building efforts and programs that later became Stand Together. Seidel also worked for the U.S. House of Representatives for twelve years where she worked in the Speaker of the House’s office and for former Vice President Mike Pence when he was the House Republican Conference Chair. [20]

Funding

Due to its status as a nonprofit organization, AFP does not publicly disclose its donors. It is, however, known that much of the organization’s support comes directly from foundations funded by Charles Koch and the late David Koch, such as the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Other confirmed donors to AFP and the AFP Foundation include the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, and the John William Pope Foundation. [21]

References

  1. “About Us.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://americansforprosperity.org/about/ ^
  2. “Americans for Prosperity.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed March 11, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/americans-for-prosperity/summary?topnumcycle=2020&toprecipcycle=2020&contribcycle=2020&lobcycle=2020&id=D000024046&outspendcycle=2020 ^
  3. “Americans for Prosperity.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/americans-for-prosperity/summary?topnumcycle=2020&toprecipcycle=2020&contribcycle=2020&lobcycle=2020&id=D000024046&outspendcycle=2020 ^
  4. “IRS Form 990.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/753148958/06_2020_prefixes_75-82%2F753148958_201812_990O_2020060917183216 ^
  5. “FreedomWorks History.” FreedomWorks. Accessed January 28, 2021. https://www.freedomworks.org/content/freedomworks-history ^
  6. DeMelle, Brendan. “Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers.” Huffington Post. February 11. 2013. Accessed January 28, 2021. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/study-confirms-tea-party-_b_2663125 ^
  7. Mayer, Jane. “Covert Operations The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama. The New Yorker. August 23, 2010. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operations ^
  8. Mayer, Jane. “Covert Operations The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama. The New Yorker. August 23, 2010. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/30/covert-operations ^
  9. “About Us.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://americansforprosperity.org/about/ ^
  10. “About Us.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://americansforprosperity.org/about/ ^
  11. “Americans for Prosperity.” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/americans-for-prosperity/summary?topnumcycle=2020&toprecipcycle=2020&contribcycle=2020&lobcycle=2020&id=D000024046&outspendcycle=2020 ^
  12. Schouten, Fredreka. “Koch network plans its biggest election-year effort in 2020.” CNN. January 16, 2016. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/16/politics/charles-koch-network-2020-elections/index.html ^
  13. Lift Up Louisiana.” American for Prosperity Foundation. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://edu.americansforprosperityfoundation.org/lift-up-louisiana/ ^
  14. Lift Up Louisiana.” American for Prosperity Foundation. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://edu.americansforprosperityfoundation.org/lift-up-louisiana/ ^
  15. “2021 Policy Agenda.” Concerned Veterans for America. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://cv4a.org/2021-policy-agenda/ ^
  16. Novak, Viveca. “GenOpp, Too: Another Group Almost Wholly Funded by Koch Network.” Center for Responsive Politics. May 13, 2014. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/05/genopp-too-another-group-almost-wholly-funded-by-koch-network/ ^
  17. “Generation Opportunity.” Twitter. July 3, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://twitter.com/GenOpp/status/1014150526160834560 ^
  18. “Mark Holden.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://americansforprosperity.org/mark-holden/ ^
  19. “Tim Phillips.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021.  https://americansforprosperity.org/tim-phillips/ ^
  20. “Emily Seidel.” American for Prosperity. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://americansforprosperity.org/emily-seidel/ ^
  21. Bennett, Laurie. “Tracking Koch Money and Americans for Prosperity.” Forbes. March 31, 2012. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriebennett/2012/03/31/tracking-koch-money-and-americans-for-prosperity/?sh=4b8fd3416c46 ^

Donor Organizations

  1. Stand Together (Non-profit)
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 2004

  • 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
    2017 Dec Form 990 $57,578,959 $51,688,505 $15,506,343 $2,693,013 N $56,996,170 $210 $33,965 $1,262,465 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $64,022,276 $58,306,180 $11,076,564 $4,153,624 N $63,744,929 $97,572 $24,179 $1,817,347 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $44,382,585 $45,727,933 $6,887,540 $5,680,696 N $44,205,731 $127,228 $0 $1,404,916 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $82,682,125 $90,412,075 $7,611,462 $5,059,270 N $82,499,013 $182,784 $328 $1,312,085 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $44,245,689 $34,791,542 $12,656,629 $2,374,487 N $44,213,113 $32,576 $0 $565,100 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $115,126,635 $122,250,942 $2,502,380 $1,674,385 N $115,011,549 $74,496 $31,464 $745,910 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $25,606,023 $17,697,139 $8,890,280 $937,978 N $25,408,358 $26,657 $37,421 $541,428 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Americans for Prosperity

    1310 N COURTHOUSE RD STE 700
    ARLINGTON, VA 22201-2961