Nonprofit profile: American Action Network

Quick stats on the nonprofit group, supporting conservatives

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Type of organization: 501(c)(4)

Employer Identification Number: 27-0730508

Supports: Conservative candidates

Location: Washington, D.C.

Founded: July 23, 2009

Website: americanactionnetwork.org

Social media: Facebook page, Twitter profile, YouTube channel

Finances:

For the group's fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011:

  • Total Revenue: $27 million
  • Total Expenses: $24 million
  • Net assets: $3.1 million

IRS Form 990 filing: 2010

Principals:

  • Norm Coleman (co-founder, chairman): Coleman was a Republican U.S. senator from Minnesota from 2003 to 2009 and also previously served as mayor of St. Paul, Minn.
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin (co-founder): Holtz-Eakin is also the president of American Action Forum, AAN’s associated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. He was the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005 and served as economic adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
  • Brian Walsh (president): As former political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Walsh helped the GOP take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.
  • Fred Malek (co-founder): Malek is also chairman of American Action Forum. He served under President Richard Nixon as White House personnel chief during Watergate and was deputy director of the Committee to Reelect the President, often referred to as CREEP.  

Profile:

American Action Network advocates for limited government, a strong national defense and “American exceptionalism,” according to its website.

In 2010, American Action Network spent nealry $19 million on political ads in 2010, making it the second-most politically active nonprofit that year behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Ahead of the 2012 election, the group spent more than $11 million on ads that expressly advocated for the election or defeat of federal candidates, again ranking it as one of the most politically active nonprofits. Nearly all of that spending has been on ads against Democrats or supporting Republicans.

Billionaire Kenneth Langone, a prominent New York venture capitalist and co-founder of Home Depot, sits on the board of American Action Network, as does Fred Malek, a co-founder of the group and a top GOP fundraiser. Meanwhile, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is an adviser to American Action Network, and Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, is a board member of the associated foundation, American Action Forum.

The anti-regulatory American Action Forum was notably the recipient of a sizeable grant from a pro-environmental group in 2011, as the Center for Public Integrity reported.

While nonprofits like American Action Network need not publicly disclose their donors, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity revealed that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, gave $4.5 million to the group in 2010, which accounted for close to 15 percent of its income that year.

The Center for Responsive Politics also uncovered several other donors to the group including the Republican Jewish Coalition ($4 million), Crossroads GPS ($500,000) and the American Natural Gas Alliance ($35,000). In 2010, Crossroads and American Action Network shared office space in Washington, D.C.

In March 2012, election watchdogs Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against American Action Network with the Internal Revenue Service, urging it to investigate the organization’s tax-exempt status. The letter, which also called for investigations into Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA and Americans Elect, argued these groups are abusing their tax-exempt status by keeping their donors secret but engaging substantially in elections activities.

In June, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also filed a complaint with the IRS and the Federal Election Commission on similar grounds.

American Action Network and its sister super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, launched an ad blitz in September targeting races in Illinois, Minnesota and California, places that were key to retaining a Republican majority in the House but didn't have strong state-level parties, as the Center for Public Integrity noted at the time.

See more data on American Action Network at OpenSecrets.org.

Advertisements:

  • Secrets” attacked tea party candidate Dan Liljienquist, the challenger to GOP establishment favorite Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah.
  • Rise of the Obamavilles,” a stylized, old-timey ad, painted the Occupy movement camps as “Obamavilles,” created by the president’s irresponsible leadership.
  • Neighbor,” which debuted in September, opposed astronaut Jose Hernandez, a Democrat, in California’s 10th District. This ad was part of the Congressional Leadership Fund-American Action Network ad blitz.
  • For more ads, see American Action Network's YouTube channel.

Last updated: Jan. 22, 2013