Nonprofit profile: American Future Fund

Quick stats on the nonprofit group, supporting conservatives

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Type of organization: 501(c)(4)

Employer Identification Number: 26-0620554

Supports: Conservative candidates

Founded: 2007

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Website: americanfuturefund.com

Social media: Facebook page, Twitter profile, YouTube channel

Finances:

For the group's activities during calendar year 2010:

  • Total Revenue: $23 million
  • Total Expenses: $21 million
  • Net assets: $2.7 million

IRS Form 990 filing: 2010

Principals:

  • Nick Ryan (founder): Ryan is a former Rick Santorum adviser, founder and president of Concordia Group, LLC, a political consulting firm, and longtime adviser to former Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa. He also founded the pro-Santorum super PAC Red, White and Blue Fund.
  • Sandra Greiner (director and president): Greiner is a farmer and a Iowa Republican state senator who served as the Iowa chairwoman of the American Legislative Exchange Council for 14 years.
  • Allison Dorr Kleis (director): Klein managed the Iowa caucus campaign for George W. Bush in 2000 and later held various positions serving the Iowa Republican leadership.

Profile:

The American Future Fund is an Iowa-based nonprofit that advocates for “conservative and free-market ideas.”

As a “social welfare” organization, the American Future Fund does not have to reveal its donors. However, the New York Times confirmed that Bruce Rastetter, co-founder and CEO of Hawkeye Energy Holdings, a large ethanol company, provided an unspecified amount of "seed money" in 2008.

An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity also revealed that Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA, gave $300,000 to the American Future Fund in 2010, which helped pay for the group’s $9.1 million in political ad spending that year. In the races it aired ads, the American Future Fund’s chosen candidates won 76 percent of the time, making it one of the most effective outside spending groups of the 2010 election cycle, according to the New York Times.

In 2010, the group also received $2.4 million from the American Justice Partnership, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group that advocates for tort reform and seeks to reduce the number of lawsuits it views as "frivolous" and nearly $11.7 million from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, another 501(c)(4) organization. These gifts were first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The American Future Fund has been a prolific funder of negative ads, many of which have been deemed false by Factcheck.org. Government spending and President Barack Obama’s health care legislation have been major targets, in addition to many Democratic candidates.

The group reported spending about $25 million on political ads to the Federal Election Commission in 2012. The presidential race accounted for about $19 million of that amount. Other top targets included the contests for Nevada's U.S. Senate, Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, Arizona’s 9th Congressional District and California’s 26th Congressional District.

It also aired advertisements in two state attorney general races and donated $4 million in support of a ballot measure in California that would have banned the practice of using payroll deductions for political expenditures — a popular method of union fundraising.

The American Future Fund additionally went after liberal comedian Bill Maher, launching an ad and website called “Give the Money Back.” The site focused on bits of his standup comedy discussing Sarah Palin in a lewd way, and it urged the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action to give back Maher’s $1 million donation because of his “hateful” and “misogynistic” language.

The American Future Fund's big spending in 2010 drew the attention of watchdogs, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). In February 2011, CREW asked the IRS to investigate whether the American Future Fund was in violation of its tax-exempt status. As a 501(c)(4), the group is bound by IRS rules that prohibit it from making political activity its “primary purpose.”

Several months earlier, Public Citizen, the Center for Media and Democracy and Protect Our Citizens filed a complaint asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether the group should be required to register as a political action committee and follow the same disclosure rules.

See more data on the American Future Fund at OpenSecrets.org.

Advertisements:

  • Do You Recall” juxtaposed liberal pundits before and after the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall, alternately crowing the importance of the race, then discounting its effects.
  • Give the Money Back” showed bits of comedian Bill Maher’s comedy routines featuring Sarah Palin and urged viewers to sign their petition denouncing Maher and demanding Priorities USA Action give back his $1 million contribution.
  • The American Future Fund released a television ad on June 6 attacking Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., for supporting the stimulus package and Obama’s healthcare law.
  • "What Does the Wisconsin Flag Think of Tammy Baldwin" featured the flag's sailor and miner in animated form critcizing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who ran for U.S. Senate.
  • Janesville” criticized Obama for a statement he made during his 2008 campaign about a General Motors plant being able to stay open for another century with government support. While the plant closed before Obama took office, the ad seems to blame the president.
  • For more ads, see American Future Fund's Youtube channel.

Last updated: Jan. 17, 2013