Daily Disclosure: Web video implies Biden ‘on something’ in debate

Group's backers a mystery

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 Updated:

Americans for Limited Government, a well-funded, shadowy nonprofit that has released a series of videos attacking the administration of President Barack Obama, released a new one that implies Vice President Joe Biden was on drugs during last week’s vice presidential debate.

The video has gotten few views on YouTube, but the group behind it, Americans for Limited Government, has considerable resources. The 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit is not required to publicly disclose its donors but in its 2010 tax filing, the most recent available, it reported revenue of $9.1 million. The group has also spent at least $1.4 million on election expenditures, according to the filing.

Democrats praised Biden’s aggressiveness in the debate with GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Republicans have played his interruptions and derisive laughs as an inability to take the country’s problems seriously.

A spokesman for Americans for Limited Government says the ad was intended as satire. "There's no evidence Joe Biden was on anything," he said.

The group calls itself a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works against the expansion of government. All of the videos on its YouTube channel oppose Democrats and support Republicans.

Communications director Rick Manning said that ALG consider itself to have several functions, including providing news content. He declined to reveal the organization's donors. He asked if the Center reveals its donors, which are available here.

The Center for Public Integrity reported in 2005 that ALG received 99 percent of its contributions from just three unknown donors. The website lists Bill Wilson, a longtime limited government activist, as the group’s president and Howard Rich, who is linked to several nonprofits with similar goals and overlapping board members, as chairman.

Americans for Limited Government has a history of funding Rich’s nonprofits, which in 2010, led to initiatives against government seizure of private lands in eminent domain cases in western states, the Center for Public Integrity reported.

Nearly all the groups at the time refused to answer questions about their donors and activities.

Another board member, according to the 2010 tax filing, is Ed Crane, co-founder with billionaire conservative Charles Koch, of the libertarian Cato Institute.

Rich’s organizations have been criticized for operating under the guise of grassroots activism when in fact they have a history of funneling out-of-state funding to state- and local-level ballot initiatives, PBS reported.

The Center for Responsive Politics discovered that Americans for Limited Government received a $5.6 million grant in 2010 from the Center to Protect Patients’ Rights, another non-disclosing nonprofit. That grant makes up more than half of the group’s revenue that year.

CRP also discovered that the American Justice Partnership, Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Farago Foundation have been past donors. All advocate for free-market and small government issues except for the Farago Foundation, whose mission wasn’t clear based on a review of their tax filing.

The vice president’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In other outside spending news:

  • Conservative nonprofit Crossroads GPS released eight new ads over the weekend. Three versions of “Silly Spending” oppose Democratic Reps. Louise Slaughter, N.Y.-25, Tim Bishop, N.Y.-1, and Leonard Boswell, Iowa-3. Four versions of “Vision” oppose Democratic U.S. House candidates Gary McDowell, Mich.-1, Brendan Mullen, Ind.-2, Cheri Bustos, Ill.-17, and John Hernandez, Calif.-21. “Damaged” opposes Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, Nev.-4.
     
  • Crossroads GPS reported spending $3.1 million on these and other ads over the weekend. A full $1.1 million went to opposing Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is running for U.S. Senate in Nevada.
     
  • Americans for Tax Reform, also a conservative nonprofit, released four versions of “Wrong Prescription,” opposing Democratic Reps. John Barrow, Ga.-12 and Mark Critz, Pa.-12, as well as Democratic House candidates Sal Pace, Colo.-3, and Scott Peters, Calif.-52. “Boxer” opposes former Democratic Rep. Charlie Wilson in Ohio’s 6th District, and a sixth spot opposes Democratic candidate Sean Maloney in New York’s 18th District, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton.
     
  • Americans for Tax Reform reported spending $2.5 million over the weekend.
     
  • Conservative nonprofit American Action Network released four spots targeting Democratic House candidates. “Working Hard” opposes former Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s 8th District. “Search” opposes former astronaut Jose Hernandez in California’s 10th District and cost $687,000. “Three Wishes” opposes Rep. Kathy Hochul in New York’s 27th District and cost $276,000. And “Rubber Stamp” opposes former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s 1st District.
     
  • American Action Network reported spending $1.2 million on ads over the weekend, including the ones above.
     
  • American Commitment, a conservative nonprofit, released “Vote Coal: Vote Against Tim Kaine,” which opposes the former Democratic governor of Virginia’s run for U.S. Senate.
     
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a conservative-leaning trade association, released “Fact Is,” opposing independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King, the former governor of Maine who is running for U.S. Senate in the state. The ad buy cost $500,000.
     
  • Pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future reported spending $2 million opposing Obama.
     
  • Public sector union the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees reported spending $2.4 million on ads presidential, Senate and House candidates.
     
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee reported spending $9.1 million opposing Democratic U.S. House candidates.
     
  • House Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Democratic candidates for U.S. House, reported spending $899,000.
     
  • The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, a nonprofit, reported spending $1.2 million on ads opposing Obama and in support of several House candidates.

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