An infamous “dark money” group took its first shot in the presidential TV ad wars with a six-figure ad buy attacking ascendant Republican candidate John Kasich.
The Iowa-based American Future Fund is a conservative nonprofit linked to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch that since 2010 has inundated federal and state races with tens of millions of dollars.
But it seems the Ohio governor, while a Republican, is not right-leaning enough for the group.
“John Kasich — not a conservative. Not even a moderate. An Obama Republican,” the ad’s narrator says. The ad zeroes in on Kasich’s purported support of Common Core educational standards, Medicaid expansion and tax increases.
Airing in New Hampshire markets, the ad flurry follows Kasich’s recent surge in the Granite State. Kasich nabbed endorsements from two newspapers there and is making a strong showing in New Hampshire polls. But if American Future Fund has any say, Kasich will flounder in the first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 9.
The ad’s sponsor
This likely will not be American Future Fund’s sole appearance in the 2016 presidential race.
Consider this: The “dark money” nonprofit spent just under $21 million in the 2012 presidential race, with more than half of that directed to touting defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney. And during the 2012 federal election, American Future Fund ranked fourth among nonprofits in spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Like all 501(c)(4) nonprofits — or “social welfare” organizations — American Future Fund does not have to disclose its donors, so its cash flows are largely untraceable. Such nonprofits can’t make politics their primary purpose, but these groups continue to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into elections.
Its primary purpose, at least according to its tax filings, is “to educate and advocate for conservative, free market ideas.” Though in the past, watchdog groups such as Public Citizen have asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether American Future Fund’s true intent is to influence elections.
There are numerous examples of American Future Fund entering the political arena.
When Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2012 voted against enhancing firearm background checks, American Future Fund spent $1.3 million in ads supporting the New Hampshire Republican. Leadership PACs of six Republicans gave a cumulative $105,000 to American Future Fund shortly before the pro-Ayotte ad campaign.
American Future Fund injects money in state races too. In 2014, American Future Fund spent about $360,000 in Nebraska’s gubernatorial election and Arkansas’ attorney general race.
The group even involves itself in island matters. The group sponsored ads in 2014 that attacked Puerto Rico’s Democratic Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla.