Americans for Prosperity takes aim at farm bill


Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a 501(c)4 non-profit backed by the family behind the Koch Industries conglomerate, is lining up with some unusual partners as it launches a multi-media campaign against the farm bill that the U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider this week.

As the House takes up the bill, AFP has started an Internet ad campaign targeting 15 members of the House of Representatives, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, according to a press release the group issued Monday. In addition, the organization has launched an email campaign urging voters to contact their lawmakers and urge a vote against the bill.

The campaign puts AFP, a conservative organization that spent more than $33.5 million trying to defeat President Barack Obama in the 2012 election and has a history of attacking Democratic causes such as Medicaid expansion, a proposed carbon tax and climate change legislation, on the same side of the farm bill debate as some liberal groups. The ecology-minded Environmental Working Group makes many of the same arguments against the subsidies contained in the bill as AFP does in the ad above, which ends by accusing Congress of favoring "special interests and powerful corporations" over the taxpayers.

AFP was founded by the heads of a powerful corporation: David and Charles Koch, who head Koch Industries, a corporate behemoth that includes some agriculture-related businesses, such as Koch Fertilizer, Georgia-Pacific LLC, and the Matador Cattle company. David Koch chairs the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a 501(c)3 charity that is linked to the 501(c)4 now undertaking the campaign on the farm bill. While 501(c)3 organizations are strictly limited in the types of political activities they can engage in, 501(c)4s are not.


The most recent political blitz from AFP appears to depart from the group's usual pattern of zeroing in on Democratic senators. The list of targeted members in the farm debate includes five Democrats and 10 Republicans. "We went to whose vote was in play," said AFP spokesman Levi Russell. "It's a combination of people who are influential on this issue, as well as others who have a prominent role in the committee or on the bill itself."

AFP produced distinctly different Internet ads to target distinctly different audiences. Two ads focus on the farm bill's proposed funding for food stamps (liberal groups say the House bill doesn't provide enough while AFP says the bill provides too much in funding), while a third, seen above, highlights special interests benefiting from the bill. "With the two elements — hundreds of billions on welfare, combined with corporate welfare and cronyism — we thought it was appropriate to break both of those out into unique ads," said Russell.  

The ad focusing on beneficiaries of the farm bill refers broadly to members of Congress receiving subsidies from the bill, and Russell said that AFP intends to name those members and how much they receive. He also mentioned that because of how the bill is structured, lawmakers will be able to prevent many of the cuts in this year's bill before they take effect. "It's completely phony, so we're calling them out on that."

AFP is considering putting ads on television — all three of the current spots are 30 seconds long — but so far, no purchases have shown up in Sunlight's Political Ad Sleuth. If you see one of the ads in your market, email us here.

AFP Targets

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