Money and Democracy

Published — August 8, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Daily Disclosure: Americans for Prosperity launches first ad of $25 million campaign


On Tuesday, the conservative nonprofit Americans for Prosperity released its first ad in a $25 million campaign aimed at defeating President Barack Obama. The spot, called “President Obama: A One-Term Proposition,” will air in nine swing states: Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Florida.

“President Obama pledged to cut the deficit in half,” the new ad states. “But we’ve gone $5 trillion deeper in debt under his watch. It’s time to hold Obama accountable for his promises.”

It closes with a clip of Obama saying, “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

However, Obama’s “one-term proposition” comment actually came in response to specific questions about the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The program provided struggling banks with money and is widely crediting with stabilizing the financial sector, according to ABC News. Obama did not address the deficit at the time of his TARP comments.

In a 2009 interview, NBC’s Matt Lauer asked Obama, “At some point will you say, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve spent this amount of money. We’re not seeing the results. We’ve got to change course dramatically’?”

The president replied, “Look, I’m at the start of my administration. One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable. You know, I’ve got four years. And, you know, a year from now I think people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress. But there’s still going to be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

Americans for Prosperity is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service, meaning that it’s primary purpose is not electoral politics but rather the promotion of “social welfare.” It is not required to publicly reveal its donors, but IRS records show its total revenue was $22 million in 2010, up from $7 million in 2008.

Americans for Prosperity believes in “cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens” and “removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship and opportunity by sparking citizen involvement in the regulatory process,” according to its website.

The group, which bills itself as a grassroots organization and has 34 state chapters across the country, is funded by conservative industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch. The group is a spin-off of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which the Koch brothers founded in 1984.

The Koch brothers reportedly plan to steer more than $200 million into conservative group such as Americans for Prosperity ahead of the 2012 elections.

In other outside spending news:

  • Women VOTE!, the super PAC affiliated with EMILY’s List, released an ad Tuesday supporting Democrat Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, who is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The ad is part of a $370,000 expenditure that also takes aim at Wisconsin Republican Senate candidates Tommy Thompson and Eric Hovde and supports Democrat Tarryl Clark, who is running for the U.S. House in Minnesota.
  • Super PAC New Directions for America spent $140,000 on a media buy supporting public relations executive Dan Roberti, a Democrat who is running for Congress in Connecticut.
  • The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party there is called, has made two buys supporting Democrat Rick Nolan, a businessman and former U.S. Representative who is running for Congress again. The buys total more than $135,000.
  • The League of Conservation Voters began a $120,000 campaign Tuesday targeting Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. The ad attacks Heller’s voting history and the contributions he’s received from the oil industry.
  • Senate Conservatives Action, the super PAC spin-off of the leadership PAC of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., reported spending $115,000 Tuesday on ads that will support Republican Mark Neumann in his bid for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.
  • The politically active nonprofit Americans for Job Security spent nearly $650,000 on “Says and Does,” an attack ad aimed at businessman Eric Hovde, who is also running in the Republican Senate primary in Wisconsin. Among other barbs, the ad claims Hovde “was against bank bailouts but invested in banks that got billions.” Hovde heads an asset management firm and a private equity firm.

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