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election 2012:

Americans for Prosperity may have opened donors to public scrutiny by entering state race

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 (2 a.m.)

Americans for Prosperity spent tens of millions of dollars on the 2010 election and will spend tens of millions more this year to see conservative advocates of limited government elected — all without revealing any of its contributors.

Taking advantage of a complex web of federal laws, the group, founded and financed by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch, has successfully kept its donors secret.

But when AFP decided to wade into a Nevada Senate primary in June, it may have triggered a state law that could open its donor list to the public.

In a complaint filed Thursday, the Nevada Democratic Party asked Secretary of State Ross Miller to investigate whether the nonprofit organization must report the contributions it received to fund mailers attacking state Senate candidate Kelvin Atkinson, a Democratic assemblyman from North Las Vegas.

Under federal law, political nonprofits such as AFP can escape disclosure requirements by not including words such as “vote for” or “defeat” in political messaging.

Under state law, it doesn’t matter whether those words are used or not.

If there can be “no other reasonable interpretation” than that the ad seeks the election or defeat of a candidate, then the producer must disclose the funding source for the ad.

“If you get in state races, you expose yourself,” said one Democrat familiar with the complaint.

In this case, AFP sent mailers into Atkinson’s district just before the June 6 primary election, with his picture and accusations that he worked for special interests and sought a $1 billion electricity rate increase.

The mailers didn’t say “vote against” Atkinson; rather, they urged voters to call his office and tell him what they thought of his record.

But Miller has aggressively enforced the concept in Nevada that such mailers are clearly designed to influence an election and that the money associated with producing them should be reported.

He’s filed suit against an out-of-state group that spent money attacking former Gov. Jim Gibbons in his 2010 primary against Brian Sandoval, and he filed a civil complaint against Citizens Outreach for failing to report contributors that funded a similar attack mailer against Assemblyman John Oceguera.

Miller also succeeded in passing legislation last year to strengthen the definition of what constitutes political advertising.

Despite aggressively pursuing such cases, Miller hasn’t yet been successful in compelling such groups to report their donors. Both cases are slowly winding their way through the court system, stretching well beyond the elections the groups sought to influence.

Still, AFP is intent on building a lasting nationwide network to promote its limited government philosophy and has been just as intent on keeping its donors anonymous.

It operates a Nevada chapter, which is likely funded mostly through the national headquarters.

But AFP doesn’t appear to have organized a separate Nevada entity, which could mean donors to the national organization might have to be disclosed.

The potential has piqued the interest of advocates for campaign finance transparency.

“It all depends what state law requires,” said Paul Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. “I’ll be interested in watching this one.”

Ryan said AFP’s tax-exempt status as a nonprofit could also be threatened if the Nevada group is proven to be engaging primarily in political activity.

“There’s definitely tension there,” he said.

As for AFP, Nevada chapter Director Adam Stryker, who coordinated the mailers against Atkinson, said he thinks the organization was working within the confines of Nevada state law.

“Basically, we kept a close eye on the bills Ross had last year, and our lawyers are confident that we did not cross the line into express advocacy,” Stryker said.

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Discussion: 12 comments so far…

  1. Nail these evil b.tards to the wall...

    The Koch bro's are gonna spend upwards of HALF A BILLION DOLLARS on propaganda for the fall elections...


    The Koch Bro's are EVIL...
    Here's a must-see on their un-American activities;


    "Charles and David Koch's reach into virtually every aspect of political, economic and physical life on the planet is probably greater than you thought possible."



  2. In addition to the Billionaire Koch brothers pouring money into our state through groups like AFP, Sheldon Adeldson, another Billionaire, is in cahoots with AFP to enhance his own bottom line and dupe voters into voting for tea party Republicans like Dean Heller and Joe Heck and against their own best interests. In fact the head of Americans For Prosperity (this group should really be called Billionaires for their own Prosperity and the hell with the rest of you), is none other than Adam Styker, an Adelson ex Sands Corporation employee, Prior to joining AFP, Adam worked for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation where he was Coordinator of Government Affairs and Community Relations until 2009. Translation: An Adelson PR lapdog and spin doctor.

    Read more: http://americansforprosperity.org/080310...

    I want these hocus-pocus experts to keep the heck out of this state, and our politics. They've got no right in my book to waltz in here and spend millions to pad their corporate bottom lines. It's a smoke and mirrors game and it really misleads and hurts the regular folks who live here. Stay out AFP and shame on you Mr Billionaire. You guys can spend all the millions you want to to try to elect Dean Heller, but there is no way in hell I will ever support him OR Joe Heck. I am voting for Shelley Berkeley and John Oceguera.

  3. Go to the above link for AFP and look at the picture. This is no cross section of the public.

    The Koch Brothers have offshore partners that want to change the laws to wade into domestic businesses and make it their own. The Koch brothers also have millions in offshore bank accounts in the Cayman and British Virgin Islands that they want to keep hidden. The only way to do that is put their stooges and surrogates in the law making business and drown out public interest.

    John Roberts pulled the coup of the century with Citizens United decision which was a Koch Brother's financed law suit. Roberts saw it coming and welcomed it into the Supreme Court with a nearly guaranteed verdict.

    It's time to make this a Democracy again before the GOP create wars with Russia and China to generate paranoia and unlimited Military Spending.

  4. I an glad to read the comments by the folks in Nevada and this article and how aware they are of the rich people funding these PAC groups. Do you realize Koch has a manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas and we know how much Sheldon has in LV. The American people need to realize that all of these Billionaires and rich corporations have over 36 BILLION $$$ offshore.Why because when Obama got elected and the democratic congress was in power they passed laws where companies who invested and moved out of the country had to pay a certain % tax on their profits when returning the money to the USA. This presidential election is not about what is right for us voters but only what is good for them. Romney is one of them. They want power on ever thing from the White house to the congress to the supreme court. If you ever worked for Koch Industries the two brothers operate their own business just the opposite from what they demand from their employees. It would scare you what they pump out to their employees about making their political decisions and how to vote while they eliminate retirement pensions for new hires, reduce health care benefits,layoff workers and dump more work task on the remaining ones and demand more profits each year or they will shut down your facility. Nevada needs to open to the public who is funding these groups and which politicians running for office are being bought off to do so. I"ll end this as usual Remember Sharon Angle the GOP and Tea Baggers money made her do you want more like her.

  5. Ah, the bleeding-hearts. So concerned with fairness in politics. Yet, they never mention George Soros in their rants. Could it be that he funds the radical left, of which Osama Obama is a huge part, and they aprove heartily of pencil-pushing bureaucratic-drones making our decisions? They all must be abject failures at life and, so, need a nanny-state to make their lives bearable. Since this still a "free" country, what Aldelson and the Koch Bros. do with their money is their business, not some snot-nosed cry babies! The same goes for Soros, the crackpot leftist, when he makes his decision as to where to spend his money!

  6. When the money is used to influence American laws and politics it's everyone's business. being willfully blind is pathetic.