The American Future Fund is an enthusiastically conservative organization that each election season fills the airwaves with ads hailing right-wing causes and socially conservative Republican candidates, while ripping Democratic officials and contenders.
But, this fall, the dark-money group is also jumping into battleground states with social-media campaigns hailing third-party candidates, legalization of marijuana and “our progressive values.”
Confused? Don’t be. In close races, those third-party candidates might just pull a few votes away from Democratic contenders, who are specifically attacked in the ads. Yes, that’s playing the margins. But when money is no object, every strategy gets tried.
Welcome to the brave new world of hyper-cynical, win-at-any-cost, big-money politics.
This is how it works.
The American Future Fund explains that it “operates as a 501(c)(4) and was formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint to have a mechanism to communicate and advocate on the issues that most interest and concern them.”
Practically, what that means is that, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org project, “AFF spent just under $24.5 million on independent expenditures during the 2012 election cycle—nearly all of it (about $20.8 million) in support of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and against President Obama.” According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the group “received more than 92 percent of its 2012 revenues from two organizations connected to Charles and David Koch.” This year, one of the primary Koch-backed groups says it is moving money elsewhere; but the American Future Fund remains flush with cash.
As a footnote, the Center for Responsive Politics reminds us, “As a nonprofit organization organized under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Service code, American Future Fund does not have to disclose its donors.”
Nor does it have to abide by the standards that most Americans associate with politics. It can pretty much write its own rules. And so it has.
This fall, the American Future Fund and another group, American Future Fund Political Action (a “separate” organization that describes itself as “a federal political committee which primarily helps members elect candidates who reflect our values through a variety of activities aimed at influencing the outcome of the next election”) are busy, busy, busy—spending millions, millions, millions. American Future Fund Political Action’s involved in House and Senate races all over the country. The group’s attacks on Democrat Bruce Braley are among the roughest being aired in the very rough Iowa US Senate contest, and it’s just up with television ads condemning Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.