Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, raised more than $44 million in 2013 and spent nearly $35 million during the same period — both records for a non-election year for the group — according to a Center for Public Integrity review of recently filed tax documents.
By contrast, in 2011, the group — which ranks among the most active political players that does not disclose its donors — raised about $26 million and spent about $18 million.
Founded in 2004, Americans for Prosperity is organized as a “social welfare” nonprofit under the U.S. tax code. It has emerged as one of the leading critics of President Barack Obama and his policies — particularly his “ObamaCare” health care reform law.
In 2013, Americans for Prosperity spent nearly $22 million on “print, radio and television ads to increase their activist base and bring their mission to the public,” according to audited financial documents filed with the state of Massachusetts.
Press releases indicate that much of this sum was spent on ads calling attention to lawmakers’ stances on ObamaCare, which the group calls “disastrous.”
Among those targeted in the fall of 2013: embattled Democratic Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Kay Hagan, D-N.C. and Mary Landrieu, D-La. All ranked among the most vulnerable incumbents.
On Nov. 4, Hagan lost her re-election bid to Republican Thom Tillis by less than 2 percentage points. Begich, meanwhile, appears to have been ousted by Republican Dan Sullivan. And Landrieu is headed to a Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican Bill Cassidy.
In 2013, Americans for Prosperity also spent nearly $9 million supporting its state chapters, financial documents indicate. Chapters in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia ranked highest, all receiving between $1 million and $1.4 million.
The nonprofit also contributed $200,000 to the Enterprise Freedom Action Committee, a Washington, D.C.-based social welfare nonprofit focused on overhauling health care regulations that also does business under the name Committee to Rethink Reform.
Source: Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG estimates of ads aired from Jan. 1, 2013, through Nov. 3, 2014.
This election cycle, Americans for Prosperity ultimately aired more than 28,000 TV ads in contested U.S. Senate races, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of data provided by Kantar Media/CMAG, a firm that tracks political advertising.
Just two other non-party groups aired more ads in Senate races — Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC operated by allies of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Crossroads GPS, a social welfare nonprofit co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove.
In 2012, when Obama was running for re-election, Americans for Prosperity raised a whopping $115 million and spent more than $122 million, as the Center for Public Integrity first reported.
This year, it reportedly planned to spend $125 million.
On its website, Americans for Prosperity touts more than 2.3 million members in all 50 states, but its donors are largely unknown.
Federal regulations only require that donors to social welfare nonprofits like Americans for Prosperity only be identified if they contribute for the specific purpose of “furthering” a particular political ad — something that rarely happens.
Tax records, however, show that Americans for Prosperity has received large sums of money from other Koch-connected nonprofits such as Freedom Partners and the Center to Protect Patient Rights. And corporate interests, such as the American Petroleum Institute and tobacco giant Reynolds American, have also ranked among Americans for Prosperity’s donors over the years.
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