Type of organization: 501(c)(4)
Employer Identification Number: 45-2600535
Supports: Conservative candidates
Location: Washington, D.C.
Founded: April 10, 2012
Finances: Not available
IRS Form 990 filing: Not available
- Phil Kerpen (president, founder): Kerpen is the former policy and legislative strategist at Americans for Prosperity and previously worked at Club for Growth. He is chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition and a Fox News opinion columnist.
American Commitment was founded in April 2012 by former Americans for Prosperity strategist Phil Kerpen. The group’s website says it is dedicated to individual freedom, limited government and economic growth. It has generally supported Republican candidates running for federal office.
Americans for Prosperity is known as a Koch-brothers-backed, politically active nonprofit, but Kerpen denies American Commitment is linked to Americans for Prosperity. When asked by the Washington Post if billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch were funding American Commitment, Kerpen would not answer, saying only that he takes the privacy of all American Commitment donors very seriously.
In mid-July, Kerpen said the nonprofit had raised $7 million. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, American Commitment is not legally required to publicly disclose its donors. But the Center for Responsive Politics discovered that the group had received a $1.6 million grant in 2011 for “general support” from another nonprofit, the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, American Commitment spent nearly $2 million on ads that expressly advocated for the election or defeat of federal candidates in the 2012 election. That includes $1.4 million spent in Arizona’s U.S. Senate race on ads supporting Republican Jeff Flake or opposing Democrat Richard Carmona.
Many of American Commitment’s ads have avoided federal disclosure because they do not explicitly advocate for or against a candidate, and because the ads aired more than 30 days before a primary or 60 days before the general election.
For instance, between June 28 and July 10, American Commitment aired seven different television ads in Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota, all opposing Democratic candidates. Another series of ads opposed the farm bill and its food stamp provisions criticizing three House Republicans: Steve King of Iowa, Frank Lucas of Okahoma and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.
The group also made large ad buys over the summer in Florida, where it spent $1.1 million opposing Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and in Ohio, where it spent $1.2 million opposing Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, according to the Washington Post.
American Commitment also runs NoMandateTax.com, which opposes the Affordable Care Act, KeystoneXLNow.com, which supports the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, and WarOnCoal.com, which opposes President Barack Obama’s efforts to decrease hazardous emissions from coal-fired plants.
They also operate ALECpetition.com, which urges people to “reject anti-ALEC bullying.” The American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, is a partially Koch-backed, unofficial lobbying outfit that is run by mostly Republican state lawmakers and corporations that work together to write and promote “model legislation” that often makes it into the nation’s statehouses.
ALEC’s tax-exempt status has come under scrutiny for having written some of the most contentious legislation in the country, including voter ID bills, anti-union bills and stand-your-ground gun rights bills. The Center for Public Integrity has been tracking ALEC’s role in state legislative initiatives and the challenges to its tax-exempt status.
- “Alexander Joins Obama’s War on Coal” criticized Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for supporting the Utility MACT rule, which would place additional regulations on coal emissions.
- “Cheating” criticized Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin who ultimately won the election, for voting for the economic stimulus plan and the Affordable Care Act.
- “Fading Away” criticized Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Nevada, for voting for the Affordable Care Act and contributing to the “fading away” of the American dream. Berkley lost her election.
- “Cheering” said Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in North Dakota who ultimately won her election, “cheered” for more taxes by supporting the Affordable Care Act.
- “Fix the Farm Bill” featured a drawling narrator scoffing at the farm bill and its food stamp provisions. Versions of the ad ran in Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa. They urged voters to contact their congressmen: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. and Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.
- For more ads from American Commitment, see its YouTube page.
Last updated: Jan. 22, 2013
Read more in Money and Democracy
Incumbent McCaskill can expect tough slog ahead