Part three of ThinkProgress’ profiles of right-wing groups that are taking advantage of the Citizens United ruling to flood the airways with independent attack ads. See Part 1 and Part 2.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization.
Created in 2004 when Citizens for a Sound Economy (a conservative organization founded in 1984 by oil billionaires David and Charles Koch) split, AFP calls itself “an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets.” Its goals include “cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens,” “removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship,” and “restoring fairness to our judicial system.”
The group’s directors include controversial millionaire and former North Carolina State Rep. Art Pope (R) and former Reagan administration budget director James C. Miller.
The group has funded efforts to “incubate” Tea Party organizations and was highly visible in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election running ads and sending staffers in the state to support Gov. Scott Walker (R).
Century Strategies, the lobbying firm founded by Tim Phillips and Ralph Reed
As the New York Times and ThinkProgress have reported, Ralph Reed has returned as a force in the political world. A decade ago, Reed was a kingmaker in Republican politics and a corporate lobbyist who counted Fortune 100 companies like Enron and Microsoft as clients. His fall from grace, starting with the Jack Abramoff scandal and culminating in a humiliating loss in his run for lieutenant governor of Georgia, is apparently now behind him. Times reporter Erik Eckholm points out that Reed has successfully revived his work as an operator within the Republican Party, most notably with his ability to ensnare nearly every Republican presidential contender to a conference he’s hosting this weekend.
However, little is known about Reed’s work reviving his business as an astroturf lobbyist. According to documents obtained by ThinkProgress, the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade association that represents cable providers like Comcast and Qwest Communications, has provided Reed’s lobbying firm with at least $3,462,117 worth of contracts in the last three years alone. Century Strategies, the firm founded by Reed and fellow astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips in 1997, received the contracts for what NCTA deemed “legal and advertising” services. View a screenshot of the relevant documents here and here.
ThinkProgress has queried several staffers at Reed’s lobbying firm to learn about the contract. At CPAC this year, one employee for Reed told us that he did not work on the NCTA account and knew little about it. I spoke to another staffer in Reed’s Atlanta office this week and asked if the firm ever provides any kind of legal or advertising work for clients. “None at all,” she replied to the legal question. “Nope, we don’t,” she said in response to a question I had about Century Strategies creating or purchasing advertisements for clients. Why did the cable industry pay Reed millions for advertising work, then?
At an October blogger briefing at the Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips explained his organization’s plans for defending global warming pollution. A day after his policy director, Phil Kerpen, claimed the organization did not question the science of climate change at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event, Phillips relished in the success of the “UK email scandals” for convincing people of a scientific “conspiracy,” saying “over the last ten years it appears it was cooling and not warming.” “If we win the science argument, I think it’s game, set, and match” for “the left,” he expounded. Phillips also discussed his plans as head of the astroturf group to make the Environmental Protection Agency an “albatross” and to kill “the myth of green jobs.”
Phillips has harnessed right-wing populist anger in the service of pollution giant Koch Industries on several fronts, especially to prevent any limits on greenhouse gas pollution. His organization’s propaganda efforts include attacks on climate legislation, with the “No Climate Tax” pledge signed by a large majority of freshmen Republicans, and the “Hot Air Tour” that has traveled around the country the last few summers. AFP’s “Regulation Reality” campaign attempts to demonize the Environmental Protection Agency. Their campaigns use a mix of false economic arguments, appeals to patriotic freedom, and support of global warming denial.
In 2011, Phillips announced, his organization plans to drive a wedge between Congress and the EPA, to increase attacks on climate science, and to attempt to discredit clean energy jobs, creating the impression that the American people support a pollution agenda (even though polls show the opposite).
“We have to make the Environmental Protection Agency an albatross”
They made it a political liability, guys like Ernie and others, and they pushed back on OSHA. And then there was proof that you could indeed take on a regulatory agency and push it back. We have to make the Environmental Protection Agency an albatross, a political albatross for members of Congress.
We launched a “regulation reality” effort earlier this year, we’re going to continue that — that goes around the country and lays out how the EPA is costing jobs, how it is driving up the cost of our goods which makes them less competitive, and it works. Members of Congress suddenly began paying attention when they’ve got small business owners and local folks, consumers, in their districts and states who were pounding them, saying “What the heck are you doing to me here?”
The number one thing I hear on the road at our events is the EPA. That’s the number one agency. Now the health care thing is looming on the horizon, but the EPA is what’s killing more jobs and inhibiting more job-creators than anything else out there.
“We started looking now at the scientific impact and the fact that over the last ten years it appears it was cooling and not warming”
We made a decision early on, we launched our effort on cap and trade and global warming about three years ago. We’ve been at it for a while. We made a decision that as a free-market group we would focus on the economic impact. So we’ve focused on job losses, there are some great studies out there. Heritage. We’ve used Heritage for the job-loss studies especially, and the National Association of Manufacturers, groups like that. We started looking now at the scientific impact and the fact that over the last ten years it appears it was cooling and not warming. Hence the name change, you notice how it went from “global warming” to “climate change.” Whenever the left gets in trouble, they change the name! It was liberals, now the public has repudiated liberalism, and now it’s “progressivism.” They did the same thing with “global warming” and switched over to “climate change.”
“If we win the science argument, I think it’s game, set, and match for them”
The one thing I know from the polling data that the American public knows there’s an economic liability. They clearly agree with us on that. And for the first time, in the last twelve months especially, I’ve seen a dramatic tilt among independents especially with regard to believing the science involved behind global warming. That was in the high seventies, a little as two years ago. High seventies said yeah, there’s scientific evidence for man-made global warming. That’s now dropping, depends on what poll you’re looking at, Gallup and others. That’s down in the low fifties now. That’s precarious for the left. Because they’ve already lost the economic argument. We’ve beaten them there. We’ve just got to keep pounding that argument. If we win the science argument, I think it’s game, set, and match for them.
“There is a conspiracy going on, there are people fixing the data”
I think the UK email scandals was probably the tipping point. I think that’s for the first time — you’d always had some outliers, I say that in a good way, not in a bad way, who were saying, hey wait a minute, there is a conspiracy going on, there are people fixing the data. I think that when those emails became public, the public looked at it and said wait a minute, here’s this supposedly UN, these UN scientists, and we’ve always — I think we hold scientists in high regard, and that’s a good thing, science is, uh, a good thing — but when it was clear from those email exchanges that they were manipulating data, and even hiding data that was not of advantage to them, that was a crucial tipping point on the science side.
I think the economic tipping point was $3 and $4 a gallon gas. When $4 a gallon gas happened two summers ago, remember when that kicked in? We noticed a dramatic uptick in turnout for our rallies, events, the pressure on the legislators, being willing to call and email. And the polling data confirmed that, saying that it was $4 a gallon gas. And then I think that the UK email scandal was the science side.
“How sad for the polar bears, right?”
And the other thing that we’re really pushing with allies is the myth of green jobs. I know many of you have been on this issue as well. What a great balloon to puncture. Because that’s the last leg they have to stand on. You noticed what the president, what the left talks about on this? It used to be the science. Then they began tilting away from the science and saving the polar bears to it’s the right thing to do, you know. And now it’s job creation. They’re literally reduced to a job creation argument. They don’t even talk about the polar bears any more. How sad for the polar bears, right? It’s wrong. But, now it’s job creation argument. That’s the last thing they’ve had. And it’s not a legitimate argument. I think the public is getting that.
In Texas, a leadership battle is brewing over the election of the next state Speaker of the House. State Rep. Joe Straus (R-TX) appears to have the votes to win, but a coalition of Tea Party and right-wing Republican groups — including the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Austin Tea Party Patriots, the Texas Pastor Council, and Texas Eagle Forum — are staging an effort to elect a more radical right Speaker. This morning, the Dallas Morning News reported that several of the Tea Party activists in the aforementioned coalition have been circulating e-mails with anti-Semitic messages against Strauss, who is Jewish:
– “Straus is going down in Jesus’ name,” said one e-mail, whose origins were unclear.
– Straus “clearly lacks the moral compass to be speaker,” said another, written by Southeast Texas conservative activist Peter Morrison. A Morrison e-mail said that Straus’ rabbi sits on a Planned Parenthood board and then pointed out that Straus’ opponents in the Speaker’s race “are Christians and true conservatives.” Morrison is a contributor to the white supremacy website VDARE.
– The Tea Party-backed groups are now running anti-Straus robo-calls and e-mails demanding a “true Christian speaker,” reports News 8 Austin.
– The Quorum Report, an online newsletter, reported extensively late Monday on e-mails that mentioned Straus’ Judaism, his rabbi and the Christian faith of his House critics, who include Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola.
– Patrick Brendel reported that David Barton, leader of the group WallBuilders, has helped organize much of the anti-Straus campaign. Barton is a frequent contributor to the Glenn Beck program.
– Kaufman County Tea Party Chairman Ray Myers sent an e-mail last week praising a Straus opponent as “a Christian Conservative who decided not to be pushed around by the Joe Straus thugs.”
These Tea Party groups work within the larger mainstream conservative movement. Myers, Morrison, and others have signed letters and worked in conjunction with major right-wing and Republican groups, like Americans for Prosperity. Americans for Prosperity, funded and financed by billionaires David and Charles Koch, is one of the most prominent conservative organizations in the country. Its leader, Tim Phillips, ran a similarly anti-Semitic campaign before being asked by David Koch to manage Americans for Prosperity.
Previously, Phillips maintained a group called the Faith and Family Alliance to slime his political opponents with an organization that appeared to represent a grassroots community. The Richmond Times Dispatch reported that Phillips was hired by State Sen. Stephen Martin to manage his direct mail campaign against State Del. Eric Cantor in the 2000 Republican primary for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Bliley (R-VA). Phillips used his Family Alliance to blast robo-calls and mass mailers claiming Cantor — who is Jewish — did not represent “Virginia values” and that his opponent was the “only Christian in the contest.” After Phillips’ anti-Semitic attacks, Cantor went from the clear favorite in the race to winning only by 264 votes. Larry Sabato, a political analyst and the director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, called Phillips’ efforts “a despicable, underground campaign that was unquestionably anti-Semitic.”
Tea Party groups want a more conservative Speaker than Straus to push Texas to the far right. State Rep. Leo Berman (R-TX), who ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes wrote about earlier today, said he wanted a more conservative Speaker than Straus to push through anti-immigrant bills, an anti-Obama birther bill, and an effort to privatize public schools.