Political leanings: Republican
Spending target: $20 million to $25 million
American Future Fund was founded in 2007 by Nick Ryan, a longtime political adviser to former Iowa congressman Jim Nussle, a Republican. Ryan ran Nussle's successful congressional campaigns in 2000, 2002 and 2004, his political action committee and his failed gubernatorial campaign in 2006.
Nicole Schlinger, a former finance director of the Republican Party of Iowa, was American Future Fund's first president. Schlinger is the founder of Capital Resources, a fundraising consultancy and management firm. She also served as the director of Mitt Romney’s Ames, Iowa, straw poll campaign in 2007. On her company website, she claims to be “the most prolific political fundraiser in Iowa Republican history with over $50 million raised for candidates from city council to governor.” In 2008, Sandra Greiner replaced Schlinger as president of American Future Fund. Greiner served as an Iowa state legislator from 1992 to 2004 and is now a GOP candidate for state Senate.
American Future Fund is registered as a 501(c)(4), which means it can receive unlimited donations and does not have to disclose its donors. In its most recent IRS filing from 2008, the group reported receiving $7.5 million in donations and spending approximately $6.3 million.
It expects to spend between $20 million to $25 million on political ads this fall. Federal Election Commission data show American Future Fund has spent $6 million in 16 states in independent expenditures as of Oct. 12.
Although the group has not publicly disclosed its donors, Hawkeye Energy Holding CEO Bruce Rastetter acknowledged to the New York Times that he donated an undisclosed amount in 2007 to help get the group started. In an Oct. 11 story, the Times described Hawkeye as "one of the nation's larger ethanol companies," and noted that most of the incumbent congressmen targeted for defeat by American Future Fund "have seats on a handful of legislative committees with a direct say in the ethanol industry." Ryan sits on the board of the Rastetter Foundation and was chairman of a state political action committee "financed largely" by Rastetter. Daniel Stockdale, Rastetter's attorney, told the Times that his client has no "decision-making authority" at American Future Fund.
According to its website, American Future Fund works “to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint.” While it is not identified with any specific policy issues, the group released several ads against the health care bill last year, including some we found to be misleading.
American Future Fund also operates a federal political action committee that makes direct contributions to federal candidates. The PAC must disclose its donors. Rastetter donated $5,000 to the PAC, the maximum annual donation permitted by law. As of Aug. 30, it had raised approximately $69,000 and donated about $30,000 to 15 House and Senate Republican candidates.
Correction, Aug. 2011: We originally used an incorrect first name for Bruce Rastetter.