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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

American Future Fund

playersguide2014_135pxPolitical leanings: GOP/conservative

Spending target: Unknown

American Future Fund has its roots in Iowa. It was founded in 2007 by Nick Ryan, longtime adviser to former U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa). Its first president, Nicole Schlinger, was a finance director of the Republican Party of Iowa, and its current president is Iowa Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Ryan served as an adviser to the campaign of former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and founded a pro-Santorum super PAC, the Red, White and Blue Fund.

AFF says it is “a multi-state issues advocacy group designed to effectively communicate conservative and free market ideals.” As a 501(c)(4), it doesn’t have to disclose its donors and can receive unlimited donations.

As reported by the Center for Responsive Politics, American Future Fund raised $67.9 million in 2012, and 92 percent of those funds came from two groups: the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. Both have ties to Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch, the co-owners of Koch Industries. David Koch is the founder of the conservative Americans for Prosperity and both brothers are major donors to that group as well.

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. It also spent $916,000 on electioneering communications, which are ads that refer to a candidate without expressly advocating for or against that person, and donated several million dollars to politically active conservative organizations. Recipients included the Republican State Leadership Committee ($1.18 million), the Citizen Awareness Project ($1.5 million),  the California Future Fund for Free Markets ($4.08 million), and the 60 Plus Association ($4.5 million).

American Future Fund’s donation to the California Future Fund for Free Markets came under the scrutiny of that state’s Fair Political Practices Commission after the 2012 election. California Future Fund for Free Markets, which supported the anti-labor union Proposition 32 in California, was fined $4.08 million for failing to properly disclose the source of its funding. The commission said the Center to Protect Patient Rights gave $4.08 million to American Future Fund, which in turn made a $4.08-million donation to the California Future Fund for Free Markets. It was part of a record $11 million fine levied against two nonprofits with ties to the Koch brothers: the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership. In announcing the $11 million settlement, former commission chairwoman Ann Ravel said the case “highlights the nationwide scourge of dark money nonprofit networks hiding the identities of their contributors.”

We found false and misleading claims in several AFF ads about the federal health care legislation in 2009 and 2010, as well as false and exaggerated claims in TV ads about government spending and the Obama administration’s ties to Wall Street in 2012.

Fact-checking American Future Fund:

Conservative Group Distorts Hagel’s Record, Jan. 30, 2013