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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Americans United for Change

playersguide2014_135pxPolitical leanings: Democratic/liberal

Spending target: Unknown

Americans United for Change is a liberal group whose message closely mirrors that of the Obama White House.

A leading advocate of the economic stimulus package in 2009, and the health care law the following year, Americans United for Change sprang from the ashes of Americans United to Protect Social Security — a labor-funded liberal group formed in 2005 to oppose then-President George W. Bush’s Social Security proposal. The group changed its name in 2006.

Brad Woodhouse, a veteran Democratic operative, is the group’s president. This is his second stint with Americans United. Woodhouse served as the group’s president from March 2007 to February 2009 before taking a leave of absence to work as a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee. He returned as president of Americans United in July 2013. The current executive director of Americans United is Caren Benjamin, a former aide to Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

With aggressive policy advocacy techniques that include everything from letter-writing campaigns to television commercials to targeted ads on Facebook, Americans United for Change boasts on its website that it “has challenged the far right conservative voices and ideas that for too long have been mistaken for mainstream American values.”

In the summer leading up to the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment start date, Americans United for Change took on conservative critics of the law. In July 2013, it aired a cable TV ad scolding House Republicans for their repeated votes to repeal the ACA. In August 2013, activists from the group followed Heritage Foundation members around the country to counteract the conservative think tank’s anti-Affordable Care Act message.

Also,in the summer of 2013, Americans United launched its Accountable Congress project. Accountable Congress provides information about town hall meetings held by members of Congress, as well as liberal talking points on topics from climate change to taxes. It encourages people to attend the town hall meetings and use the talking points to challenge Republican officials. During the fall, it ran TV ads attacking 10 House Republicans during the partial government shutdown. GOP Reps. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Jeff Denham of California, and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania were among those targeted in the ad campaign.

In January, it launched a project, teapartyscorecard.com, that scored how members of Congress voted on tea party-backed legislation in 2013. Voters “have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the Tea Party spectrum,” the website explains in a report describing the project.

Americans United is registered under the IRS code as a 501(c)(4), so it does not have to disclose its donors — although, over the years, other liberal organizations have reported making contributions to it. For example, Unity Fund — which has among its directors former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and Obama campaign bundler Louis Frillman — gave $500,000 in the 2010 campaign cycle to Americans United (see page 14 of Unity Fund’s 990 form).

Americans United made no TV ads, mass mailings or other independent expenditures or electioneering communications that advocated for the election or defeat of any candidates in 2012, according to FEC records. But it did team up with the AFSCME to criticize Republican members of Congress for supporting a tax plan that would preserve tax breaks for high-income persons and voting for Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.