American Action Network
The American Action Network is one of the top 15 dark money groups examined by Issue One’s new “Dark Money Illuminated” report that has been spending millions of dollars in our elections since Citizens United without publicly disclosing their donors. Dark money groups frequently operate as attack dogs during campaigns, criticizing candidates from the shadows. Dark money groups also often push the envelope in terms of how much political spending they can engage in without running afoul of rules that prohibit them from existing primarily to influence elections. By masquerading as a trade association or “social welfare” nonprofit, dark money groups avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.
Here’s what Issue One’s year-long “Dark Money Illuminated” investigation revealed:
The American Action Network raised
between July 2009 and June 2017.
Issue One identified
donors to this dark money group.
These donors collectively accounted for
of its funding.
Issue One found 13 donors that gave at least $100,000 since July 2009:
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA): $12 million
Republican Jewish Coalition: $4 million
Aetna Inc.: $3.3 million
Crossroads GPS: $500,000
Wellspring Committee: $310,000
Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care: $250,000
American Petroleum Institute: $250,000
Boeing Co. PAC: $250,000
Dow Chemical Co.: $250,000
Association of American Railroads: $200,000
Online Consumers Network: $100,000
The Annual Fund: $100,000
Note: These numbers have been rounded to two significant figures. Click here to see more details about these contributions — and all identified donors to this group — in Issue One’s exclusive database of dark money donors, and click here to learn more about how these contributors were identified.
About the American Action Network
Incorporated in Delaware in July 2009 as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, the American Action Network was not publicly rolled out by high-profile Republicans until February 2010 — one month after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
The self-described “action tank” was founded by veteran Republican fundraiser Fred Malek, the former Marriott Hotels president and CEO who has helped raise campaign cash for a number of GOP presidential candidates over the years.
Brian Walsh — the former political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee who helped Republicans win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 — served as the president of the American Action Network between 2011 and 2015.
The group’s current executive director is Corry Bliss, who managed Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s successful re-election campaign in 2016.
When it applied for tax-exempt status, the American Action Network told the Internal Revenue Service that only a “minor portion” of its activities would likely be classified as political campaign intervention — likely no more than 20 percent. Yet in the wake of Citizens United, the American Action Network emerged as a major political player, spending nearly 40 percent of its funds on “direct or indirect political campaign activities” in some years.
In June 2014, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked 3-3 in response to a complaint about whether the American Action Network should have registered as a political committee, which would have required the group to disclose its donors. The FEC again deadlocked 3-3 on the same question in October 2016, after a federal judge ordered the agency to reevaluate its decision.
- 60 Plus Association
- Americans for Job Security
- Americans for Prosperity
- Americans for Tax Reform
- American Future Fund
- Crossroads GPS
- League of Conservation Voters
- National Association of Realtors
- National Rifle Association
- Patriot Majority USA
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- VoteVets Action Fund