Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity 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:

Americans for Prosperity raised

$398 million

between January 2010 and December 2016.

Issue One identified


donors to this dark money group.

These donors collectively accounted for


of its funding.

Issue One found 9 donors that gave at least $100,000 since January 2010:

Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce: $140 million

American Encore (formerly Center to Protect Patient Rights): $14 million

TC4 Trust: $1.4 million

Alliance for a Free Society: $430,000

NCTA – The Internet and Television Association (formerly the National Cable and Telecommunications Association): $240,000

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA): $190,000

Cornerstone Policy Research Action (CPR Action): $150,000

Education Freedom Alliance: $120,000

American Energy Alliance: $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. 

Source: Issue One analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission.

Americans for Prosperity self-reported to the IRS that

of its total spending was related to political campaign activities

It also told the FEC that


of its political spending was negative

About Americans for Prosperity

Founded in March 2004 as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization, Americans for Prosperity is the flagship of the political network of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the latter of whom was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 1980. Americans for Prosperity grew out of another group formed by the Koch brothers, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which split due to internal disagreements.

In 2009 and 2010, Americans for Prosperity was deeply involved in mobilizing voters and helping elect the wave of tea party-aligned Republicans that helped the GOP win 63 seats and control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. Americans for Prosperity currently operates a national office as well as chapters in 36 states to promote its vision for “economic freedom.”

Based on its vast resources and infrastructure, the Washington Post once referred to Americans for Prosperity as “America’s third-biggest political party.” The group hosts semi-annual, invitation-only summits for conservative political donors, which are often attended by lawmakers and candidates.

Tim Phillips, a veteran political strategist who once served as the chief of staff to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has been the president of Americans for Prosperity since 2006. In 2017, Emily Seidel, a strategist in the Koch network for years, was appointed as Americans for Prosperity’s CEO.

Much of the money known to have funded Americans for Prosperity has come from three groups that have acted as financial hubs for the Koch brothers’ political network over the years: the Freedom Partners Chambers of Commerce, TC4 Trust and the Center to Protect Patient Rights (now known as American Encore), each of which has made large grants to Americans for Prosperity, as well as a number of other politically active nonprofit groups.