Americans for Prosperity Now Going After Democratic Governors

The group’s Senate spending is grabbing headlines, but AFP has played a major role in recent gubernatorial and state policy fights, too.

National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
March 20, 2014, 10:56 a.m.

The biggest spend­er in U.S. Sen­ate cam­paigns so far this year got in­volved in a battle­ground gov­ernor’s race this week.

Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity, the con­ser­vat­ive non­profit that has spent about $30 mil­lion on ad­vert­ising in Sen­ate races over the last sev­er­al months, re­leased a TV ad cri­ti­ciz­ing Illinois Demo­crat­ic Gov. Pat Quinn this week. Cap­it­ol Fax re­por­ted that AFP’s Illinois chapter was put­ting about $120,000 to­ward run­ning the ad on cable.

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It’s a sign that des­pite the Wash­ing­ton mag­ni­fy­ing glass on AFP’s fed­er­ally fo­cused spend­ing so far, state polit­ics will be an­oth­er pri­or­ity for the group in 2014. The ad ap­pears to be AFP’s first TV spot of 2014 af­fect­ing a gov­ernor’s race, and it comes in the state that gives Re­pub­lic­ans their best chance to de­feat a Demo­crat­ic gov­ernor this year. Quinn, who has nev­er been blessed with great ap­prov­al rat­ings, faces Re­pub­lic­an ven­ture cap­it­al­ist Bruce Rau­ner in the gen­er­al elec­tion after the two won their party nom­in­a­tions on Tues­day night.

“We con­sider our iden­tity as a state-based or­gan­iz­a­tion,” said Dav­id From, AFP’s Illinois state dir­ect­or. From said the ad isn’t ex­pli­citly fo­cused on the gubernat­ori­al elec­tion: Quinn has a ma­jor budget speech com­ing up, and part of his plan for right­ing the state’s fin­ances in­cludes sup­port­ing a pro­gress­ive in­come tax in­stead of the state’s cur­rent flat struc­ture. Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity has been fight­ing the pro­pos­al for months.

Taxes will be a huge top­ic in the gov­ernor’s cam­paign, where Quinn and Rau­ner have already traded ac­cus­a­tions of “class war­fare” and fix­ing the state budget is one of the main top­ics.

“We want to make sure the pub­lic is aware of where people stand on the is­sues,” From said. “Gov­ernor Quinn is really go­ing to try to make [the elec­tion] a class-war­fare fight, and the pro­gress­ive in­come tax is an ar­row in that quiver.”

Though AFP’s Sen­ate-re­lated spend­ing is grabbing the most at­ten­tion right now, it has long been in­volved in state polit­ics and spent big money boost­ing a few Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors in 2012. The group spent around $10 mil­lion sup­port­ing Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er and his policies in 2011 and 2012 ahead of and dur­ing his ex­pens­ive re­call elec­tion. AFP also spent about a half-mil­lion dol­lars on North Car­o­lina’s state gov­ern­ment elec­tions in 2012, in­clud­ing some dir­ect mail sup­port­ing vic­tori­ous Gov. Pat Mc­Crory.

Since then, AFP re­mained act­ive in state-based policy fights in 2013, run­ning ad­vert­ise­ments in In­di­ana, North Car­o­lina, and else­where push­ing con­ser­vat­ive policy goals. Now that the elec­tion year has rolled around and 36 gov­ernors’ man­sions are up for grabs even as state law­makers keep writ­ing new le­gis­la­tion, we may start see­ing more ads like this one around the coun­try.

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