On the cusp of the midterm elections, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing political advocacy organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has endorsed eight GOP House incumbents in the hopes of weakening labor groupsâ€™ influence in Washington and ensuring that the AFPâ€™s political agendas remain a priority in Congress.
AFP is aÂ Koch-funded organizationÂ whose agenda is in line with other groupsâ€”such as Concerned Veterans for America, which is also funded by the Koch brothersâ€”that work against progressive initiatives and protections for labor unions, healthcare reform and any effort to combat climate change, saysÂ David Armiak, a researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit watchdog group.
On August 31, AFP endorsed eight GOP House incumbents as its â€śpolicy championsâ€ť: Peter Roskam (R-Ill.Â 6th), Dave Brat (R-Va. 7th), Ted Budd (R-N.C. 13th), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio 1st), Will Hurd (R-Texas 23rd), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn. 3rd), Rod Blum (R-Iowa 1st) and David Young (R-Iowa 3rd).
â€śAFP will fully activate its grassroots infrastructure through phone banks and neighborhood canvassing, as well as deploy targeted digital, mail, and radio advertisingâ€ť to support these candidates in their upcoming elections, the organization writes in a statement.
While itâ€™s hard to know the specific reason that the AFP singled out these eight GOP incumbents as its â€śpolicy champions,â€ť the AFP has â€ścorrectly recognized that these are candidates who are vulnerable,â€ť saysÂ Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a political scientist and public affairs professor at Columbia University. According to the nonpartisan election analyst theÂ Cook Political Report, many of them are in toss-up races. In three of the elections, Ill.-06, Iowa-01 and Minn.-03, polls currently lean Democrat.
ArmiakÂ says AFPâ€™s newly formed super PAC,Â Americans for Prosperity ActionÂ (AFPA), allows all Koch brother-funded groups to consolidate their spending power into a single political ad-buying powerhouse. This makes it more challenging for an experienced researcher, such as Armiak, to track the money funneling through the Koch brothersâ€™ political network.
â€ś[The groups] are reorganizing their spending filing to make it more complicated,â€ť Armiak says. â€śItâ€™s a sophisticated network and difficult to figure out and will take a while to study to truly understand how it operates.â€ť
This can be worrisome to progressive interest groups that AFP and Koch brother affiliates typically work againstâ€”such as those pushing for healthcare reform and environmental advocacyâ€”because it allows AFP to spend more money against such interest groups with little disclosure of where their funds come from.
Organized labor groups especially may be negatively impacted after theÂ Janus v. AFSCMEÂ Supreme Court decisionÂ this June. â€ś[AFP wasnâ€™t] directly involved in theÂ JanusÂ decision but heavily supported it,â€ťÂ Hertel-FernandezÂ says. The decision means right-to-work laws, which prohibit unions from charging non-members fees regarding union services likeÂ collective bargaining, now apply to the public sector. This could benefit AFP and its endorsed candidates because it could lessen the financial strength of unions, which will inevitably hurt their lobbying abilities in Washington, according to Hertel-Fernandez.
Itâ€™s likely AFP and the Koch brothers are eyeing theÂ JanusÂ decision as an opportunity to use it as justification to support federal right-to-work laws in the private sector, too, Hertel-Fernandez says. AFPA is a new weapon that allows the AFP to spend exorbitant amounts of money to support candidates who will push for private sector right-to-work laws, which are currentlyÂ applied in 27 states.
As a super PAC, AFPA is not restricted to any donation or spending limits. While it is illegal for a super PAC to coordinate with political candidates, it can spend unlimited amounts to support any candidate it chooses with methods such as advertising and canvassing. Donors to AFPA know that if they want their agendas advanced, they have to keep financially supporting congressmen that have proven to be a strong return on investment by voting on legislation that suits their interests, says Hertel-Fernandez. The eight GOP incumbents AFP has endorsed have historically been aligned with the Koch brothersâ€™ libertarian ideology and political interests.
â€śTo Charles and David Koch, politicians are just actors who are just a means to an end. They are looking for people who will just do what they ask them to,â€ť Hertel-Fernandez says. â€śThey are willing to work with anyone to pursue [their] agenda.â€ť
The Koch brothers and their political network are clearly focused on maintaining influence in Congress. But as we head into the polls today, political analysts and pundits are predicting a blue wave that might just thwart the Koch brothersâ€™ attempt to keep control of the House.
This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on November 6, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author:Â Eric Bradach is an editorial intern for In These Times.