Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a national astroturf group founded and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries. In the 2012 presidential election, AFP was a significant component of the Koch’s $400 million political operation, receiving large amounts of money from Koch-linked dark money groups like Freedom Partners, American Encore, and DonorsTrust. In 2015, Politico reported that the Koch brothers’ political network plans to spend $889 million for the run-up to the 2016 election, including an estimated $125 million for just AFP.
AFP is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) and as such, it is not required to disclose its donors, nor does it. It is allowed to advocate for political issues, but cannot solicit votes for a specific candidate.
AFP is in sync with other groups funded by the Koch brothers and the Koch’s special interest groups that work against initiatives such as protecting the environment and combating climate change. AFP also distorts climate change science and the economics to “halt the encroachment of government.”
The astroturf group attacked solar energy in Florida after the Floridians for Solar Choice, a recently formed alliance of conservatives, libertarians, and environmentalists, launched a ballot initiative in 2015 that would allow voters in the 2016 election to vote on whether or not property owners who generate solar electricity can sell the power directly to other ratepayers up to 2 megawatts of solar power. Three months after the ballot initiative was launched, the Florida Chapter of AFP circulated emails across the state criticizing the initiative as a way of using “government and taxpayers to prop up the solar industry.”
Then in May, the North Carolina representatives passed a bill that included a provision that would freeze of the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standard and create a committee to study its impact, which is similar to what developed last year in Ohio. This occurred just a few weeks after House Majority Leader Hager bill to freeze the state’s standard failed as a standalone bill. After the provisions passed the House, the North Carolina Chapter of AFP applauded and began to put pressure on the General Assembly to pass the bill. AFP also phone-banked to get voters to call state officials to send HB 760 (later changed to HB 332) to the governor’s desk. The state chapter also held a statewide Day of Action on May 16 to gather activists to do a full day of phone-banking and door-knocking to put pressure on the Senate. A week later, the state chapter released a “jobs agenda” that promoted repealing the state renewable energy standard. Rep. Hager was at the press conference to lend his support.
On a national level, however, Donald Bryson and Jeff Glendening, the North Carolina state director and Kansas state director for AFP, respectively, had an op-ed published on July 10 in The Wall Street Journal. The AFP directors, with help from WSJ, declared that states are “unplugging” renewable energy standards and used the developments in Kansas, North Carolina, and West Virginia as evidence. Similar to the blogs and op-eds published and written by State Policy Network organizations or Heartland “experts” like Marita Noon in 2015, Bryson and Glendening cited the Institute for Energy Research, Utah State University and Strata, and the Manhattan Institute. All of those cited Koch-connected organizations or fossil fuel companies, as we have detailed, fund organizations; and, all of those reports have serious flaws, as this report notes.
However, the groundwork that was once again built this year by Heartland Institute, Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, AFP, and all the groups in this report, culminates in not only getting legislators to introduce bills that attacks renewable energy, but also the WSJ publishing their erroneous claims.
It is a perfect encapsulation of the strategy to create and fund many different organizations and front groups to pretend a chorus of voices agree that renewable energy laws must be eliminated – or that they are even being repealed.
Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director of the Climate+Earth Project, responded to the WSJ opinion piece on July 20. Barnett writes,
Here’s the truth: States that continue to embrace renewable energy standards are reaping the economic benefits. In June, for instance, a broad coalition of rural conservatives and local businesses rejected an attempt to end Texas’ RPS, even as renewable energy is bringing in huge amounts of private investments while keeping Texans’ electricity prices low. It’s worth noting that 29 states maintain RPS standards, and that half a dozen states – including Hawaii, Vermont and California – are actually in the process of expanding and extending their RPS laws. On the flip side, Koch-funded groups have pushed anti-RPS bills in Colorado, New Mexico and New Hampshire, and each time they failed.