The Big Money behind Americans for Prosperity


An organization called “Americans for Prosperity” has been working overtime to fight government action on climate change and greenhouse gas reduction strategies. You might remember their State-by-State grassroots “Hot Air Tour”.

The Hot Air tour’s tagline was “Exposing the Ballooning Costs of Global Warming Hysteria.” More recently the AFP ran a $140,000 TV ad campaign in Viriginia promising to “expose the hypocrisy and outrageous economic costs of so-called global warming regulations, taxes, and green energy plans.”

So who’s behind the AFP? And why are they so bent on seeing further delay in government action on an issue that the top scientists at the nation’s best institutes are saying needs to be dealt with now?

Our research team at DeSmog has put together a briefing note on the AFP, their history and most importantly who funds them.

AFP, and its former incarnation the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, are the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family of Foundations, which is run by the ultra-conservative oil baron Charles G. Koch. The Koch Family of Foundations has been a major funding source for many of the think tanks that are in the business of delaying action on climate change issues.

What follows is the information we’ve pulled together on the AFP and the Koch Family of Foundations.

You can find our permanent page on the AFP here: Americans for Prosperity – research and background information.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP)


Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a conservative think-tank established in Washington, D.C. in 2003.  It replaced the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation.  AFP is the sister organization to FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks is an organization that formed in 2004 when Citizens for a Sound Economy merged with the think tank Empower America.  Both the Citizens for a Sound Economy and Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation were created by the Koch Foundations.

Americans for Prosperity describes itself as a grassroot organization that is committed to engaging “citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state, and federal levels.”  Further, the AFP offers training to not only educate citizens about economic policy, but also, to mobilize those citizens to become advocates in the public policy process.  As a result, the AFP has state chapters in twenty-three states;  these chapters focus on issues particular to their region. 

The organization is extremely conservative in its economic and governance beliefs.  It’s mission is to reduce taxes and government spending, promote entrepeunership, and restore fairness to the American judicial system.


AFP is a non-profit organization who does not to disclose its donors.  However, the Media Transparency project shows from 2003-2006, Americans for Prosperity received $1,181,000 from conservative foundations.  $1 million of that funding was given by the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation–one of the Koch Family Foundations.

The AFP is the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations, behind the Cato Institute and the George Mason University Foundation.

Before 2003, when the AFP was still named the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, it received $18,460,912 in funding. 84% of that funding came from the Koch Family Foundations ($12,906,712) and the Scaife Family Foundations ($2,510,000).

Koch Family Foundations is funded by Koch Industries.  According to Forbes, Koch Industries is the second largest privately-held company, and the largest privately owned energy company, in the United States.  Koch industries has made its money in the oil business, primarily oil refining.  Presently, it holds stakes in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, forest products, and chemical technology.

Americans for Prosperity is also connected to oil giant ExxonMobil.  According to ExxonSecrets, between the years 1998-2001, Citizens for A Sound Economy and Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation received $380,250 from ExxonMobil.

Hot Air Balloons and Climate Change

In 2008, AFP embarked on a nation wide campaign against global warming.  The campaign was called the “Hot Air Tour.”  During the Hot Air Tour, AFP traveled in a hot air balloon to forty cities in the United States and held events in those cities. 

The tour carried the slogan, “Global Warming Alarmism:  Lost Jobs, Higher Taxes, Less Freedom.”  

During the Hot Air Tour, AFP president, Tim Phillips, said Americans for Prosperity became active in the issue of global warming in order to prevent cap-and-trade, and other climate change legislation from being passed in government.  He declared if any cap and trade legislation were passed it would create a massive tax burden on American citizens, kill the economy, and harmfully infringe on personal freedoms. 

In a public address Tim Phillips stated there would be a $1.2 Trillion tax increase if a cap-and-trade bill was passed, which would be felt predominantly by average Americans.  In his public address, Phillips said 1.2-1.8 million jobs would be lost with cap-and-trade legislation.  The source he cited for this information was the American Capital Formation Foundation.  The American Capital Formation Foundation does not exist.  However, the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) does exist.  The ACCF has consistently lobbied in Washington against green initiatives, especially the Kyoto protocol, claiming these actions would have severe effects on the national economy. 

On its website, the ACCF calls itself “one of the most influential organizations operating behind the scenes in the Washington policymaking arena.”  According to ExxonSecrets, between 1998-2006, the American Council for Capital Formation received $1,619,523 from ExxonMobil. 

Phillips final reason for opposing cap-and-trade legisilation was that it will infringe on personal freedom.  For example, he said laws would be created which force people to use fluorescent light bulbs and would lower the speed limit.


From 2003-2008, Americans for Prosperity was formally affiliated with the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). 

A 2003 press release explained the relationship: “while the two organizations will share leadership and senior staff and be co-located in IWF’s new suite of offices in Washington, D.C., each will be a separate organization with its own board of directors.” According to the IWF, as of July 2005, the “IWF and AFP have had no formal relationship.”

The president of the Independent Women’s Forum, Nancy Pfotenahuer, also acted as the president of Americans for Prosperity, but that arrangement ended in July 2005, and Pfotenhauer is now soley the president of IWF, and not an employee of AFP.

The Independent Women’s Forum is a conservative think tank that supports “limited government, property rights, free markets, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy.”  The IWF has received large amounts of funding from conservative foundations, especially the Scaife Family Foundations. The chair of the Independent Women’s Forum is Heather R. Higgins.  While Higgins has never been affiliated with the AFP, she does have connections to other conservative organizations.  She is the president of the Randolph Foundation, vice-chairman of the Philanthropy Roundtable, and has been on the executive committee of the board of overseers for the Hoover Institution.

AFP is also a member of Internet Freedom Coalition whose members include Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Independent Women’s Forum, and the Reason Foundation.

No Stimulus Petition

In February 2009, Americans for Prosperity started a nation-wide campaign to stop the senate and congress from passing President Obama’s $827 Million Stimulus Plan.  The key to AFP’s campaign was a petition which stated:

Congress should not enact an expensive spending bill under the pretense of stimulus or recovery. We cannot spend our way to prosperity, and such an expansion of the federal government will put a crushing burden on taxpayers in the long-term.”

The “No Stimulus” campaign did not prevent the bill from passing, however, AFP and its campaign were lauded by Senator James Inhofe for bringing awareness to the public.

This month we’re giving away FREE copies Nobel Laureate Dr. Andrew Weaver’s new book Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmog. He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning. Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks. Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder. Prior to DeSmog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health. In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications. Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

Related Posts


The Conservative leader voted in favour of protecting the planet only 13 times in 20 years as an MP, a DeSmog analysis of his voting record reveals.

The Conservative leader voted in favour of protecting the planet only 13 times in 20 years as an MP, a DeSmog analysis of his voting record reveals.

Campaigners likened the fossil fuel company’s patronage of climate events to letting an “arsonist sponsor a fire safety conference”.

Campaigners likened the fossil fuel company’s patronage of climate events to letting an “arsonist sponsor a fire safety conference”.

Ministers met with Onward, accused of being “a fossil fuel dinosaur in new clothing”, more than any other think tank last year.

Ministers met with Onward, accused of being “a fossil fuel dinosaur in new clothing”, more than any other think tank last year.

BP sees sponsored content as a crucial tool to reach “Washington, DC, elites,” according to subpoenaed memos.

BP sees sponsored content as a crucial tool to reach “Washington, DC, elites,” according to subpoenaed memos.