American Commitment

American Commitment

Background

According to its website, American Commitment describes itself as “dedicated to restoring and protecting the American Commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.” [1]

The group says it “engages in critical public policy fights over the size and intrusiveness of government through direct advocacy, strategic policy analysis, and grassroots mobilization.” and works with “key partners” to deliver “ timely, effective public policy research to the broader free-market movement.” [1]

American Commitment is led by Phil Kerpen, who has previously worked with other key groups in the Koch network including the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute. Kerpen also worked with Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation for over five years in various capacities including Vice President for Policy. [2]

American Commitment was launched by Sean Noble, and in 2012 received almost 97% of its $11.7 million in revenue from three Koch-funded and controlled groups—the Center to Protect Patient Rights, Freedom Partners and Americans for Responsible Leadership. [30]

In 2012, The Washington Post described American Commitment as “the latest GOP player” and at the time noted that the then-new group had already raised $7 million to spend on state-level races for ads. “We’re going to spend as much as we can raise,” Kerpen said. “We saw a market need for a group that uses campaign-style tactics and has rapid response capabilities but is also substantive and makes policy arguments,” Kerpen said. “We’ve got to find a way to hold politicians accountable for the bad things that bureaucrats do when politicians fail to stop them.” [3]

Stance on Climate Change

November 17, 2016

American Commitment president Phil Kerpen wrote that Trump should “let the senate kill Obama’s climate treaty.” In the piece, Kerpen claimed that climate models showed “minimal change”: [4]

“The Midwest delivered the White House to Trump, who dominated among the working class voters who care far more about how much they are paying to fill up the gas tank and keep their lights on than they do about what United Nations computer models predict about the climate in decades or centuries – the results of which show minimal change anyway,” Kerpen wrote at the American Commitment website.

That article was one of several in which Kerpen urged President Donald Trump to cancel the Paris treaty, and part of an overall initiative by American Commitment to accomplish US withdrawal. [5], [6]

Electric Vehicles & Fuel Economy Standards

May 14, 2019

Using data from the Pacific Research Institute and NERA Economic Consulting, Phil Kerpen repeated industry talking points to suggest electric vehicle subsidies should “die on schedule”: [7]

“Moreover, while the Green New Deal is a socialist income leveling exercise in the guise of environmental policy, electric vehicle subsidies use environmental delusion as a cover for a wealth transfer from poor and middle income Americans to the rich who buy electric hobby cars as their third or fourth vehicle,” Kerpen wrote at the American Commitment website.

July 3, 2018

American Commitment’s Phil Kerpen suggested Trump was right to gut fuel economy standards established during the Obama administration: [8]

“Against the half-trillion in benefits you can weigh the global warming impact – or non-impact. Model runs based on mainstream, consensus climate models show the Trump proposal would impact the global climate by 3/1000th of one degree Celsius by 2100. You can round that to zero,” Kerpen wrote.

He concluded: “President Trump is absolutely right to stand up to the shrieks of protest from the environmental groups and the media and to let Americans buy the cars and trucks we want.”

Funding

ProPublica reported that, in 2012, American Commitment received almost 97% of its $11.7 million in revenue from three Koch-funded and controlled groups—the Center to Protect Patient Rights, Freedom Partners and Americans for Responsible Leadership. [30]

The following is based on data retrieved from the Conservative Transparency project, combined with original 990 research by DeSmog. 

See a spreadsheet of American Commitment funding by year (.xlsx).

American Commitment as Recipient

Donor2011201220132014201520162017Grand Total
Freedom Partners $6,260,000$140,000$400,000 $50,000 $6,850,000
Center to Protect Patient Rights$1,614,985$4,781,559$45,000    $6,441,544
Americans for Responsible Leadership $300,000     $300,000
PhRMA $25,000$50,000$50,000$50,000$75,000 $250,000
Free Enterprise America$103,000      $103,000
American Encore   $100,000   $100,000
DonorsTrust     $50,000$2,500$52,500
American Energy Alliance    10,000   
Grand Total$1,717,985$11,366,559$235,000$550,000$50,000$175,000$2,500$14,107,044

American Commitment as Donor

Recipient201120132014Grand Total
Arizona Free Enterprise Club  $230,000$230,000
Americans for Responsible Leadership$70,250  $70,250
American Future Fund $65,000 $65,000
All Votes Matter$40,000  $40,000
New Jersey Family First $30,000 $30,000
Family Research Council Action $28,000 $28,000
Frontiers of Freedom Foundation  $12,500$12,500
Catholic Advocate $12,000 $12,000
Grand Total$110,250$135,000$242,500$487,750

American Commitment 990 Forms

*Note: American Commitment is a 501(c)(4) and also has a 501(c)(3) arm entitled the American Commitment Foundation. Combined 990 forms are below.

Key People

Phil Kerpen President. [9]

Phil Kerpen has been president of American Commitment since 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. From 2006 to 2012, he was vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Before that, he worked as policy director at the Free Enterprise Fund, and also worked as a policy analyst at the Club for Growth. [9]

American Commitment

The following is according to publicly available 990 forms:

Name20132014201520162017Description
Mary Beth WeissYYYYYDirector
Pam Pryor YYY Director
Phil KerpenYYYYYPresident
Sean Noble    YDirector

American Commitment Foundation

The following is according to publicly available 990 forms:

Name20162017Description
Erik TelfordYYBoard Member
Holly SadlerYYTreasurer
Phil KerpenYYPresident
Stephen MooreYYBoard Member

Other People

  • Jon Decker — listed as a “colleague” by Phil Kerpen on Twitter. [10]

Actions

April 6, 2020

American Commitment, represented by Phil Kerpen, was signatory to an American Energy Alliance letter to President Donald Trump supporting the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule which would scrap federal fuel economy mandates under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. [31]

Describing CAFE, the letter contends: “Those families and individuals who prefer or need trucks, SUVs, and crossovers pay more to subsidize those who buy smaller vehicles or electric vehicles under the existing mandate. This significant, needless, and unjust cost is a very real regressive tax on American families that has made our country worse off.” [31]

June 2019

Phil Kerpen said his staff at American Commitment had sent a “large bulk submission”—amounting to nearly 1,600 comments—solicited from the group’s supporters supporting a freeze on fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles proposed by the Trump administration, The New York Times reported. [28]

“We can’t count on the automakers to carry this fight,” Kerpen said, echoing sentiments by Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). A set of emails released as part of a freedom of information request by the Sierra Club revealed Ebell and CEI “weighed in at a critical juncture in the policymaking process” to push Trump to roll back emissions standards. [28]

The automakers are not going to help and may be part of the opposition,” wrote Ebell in a May 2018 email. [28]

“We understand that some in the automaker community have expressed concerns about your current plans to reform the program,” Ebell along with two other people that had assisted with the transition wrote in a May 10, 2018 letter to Trump. “Their main concern is the expected legal battle with California,” they wrote. “In fact, what many liberal California politicians really want to do is ban gasoline-powered cars altogether.” Their letter went on to say: “You should dismiss this concern. We agree that in an ideal world, California would negotiate with you in good faith, but we all know that is not a reality in this current political climate.” [28]

May 9, 2019

Phil Kerpen of American Commitment was signatory to an open letter to Congress urging the discontinuation of the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, DeSmog reported. The letter echoed a similar one from the previous September, which had also included many of the same signatories. [11], [12]

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) has organized a coalition to proclaim in one unified voice that there should be no expansion of the misguided electric vehicle tax credit,” Tom Pyle, president of the AEA and a former lobbyist for Koch Industries, wrote in a statement, first published by The Daily Caller News Foundation. [13]

Notably, that statement was published at 5:10 am EDT on Thursday, before the letter could have been delivered. Evidently, the Koch-funded think tanks gave the Koch-funded website an advance copy. The Daily Caller News Foundation has received more than $2.6 million from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation since 2013

April 24, 2019

Phil Kerpen wrote an article at CNSNews.com suggesting that climate change denier Stephen Moore—who is also listed as a board member of the American Commitment Foundation—would be the best pick for the Federal Reserve. [14]

“Stephen Moore would bring to the Fed decades of original economic thinking and an impressive track record of getting it right when so many others got it wrong. That’s why he’s the most qualified person for the job. And the most independent, too,” Kerpen claimed in the article. [14]

February 8, 2019

One of American Commitment’s initiatives urges people to sign a letter to “tell Congress to reject the ‘Green New Deal’ and stop socialism.” The letter claims: [15]

“Democrats are officially the party of socialism.

“Their ‘Green New Deal’ is so ridiculous that it would actually raise emissions by abolishing nuclear power, and so costly that its supporters say it will be paid for by printing money.

“If enacted, this legislation would mean nothing short of the complete destruction of the U.S. economy – and this is the left’s actual plan for America.”

September 19, 2018

American Commitment was among a coalition of 30 largely Koch-funded groups who signed on to an open letter opposing electric vehicle tax credits, DeSmog reported. The letter, organized by the American Energy Alliance, was made up almost immediately following a bill introduced that would have extended the 2009 tax credit for another ten years. [16]

The Electric Cars Act of 2018, introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and others, would also lift the cap of 200,000 vehicles sold by each manufacturer that would qualify for the credit. [16]

April 23, 2018

American Commitment, represented by Phil Kerpen, was among 22 groups signed on to an open letter asking President Trump to ignore recent criticism of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. [17]

In a speech to the U.S. Senate, a group of Democratic senators identified the organizations as front groups for the Koch Brothers and other wealthy donors, nicknamed the “Web of Deceit.” The senators outlined how, in addition to funding from the Koch network, many of the groups use untraceable “dark money” funneled through groups like Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust to influence legislation, particularly with regards to climate and pollution., represented by Lisa B. Nelson, was among 22 groups signed on to an open letter asking President Trump to ignore recent criticism of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Senator Whitehouse outlined it as “a web of deceit conceived and bankrolled by the Koch brothers and other self-interested billionaires to advocate for very selfish and unpatriotic policies.” Whitehouse added: “This web of deceit has infiltrated and populated the Trump administration, and it is swamping the interests of everyday Americans. [18]

March 28, 2018

American Commitment signed on to an open letter to then-EPA-Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for “the revocation of California’s waiver from the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to decouple from Federal policy and impose strict emission standards on automobiles.” [19]

“Our coalition calls for the repeal of the Clean Air Act waiver in California, while encouraging market solutions over wasteful taxpayer funding,” the letter read.

When asked about this at the BNEF Future of Energy Summit, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, told DeSmog, “I don’t think they’re going to do that.” [20]

February 12, 2018

American Commitment was part of a coalition led by Americans for Prosperity to oppose a federal gas tax increase. Groups joining AfP were groups including the National Taxpayers Union, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax ReformClub for GrowthHeritage Action, and numerous others. [21]

Raising the gas tax is a bad idea. It will make the burden of government on families and businesses heavier,” the coalition open letter read. While the Trump administration’s infrastructure proposal did not include a gas tax increase, AfP noted that several increases had been proposed. [21]

July 12, 2017

American Commitment promoted a joint letter supporting the Davidson Climate Amendment that would prevent the Department of Defense from implementing policies or programs to combat climate change. American Commitment president Phil Kerpen was a signatory of the letter. [22]

Other signatories included Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, E. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance, John Droz of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, and Craig Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

2017

American Commitment launched a petition initiative to “Ask President Trump to keep his promise and CANCEL the Paris Agreement.” The American Commitment website read as follows: [6]

“Obama’s unlawful Paris Treaty is thwarting President Trump’s pro-American energy agenda…

…but people inside the administration are trying to convince President Trump to break his promise to the American people and uphold this outrageous global warming treaty.”

As of May 2017, over 3,000 messages were sent via the American Commitment online submission form. [6]

January 12, 2017

American Commitment’s Phil Kerpen was a signatory to a official letter of support (PDF) for Scott Pruitt, in which numerous groups, including The Heartland InstituteAmerican Energy Alliance (AEA), and others, declared that the Senate should “swiftly approve his nomination” for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [23]

December 10, 2014

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse mentioned one of American Commitment’s initiatives, WarOnCoal.com, during a speech on the senate floor: [24]

“The website WarOnCoal.com is owned by American Commitment, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has been funded by the Koch Brothers-backed group Freedom Partners. War on Coal; it’s a public relations strategy, a catch-phrase, a gimmick that serves to distract people from the harm coal reeks on us,” Whitehouse said.

2012

American Commitment launched an initiative, KeystoneXLNow.com, calling for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and opposing a carbon tax. [25]

At the time, DeSmog reported on the launch of the then-new website: [29][25]

KeystoneXLNow.com invites users to send a message directly to the State Department to counterbalance “the crazy lefties [who] are already pouring in comments to give Obama an excuse to kill the pipeline.” The site calls on users to “push back by filling the official State Department docket with comments demanding they stop stalling and approve the Keystone XL pipeline now!” (emphasis added). [25]

KeystoneXLNow.com now redirects to a subdomain of American Commitment. The website registration for KeystoneXLnow.com  shows the site was registered by Phil Kerpen. [25]

According to its website, American Commitment is “dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.” [25]

2012

American Commitment arranged a petition to fight against “anti-ALEC bullying.” The petition claimed that “Companies have let a handful of bullies force them to withdraw support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).” The petition concludes: “Companies must reject these intimidation tactics, reverse course, and restore support for ALEC.” [26]

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) offers the following description of ALEC:

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through the secretive meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate lobbyists and state legislators vote as equals on ‘model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense. ALEC is a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.

“Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC‘s operations.

“Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.

ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a ‘unique,’ ‘unparalleled’ and ‘unmatched’ organization. We agree. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.”

American Commitment has launched a range of initiatives accompanied by online petitions or letters. All all sites now redirect to the subdomain action.americancommitment.org:

Contact & Address

According to the American Commitment website: [27]

1155 15th St NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005
Office: (202) 656-2193

This is the same address as the Koch-tied American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research.

Social Media

Resources

  1. About,” American Commitment. Archived May 30, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/qAC2y
  2. Americans for Prosperity Foundation Commends Phil Kerpen, Wishes Him Well,” Americans for Prosperity, April 12, 2012. Archived May 17, 2012. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/6rzhV
  3. Rachel Weiner. “The latest GOP player: American Commitment,” The Washington Post, June 10, 2012. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/DB0Qt
  4. Phil Kerpen. “TRUMP SHOULD LET THE SENATE KILL OBAMA’S CLIMATE TREATY,” American Commitment, November 17, 2016. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/5kgfI
  5. Phil Kerpen. “Trump Should Keep His Promise to Cancel Obama Climate Deal,” American Commitment, May 19, 2017. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/0ZmWd
  6. Tell President Trump to STOP the U.N. from Blocking American Energy!American Commitment, Archived May 12, 2017. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/kct0G
  7. Phil Kerpen. “Let Electric Vehicle Subsidies Die on Schedule,” American Commitment, May 14, 2019. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/dgud3
  8. Trump Is Right to End Obama/California Fuel Economy Scheme,” American Commitment, July 3, 2018. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/a0UVW
  9. Phil Kerpen,” LinkedIn. Accessed June 5, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  10. From my @AmerComm colleague Jon Decker: Bloomberg Launches Desperate Campaign to Save Philly Mob Tax,” Twitter post by user “Phil Kerpen.” Archived .png on file at DeSmog.
  11. Ben Jervey. “Koch-Funded Groups Still Begging Congress to Kill the Electric Car Tax Credit,” DeSmog, May 9, 2019.
  12. Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” (PDF). Retrieved from E&E News. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  13. CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITSOVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH’,” The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/me1Fe
  14. Phil Kerpen. “Stephen Moore Does Not Lack Independence, Is Best Pick for Fed,” CNSNews.com, April 24, 2019. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/OhtxI
  15. Reject the ‘Green New Deal’ and Stop Socialism!American Commitment, February 8, 2019. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/OPm0p
  16. Ben Jervey. “Koch-Funded Groups—Yet Again—Speak Out Against Electric Vehicle Tax Credits,” DeSmog, September 27, 2018.
  17. Coalition letter to the President on Scott Pruitt,” (PDF)Heartland Institute, 2018. Archived .pdf on file with DeSmogBlog.
  18. Senator Whitehouse. “Time to wake up: Web of Deceit” April 23, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.li/HzIsa
  19. “Dear Administrator Pruit” (PDF), March 28, 2018. Retrieved from the American Consumer Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  20. Ben Jervey. “Koch vs. California: These Groups Are Pushing Pruitt to Undo the State’s Right to Regulate Auto Emissions,DeSmog, April 10, 2018.
  21. Americans For Prosperity Leads Coalition Against Gas Tax Hike,” Americans for Prosperity, February 12, 2018. Archived February 20, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/vNQMN
  22. Joint Letter in Support of Davidson Climate Amendment,” American Commitment, July 12, 2017. Archived June 5, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  23. Dear Senators,” (PDF)Competitive Enterprise Institute, January 12, 2017. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  24. TIME TO WAKE UP: A CARBON FEE IS NOT A WAR ON COAL,” Sheldon Whitehouse, December 10, 2014. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/sSinv
  25. KeystoneXLNow.com: YES to Pipeline; NO to Steyer’s Carbon Tax,” American Commitment. Archived September 21, 2015. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/toNEM
  26. ALECPetition.com: Reject Anti-ALEC Bullying,” American Commitment. Archived June 28, 2012.
  27. American Commitment homepage. Archived June 5, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2L1mT
  28. Hiroko Tabuchi. “Climate Change Denialists Dubbed Auto Makers the ‘Opposition’ in Fight Over Trump’s Emissions Rollback,” The New York Times, July 2, 2019. Archived July 3, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/Dr5mP
  29. Emma Pullman. “Latest Pro-Keystone XL Website Backed by GOP Special Interest Group,” DeSmog, July 27, 2012.
  30. Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer. “The Dark Money Man: How Sean Noble Moved the Kochs’ Cash into Politics and Made Millions,” ProPublica, February 14, 2014. Archived July 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/xSo3o
  31. CAFE-Coaliton-to-Trump-April-2020-9 (PDF)American Energy Alliance.

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