Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by billionaire David Koch (and the subject of a recent New Yorker exposé on the corporate bankroll behind the Tea Party movement), has surfaced in a Washington State legislative race.
"Surfaced" might be giving them too much credit. Like AFP at the national level, Americans for Prosperity Washington is hanging out in the background, funding political attack mailings, but not disclosing where their money comes from.
Today, the Sierra Club filed a complaint against AFP for sending out an attack mailer against state Sen. Eric Oemig (D-45). The Sierra Club says AFP has not disclosed who's funding the mail piece.
I've been writing a lot about the lack of disclosure in this year's U.S. Senate race. As a result of January's Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling, corporations can contribute unlimited dollars directly to nonprofits for independent expenditures on campaign ads.
Before the ruling (and a lesser-known 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Federal Elections Commission vs. Wisconsin Right to Life), corporations could not write checks to nonprofits for election ads.
Citizens didn't alter any disclosure rules, but because nonprofits don't have to disclose their donors, this new rush of corporate cash doesn't have to be disclosed to the public.
However, the Citizens ruling didn't affect campaigns at the Washington State level. Corporations in Washington could already write checks directly to candidates (up to the state's $800 limit) and political committees (with no limits). However, there's one big difference that makes our system friendlier to voters: Full disclosure. The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission tracks and reports all donations.
AFPW, taking its cue from nonprofits at the federal level (like AFP and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which recently did a $1.4 million TV ad buy against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray without disclosing any donors), did a mail hit piece against state Sen. Eric Oemig (D-45) without registering any paperwork with the disclosure commission, according to the complaint. (Our search of the PDC's committee database also found no trace of the group.)
The group's anti-Oemig mailer (pictured) criticizes Oemig for voting to overturn voter-approved I-960, which required a two-thirds majority of the state legislature to raise taxes. "Tell Senator Oemig to stop ignoring ... the will of the people," the mailer says.
Sen. Oemig is facing a stiff challenge from Republican opponent Andy Hill, who has raised $60,000 more than Oemig and has about $33,000 more cash on hand. The PDC does note that an independent group, People for Jobs, have spent $47,000 against Oemig, but there is no mention of Americans for Prosperity Washington.
There has been no independent spending against Hill, an ex-Microsoft manager.
We have a call out to former KVI host Kirby Wilbur, the AFPW's director.
The AFPW's national parent group. AFP, is spending without disclosure on national races, supporting Tea Party candidates.
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