Americans for Prosperity

Former Tea Party Darling Defeated As Anti-Choice & Tea Party Groups Turn Against Her

Back in 2010, after the Tea Party sweep helped Republicans regain control of the House, we profiled the “10 scariest Republicans heading to Congress,” most of them Tea Party crusaders. One of these was Renee Ellmers, a former nurse who based her campaign on opposing the Affordable Care Act and ran a campaign ad calling an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan a “victory mosque” built in celebration of 9/11.

Ellmers credited her start in politics to Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch-backed group that rallied opposition to Obamacare, and won the support of anti-choice groups including the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America.

Then things changed. Yesterday, Ellmers lost a Republican primary in part thanks to redistricting that pitted her against another GOP incumbent and in part due to the $1.1 million that her former conservative allies spent to defeat her.

AFP spent six figures on ads opposing Ellmers and dropped in dozens of field workers to knock on doors in her district, condemning her for straying from the Tea Party line and working with GOP leadership to support compromise spending bills and the Export-Import Bank. Other conservatives were troubled by her bucking of hardliners on a few immigration votes.

But what was the most stunning was Ellmers’ fall from grace in the anti-abortion movement. Ellmersopposes abortion rights and has a 100 percent rating on the National Right to Life Committee’s congressional scorecard. But she angered her former anti-choice allies last year when she led a group of Republican women and some moderates who derailed a planned vote on a 20-week abortion ban — the anti-choice movement’s premier legislation — when, at the last minute, they expressed concerns about a provision that would have exempted rape survivors only if they reported the crime to the police. The bill was later reintroduced with modified language, but the anti-choice movement had lost its chance to hold a vote on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade as activists flooded Washington for the March for Life.

National Right to Life sent an email to its members last week calling Ellmers a “pro-life traitor” and boasting of its efforts to defeat her in the primary. “Nothing has the potential to do more damage to pro-life efforts than people who run as pro-life candidates back home in their pro-life districts and then stab the babies in the back when they come to DC and work against pro-life efforts,” the group wrote.

In an interview with the conservative website The Pulse last week, Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser, citing her group’s early support of Ellmers, said, “Well, we brought her into the political process, and we intend to take her out.” She acknowledged that Ellmers has “a 100 percent record” on her group’s issues, but her sabotage of the 20-week bill “totally trumped every single thing else that we were looking for in a candidate.”

While Tea Party funders were angered by Ellmers’ cozying up to her party’s leadership and anti-choice groups were angered by her derailing of an important symbolic vote (even though she agreed with the substance of that vote), Ellmers hardly became a moderate. After all, she was the first congressional candidate to earn an endorsement from Donald Trump, thanks to her early support for his presidential candidacy.

Yesterday, in a bizarre ending to a strange tale of shifting Republican allegiances, Ellmers, maybe feeling that she had nothing left to lose, told a North Carolina Republican activist who had abandoned her to support one of her primary rivals that she had gained weight, all in front of rolling news cameras:

Ben Carson's Bible-Based Tax System and Other GOP Adventures In 'Biblical Economics'

In last night’s Republican presidential debate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said he would base a new tax system on the biblical system of tithing. “I think God is a pretty fair guy,” he said.

And he said, you know, if you give me a tithe, it doesn’t matter how much you make. If you’ve had a bumper crop, you don’t owe me triple tithes. And if you’ve had no crops at all, you don’t owe me no tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about that.

And that’s why I’ve advocated a proportional tax system. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. And everybody gets treated the same way. And you get rid of the deductions, you get rid of all the loopholes, and…

Carson has plenty of company on the far right. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has declared, “God believes in a flat tax.” On his radio show last year, Fischer said, “That’s what a tithe is, it’s a tax.”

Of course, that kind of flat tax would amount to a massive tax cut for the richest Americans and a tax hike on the poorest. So it’s not terribly surprising the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity has teamed up with the Religious Right to promote the idea that progressive taxation is an un-Christian idea. AFP joined Religious Right groups to create the Freedom Federation, one of the right-wing coalitions that sprung up in opposition to Barack Obama’s election as president. The coalition’s founding “Declaration of American Values” declares its allegiance to a system of taxes that is “not progressive in nature.”

David Barton, the pseudo-historian, GOP activist, and Glenn Beck ally, is a major promoter of the idea that the Bible opposes progressive taxes, capital gains taxes, and minimum wage. Barton’s views are grounded in the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose thinking has infused both the Religious Right and Tea Party movements with its notion that God gave the family, not the government, responsibility for education — and the church, not the government, responsibility for taking care of the poor. 

That’s how we have Republican members of Congress supporting cuts in food stamps by appealing to the Bible. And how we get Samuel Rodriguez, the most prominent conservative Hispanic evangelical leader, saying that a desire to “punish success” — i.e. progressive taxes — “is anti-Christian and anti-American.”

This notion that laissez-faire economics, small government, and flat taxes are divine mandates, and that taxation is theft, is also how we end up with the Heritage Foundation promoting the idea that “[t]hose who esteem the Bible should also applaud St. Milton Friedman and other Church of Chicago prelates, because their insights amplify what the Bible suggests about economics.” And the idea that unions and collective bargaining are unbiblical is how we get Religious Right groups celebrating Scott Walker’s war on unions.

Koch Group Jumps Into Montana Supreme Court Race

The American Constitution Society has just released a big report on the effects of post-Citizens United spending on judicial elections, specifically finding that judges who survive expensive, ad-heavy elections are “less likely to vote in favor of criminal defendants.”

As it happens, an example of what happens when big outside spending groups take an interest in state judicial elections is unfolding right now in Montana.

We’ve been following how Religious Right and pro-corporate groups have been getting involved in a Montana state supreme court race, in which a former solicitor general with a right-wing record is trying to topple a sitting justice and flip the ideological balance of the court.

Last month, the anti-gay, anti-choice  Family Research Council raised money for challenger Lawrence VanDyke at a Values Voter Summit fundraiser. A couple of weeks later, a Montana offshoot of the Republican State Leadership Committee — an outside spending group bankrolled by corporations including the Reynolds tobacco company and Koch Industries dropped $110,000 on TV ads attacking VanDyke’s opponent, Justice Mike Wheat.

And now, according to the Missoulan, not only has the RSLC now spent $330,000 supporting VanDyke’s candidacy, but it has been joined in the fight by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded group that has since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision spent millions of dollars to influence elections.

AFP is spending $85,000 running ads that accuse Wheat of being an “extreme” partisan…citing his votes on bipartisan bills as a state legislator. In an interview with the Missoulan, Wheat called the ads “garbage”:

The ads say Wheat, a justice on Montana’s high court since 2010, “has a history of supporting extreme, partisan measures,” citing his votes as a state senator for a 2003 sales tax package and for an increase in hunting and fishing license fees in 2005, and his 2012 dissent in a Supreme Court ruling upholding natural gas well permits.

“Our (intent) is to educate voters on the positions that Mike Wheat has taken in the past and hold him accountable for those positions,” Lahn said.

Wheat, in an interview, called the ad “garbage” and said it has little or nothing to do with the type of a justice he’s been or will be.

The ad sponsor “is just one of the Super-PACs funded by the Koch Brothers, who want you to believe it’s only for `educational’ purposes,” Wheat said. “It’s not education at all; it’s pure politics.”

In addition to $275,000 combined that Wheat and VanDyke have reported raising for their campaigns, the race has seen spending now by four outside groups, including AFP-Montana.

Two other groups are supporting VanDyke, including the Republican State Leadership Committee, which reported Thursday it’s spent $330,000 on TV ads and mailers, and one group is supporting Wheat.

Lahn said AFP-Montana initially is spending $85,000 for its ads criticizing Wheat.


The AFP ad says Montanans “deserve a fair and impartial Supreme Court” and urge voters to call Wheat “and tell him to keep his extreme politics out of the Montana Supreme Court.”

Among other things, the ad refers to Wheat’s 2003 vote as a senator for a sales tax package that also reduced property and income taxes, and his 2005 vote for a bill increasing hunting and fishing license fees.

The sales tax measure passed the Senate with bipartisan support but died in the House; the hunting and fishing license bill passed with bipartisan support.

Even Conservatives Admit Americans For Prosperity Is A Koch Brothers Front Group

Last week at CPAC, American Family Radio host Sandy Rios interviewed Rob Tappan, the director of external relations at Koch Industries, which was a top sponsor of the conservative summit. Rios asked Tappan about Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s recent criticism of Charles and David Koch’s exorbitant spending on behalf of right-wing political groups, including Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

Since AFP is obviously a front group for the Koch brothers, Rios asked the Koch Industries spokesman, “Are you guys—now you’re running ads in Michigan? I’m sure that you’re doing things in other states too, where are some of the other hotspots we might not know where you guys are placing some of your ads against Obamacare?”

Tappan tried to clarify that he Koch Industries and AFP are separate entities, but it was clear that both Tappan and Rios understood that the groups are not really different at all.

“We are certainly very supportive of them from a resource standpoint as well as a philosophical standpoint, we love AFP and all of the things that they do,” Tappan added. “Make no mistake, Charles Koch and David Koch are very simpatico with everything that AFP does as well as any one of a number of organizations that they support and try to help flourish.”

Texas Americans for Prosperity Director: Pro-Choice Women Should 'Choose Sterilization'

As Texas lawmakers debate a bill that would shut down most of the state’s abortion providers, Texas Americans for Prosperity state director and GOP activist Peggy Venable yesterday tweeted that pro-choice women should “choose sterilization” as they are “nasty” and “simply should not procreate.” The Texas Freedom Network grabbed the tweet before she took it down:

Venable has since called the tweet a “lame attempt at humor” and apologized.

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Health Care Hostilities Result From Right's Declaration of War on Obama

Vituperative attacks on Democratic-led efforts to reform the nation's health care system reflect right-wing leaders' strategic decision to do everything in their power to destroy the Obama presidency. The disruptions at congressional town hall meetings by angry, misinformed mobs are the result of an opportunistic coalition of convenience between deep-pocketed corporate opponents of reform, Religious Right leaders who see opposition to Obama as a religious duty, right-wing media outlets eager to use any bludgeon at their disposal to weaken the Obama administration, and Republican officials all too eager to play along in hopes of strengthening their political position.
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