Corruption Profile of the American Action Network
Supports candidate: Conservative
Location: Washington, D.C.
Founded: February 2010
Finances (calendar year 2010):
- Total Revenue: $2.8 million
- Total Expenses: $1.4 million
- Net assets: $1.3 million
- Norm Coleman (co-founder, chairman): Coleman was a Republican U.S. Senator from Minnesota from 2003 to 2009 and mayor of St. Paul, Minn.
- Douglas Holtz-Eakin (co-founder): Holtz-Eakin is also the president of American Action Forum, AAN’s associated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. He was the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005 and served as economic advisor to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
- Brian Walsh (president): As former political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Walsh helped the GOP take over the House.
- Fred Malek (co-founder): Malek is also chairman of American Action Forum. He served under President Richard Nixon as White House personnel chief during Watergate and was deputy director of the Committee to Reelect the President, often referred to as CREEP.
Profile: American Action Network was formed in 2010 on the platform of limited government, a strong national defense and “American exceptionalism,” according to its website. The majority of its spending has been on negative ads against Democratic candidates.
While nonprofits like American Action Network do not disclose their donors, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity revealed that The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, gave $4.5 million to the group in 2010, which accounted for 15 percent of its income that year.
American Action Network spent $26 million on ads in 2010, making it the second-most active outside political spending group that year behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to CRP.
Several big donors have ties to American Action Network, and Factcheck.org speculates that they are likely funders: billionaire Kenneth Langone, a prominent New York venture capitalist and Home Depot co-founder and Fred Malek, the co-founder and a top GOP fundraiser, are board members at American Action Network. Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, is a board member of the associated foundation, American Action Forum; and Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi, is an advisor to American Action Network, according to Time Magazine.
Time detailed the numerous links among American Action Network, the Republican Governors Association and 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS (Crossroads and AAN share office space), suggesting they often coordinate strategy and share information.
American Action Network’s reported expenditures this year include call-outs supporting Jesse Kelly, the Republican who is seeking former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s vacated Arizona seat, ads opposing Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, and direct mailings supporting Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.
In March, election watchdog Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against American Action Network with the IRS, urging it to investigate the organization’s tax-exempt status. The letter, which also called for investigations into Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA and Americans Elect, says that these groups are abusing their tax-exempt status by keeping their donors secret but engaging substantially in elections activities.
See more data on American Action Network at OpenSecrets.org.
- “Secrets” attacks tea party candidate Dan Liljienquist, the challenger to GOP establishment favorite Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah.
- “Rise of the Obamavilles,” a stylized, old-timey ad, paints the Occupy movement camps as “Obamavilles,” created by the president’s irresponsible leadership.