Who’s Buying Hoosier Elections?

Over the past several months, a nonprofit organization has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Indiana’s 8th District Congressional race.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Americans for Job Security has spent more than $355,000 since August for TV ads, radio spots, and direct mail pieces opposing Trent Van Haaften. Here’s an example of their work:

Americans for Jobs Security claims to be a nonprofit, and even has a section of its website dedicated to Indiana. But while the logo reads “Hoosiers for Job Security”, the copy on the website reads differently:


Have you ever heard anyone who’s actually from Indiana refer to residents here as “Indianans?” I sure haven’t. But it doesn’t surprise me that a group like Americans for Job Security, headquartered at a PO box at a UPS store in Virginia, can’t even get their basic astroturfing vocabulary straight.

Americans for Job Security was started in 1997 with million-dollar gifts from the American Insurance Association and the American Forest and Paper Association. It’s technically organized as a trade group, and is not required to disclose its donors – it prefers to disguise its fundraising as membership dues. And while the group’s public address is that UPS store drop box, Americans for Job Security actually operates out of the same Republican shop as Crossroads Media, the team behind Karl Rove’s billionaire-funded “shadow GOP”, American Crossroads.

Last month, Eric Bradner wrote a story on the initial ad buy against Van Haaften in the Evansville Courier Press:

The ads, with a buy totaling $5 million behind them, are funded by Americans for Job Security and another Republican-allied group, The 60 Plus Association.

Van Haaften’s spokesman, Zach Knowling, called Americans for Job Security a "shadowy special interest group with big corporate backing."

"This group is spending big to elect Larry Bucshon, who has pledged in writing to support the same corporate tax loopholes that Whirlpool used to ship 1,100 jobs from Evansville to Mexico this summer," Knowling said.

And Americans for Job Security isn’t the only outside group pouring money into the Hoosier state in an effort to influence the 2010 elections.

The American Future Fund has spent more than a quarter of a million dollars trying to unseat Democratic Representative Baron Hill in Indiana’s 9th District. The AFF, which claims it was “formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint”, is organized as a 501(c)4 nonprofit and is headquartered out of a PO box at a UPS store in Iowa. Like other 501(c)4 groups, they do not have to disclose their donors. The AFF might be best known for hiring the producers of the racist “Willie Horton” ads to try and tie a Democratic Congressman in Iowa to plans to build a mosque “at Ground Zero”.

AUL Action, a DC-based arm of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, has spent more than $17,000 on radio ads against Baron Hill. But that’s a small expenditure next to the New Prosperity Foundation’s $50,000 radio buy in the 9th District. The New Prosperity Foundation is a Chicago-based organization formed by big-dollar fundraisers for former President Bush that is suddenly pushing into more races outside of Illinois.

Another shadowy group, billing itself as the Coalition to Protect Seniors, has spent thousands on TV ads opposing Baron Hill and Democratic Senate candidate Brad Ellsworth. The “Coalition” was only incorporated on June 30, 2010, and appears to be headquartered out of a PO box at a Delaware Mail Boxes, Etc. store.

In August, the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, spent more than $20,000 on its bus tour opposing Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, and 2nd District Congressman Joe Donnelly – all pro-life Democrats.

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), head of the Senate Finance Committee, has asked the IRS to look into whether these groups are abusing their nonprofit status. His letter specifically mentions Americans for Job Security, but his request would also cover other “nonprofits” that seem to have political campaign activity as their sole reason for existence.

The sad part is, these are just a handful of the independent expenditures here in Indiana since August. I haven’t included any of the thousands of dollars being spent by the national Republican committees, or looked back to see how much these groups and others spent earlier in the year.

Tomorrow, I’ll break down expenditures by candidate and show precisely which Indiana elections are the targets of these outside groups.