AFP president: Reid tries to 'silence and intimidate' Americans
February 27th, 2014
04:51 PM ET
5 months ago

AFP president: Reid tries to 'silence and intimidate' Americans

Washington (CNN) - One day after Senate Majority Harry Reid repeatedly attacked the conservative billionaire activists, the Koch brothers, and their well-financed conservative organization Americans for Prosperity, the head of that group, Tim Phillips, said Reid is using scare tactics against detractors.

"For a politician to try and silence and intimidate an American citizen solely because they don't like the facts that are coming out and the story they are telling says more about the politician than it says about Americans for Prosperity," Phillips told CNN in a sit-down interview near his office in Arlington, Virginia Thursday morning.

Americans for Prosperity is an influential conservative organization that is working, in part, to unseat Democrats in local and federal races across the country. The organization is largely bank-rolled by energy and manufacturing titans Charles and David Koch, commonly referred to as the Koch brothers.

In two separate speeches on the Senate floor Wednesday, Reid attacked the Koch brothers as being "un-American," having "no conscience," and that the "vast majority" of their political advertisements are untrue.

"The irony," Phillips said, "is that David and Charles Koch have created more prosperity for Americans in the form of jobs… in one year than Harry Reid and his ilk on the left in Congress have created in decades with their big government policies."

AFP has been a serious impediment to Democrats for at least the past two election cycles. This year, Phillips pledges to spend "a substantial" amount of money this year defeating members of Congress – all Democrats – who voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

That could mean a lot of money. Phillips declined to say how much, but noted that in 2012 elections, AFP spent a whopping $130 million dollars against Obama and Democratic candidates. It's an incredible amount of money but it's paltry to the Koch's empire that is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars.

So far this year, the group has spent "a hair" over $30 million running radio, TV and digital ads in numerous states, including Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, and West Virginia – all states with vulnerable Democrats.

Vice President Joe Biden said the Koch vault worries naturally worries Democrats, who are at risk of losing control of the Senate. But Biden attempted to raise Democrats' optimism at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.

"I'm still one of these guys who believes money can't buy an election when you're selling a bad set of goods," Biden said.

The ad that caused Reid to publicly lash out is one that is running in Michigan, specifically targeting Democratic Rep. Gary Peters who is running to keep an open Senate seat in party hands.

The emotionally griping 60-second ad features Julie Boonstra, who has leukemia, saying she had "a great health care plan" before Obamacare forced her into a new health insurance plan.

"The out of pocket costs are so high, it's unaffordable," Boonstra said in the ad.

Directly addressing Rep. Peters, Boonstra said, "Your decision to vote for Obamacare jeopardized my health."

That ad prompted Reid to take to the Senate floor in two separate occasions to call out the Koch franchise. "You see, when you make billions of dollars a year, you can be as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow you to be," he said.

Phillips, the long-time conservative political power player who has run AFP since 2004, said he is "very comfortable" with Boonstra's personal account.

While he would not say how AFP found Boonstra or heard of her story, he said they didn't give Boonstra, or others featured in similar ads, pre-written scripts, but they turn the camera on and let them talk about their experience with Obamacare.

Multiple fact checkers looked into the ad and concluded that it had problems. The Washington Post's fact checker "raised serious questions about her allegations," pointing out that Boonstra's monthly premiums decreased from more than $1000 per month to about $500 per month. While her out of pocket expenses are higher than under her previous plan, her new Obamacare plan has an annual cap on spending that taps out at just over $6,000, much lower than her previous plan.

While Boonstra said in the add that her new Obamacare plan provides "unaffordable" coverage, Phillips clarified Thursday, saying that her lower premiums and higher out of pocket costs leads to unpredictability. While leaving some months financially manageable, medical expenses of other months could become unaffordable, he said of her new plan that is barely two-months in.

While people say the ad is misleading, Phillips said "Obama lied."

Philips said AFP hasn't been nearly as misleading as President Obama has been; Obama lied, Phillips said.

He pointed to Obama's claim that people can keep their health insurance, noting that it was rated the "lie of the year" from Politifact in 2013.

"Sometimes we like their Pinocchio's," Phillips said, referring to the grading scale the Washington Post gives. But in the case of the Boonstra ad, "we don't really buy them."

Phillips also addressed other criticism, but this one was coming from a Republican.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday that making 2014 solely a referendum on Obamacare is "a mistake" and that the Republican Party needs to also offer new ideas.

"There's always people giving their analysis, and they're entitled to it," Phillips responded.

He has no plans of taking Jindal's advice. "We do want to make sure Obamacare is the number one issue in the country," Phillips said. "We want the senators who are up this year to have to explain that vote and to explain the ongoing impact of the law."

He has the backing to do it.

"We're very proud to have their support," he said of the Koch brothers. "We are going to keep doing this. We're not going to be intimidated."

soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "AFP president: Reid tries to 'silence and intimidate' Americans"

    Really? And having someone lie in a commercial in order to scare people is not a form of intimidation? Who knew?

    February 27, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    Thank you for emphasizing who is running the show . . . the koch brothers.
    The AFP speaks for,maybe, 20% of Americans. Prosperity in your case means making the rich richer.

    February 27, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "It is truly hilarious that the Democrat Party that lied and conned the American people for years about Obamacare has the gall to call others liars when they report on all of the damage this train wreck is doing to people every day."

    The "Democratic Party" is not who fact-checked the commercial at issue and found the woman's claims to be untrue and unfounded. The simple question is this: if it's so bad and all these things are really happening, why are these commercials...or stunts like Hannity's when he paraded a group of people onto his show to complain about how the ACA is "hurting them"...being consistently found untrue? Why can't these guys find one person who can 100% truthfully claim to have suffered the parade of horribles that they claim is happening? Why are they also often using actors to read a script that isn't real? Why? If it's so pervasively bad and these things are happening to every 3rd person and millions are suffering so terribly, why can't they produce people who can claim it without being later found to have spun a tall tale? Hmmmm? Explain that to the class.

    February 27, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  4. Ol' Yeller

    "I'm still one of these guys who believes money can't buy an election when you're selling a bad set of goods," Biden said.

    And if you don't believe Joe, ask Mitt.

    Hmmmmmm.... Koch money or the votes of the middle class, women, LGBT, Hispanic, working class, African-American, and all the other folks who have been disenfranchised by the right (aka- the koch brother's party, signed sealed, delivered with a bow).
    Again.... ask romney how that stratergy worked out for him.
    Hahahahahaahahahahahahahahaahahaaaa......

    February 27, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    @just asking: "but george soros and the unions buying elections for the democrats is ok right?"

    George Soros is one man, who sat out the 2012 elections. PAC donations by unions were less than 1/3 what corporations spent – and unlike corporations, unions have to disclose their contributors and the amounts they gave. When you look at soft money contributions, business interests outspent unions by about 15 to 1.

    Yours is a false equivalency, just. The right loves to throw out big, bad Soros, that foreign-born menace to our democracy – completely ignoring Rupert Murdoch, his mouthpiece Fox, and the likes of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson.

    February 27, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Phillips is what we now know and refer to as a wealthy low life. You know a program is good when the anti Christ billionaire brothers to spend hundreds of millions to make sure 45 million uninsured cannot have affordable health care.

    February 27, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  7. Tampa Tim

    I cannot wait until we find out the real reasons why the liar of the century got us into a war with Iraq.

    February 27, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  8. Thomas

    Americans for Prosperity doesn't believe that climate change exists.

    Why is prosperity for a few matter , if the quality of life for most is threatened ?

    February 27, 2014 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  9. Wake up People!

    Kind of hard to silence a group of uber-wealthy white guys with their own news network.

    February 27, 2014 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  10. Lisa P.

    it must be said

    It is truly hilarious that the Democrat Party that lied and conned the American people for years about Obamacare has the gall to call others liars when they report on all of the damage this train wreck is doing to people every day.

    Democrats are doubling down on their lies, even after a majority of Americans don't believe them and trust them. Yes, the smell of desperation is in the air. But they did it all themselves so they need look no further than the mirror, and to the White House, for the people to blame for their demise in November.
    February 27, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm
    -----------------------------

    From the article:

    "Multiple fact checkers looked into the ad and concluded that it had problems. The Washington Post's fact checker "raised serious questions about her allegations," pointing out that Boonstra's monthly premiums decreased from more than $1000 per month to about $500 per month. While her out of pocket expenses are higher than under her previous plan, her new Obamacare plan has an annual cap on spending that taps out at just over $6,000, much lower than her previous plan."

    You were saying...?

    February 27, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  11. Pollopa

    For you people who tirelessly want to point to Politfact calling the President Liar of the YEar as some great insult. It's not. If your so tied to their proclamations go to their site and see that most republicans or related to speakers/supporters get way more false or pants on fire ratings than their democratic counterparts especially when it comes to healthcare. Go back to 2012 see Romney as Liar of the Year, did that go on and on by the liberals, no. Really just grow up and realize the political system is bought and paid for. Until voter reinstatement, campaign finance restrictions in place and gerymandering is removed we are just going to be manipulated by those in power. Inform yourselves and quit being sheep with petty name calling. You really sound like desperate losers. Tell me you've never told a lie your sorry for, but covered your but anyway.

    February 27, 2014 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    Correction:

    Mr. Phillips, if corporations are people, please provide us with height, weight and BMI information for Koch Industries.

    February 27, 2014 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    Mr. Phillips, if corporations are people, has Koch Industries ever been in love? And if so, did the relationship end in matrimony?

    *crickets*

    February 27, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  14. Jan

    If the Koch Bros apologize for spending million$$$ in states they don't even LIVE in, and lying about the Affordable Care Act, Harry "The Championship Boxer" MIGHT think about doing it too.

    February 27, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    Mr. Phillips, if corporations are people, what is Koch Industries' faith? Is Koch Industries a practicing member of their congregation?

    *crickets*

    February 27, 2014 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  16. Gurgyl

    There is a nice Article in Bloom-burgh business report lately about Obamacare success. Read. It is going to be a huge success. Markets go mad for Obamacare, shooting to 46.9 percent..

    February 27, 2014 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    Dear Supreme Court: If Mr. Phillips cannot answer my questions in such a way as to prove corporations are indeed people, then why in the heck did you grant them "free speech" rights?!?!?!?!?

    Enough of Citizens United – time to get rid of that horrid ruling once and for all. It's either that or Koch Industries uber alles!

    February 27, 2014 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the majority repub/tea bag members

    @Harold Read: "Sorry Senator Reid, in regards to lies and Obamacare, "You can keep your policy. Period." won Obama the 2013 Lie of the Year. Term limits need to be set for all (Rep and Dem) Congress-persons."

    We have term limits: it's called voting. Why would you deny citizens their right to democratically-elected representation?

    Regarding lies of the year: President Obama is guilty of being incomplete in his statement regarding keeping your policy; he should have included "you can keep it if it's not crappy." If you're looking to blame someone, blame your insurance company for not providing decent coverage in the first place.

    And if you're really curious about the truth, check out how the whole "Lie of the Year" thing started: That rests squarely on the whiny shoulders of the Quitta from Wasilla and her "death panels." Check out that list's history and you'll see that 3 out of the 5 times it's been awarded, it's gone to a repub.

    February 27, 2014 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  19. don in albuquerque

    More bad news

    Care to look up and check how many graves W's constant lies earned us? I know the Repubs like to say Obama constantly plays the blame game, but he is right. W tried very hard to destroy this country. And that, dear heart, is something that the Repukes will never shirk the blame for.

    February 27, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  20. Greg Kells

    Every time a politician. journalist or talking head mentions the Koch brothers and attacks their use of money to influence politics, they should be required to mention George Soros, who spends just as much money buying influence. If it's okay for someone to do it as long as they happen to agree with you, you have no justification complaining when those who disagree with you take advantage of the same right.

    February 27, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  21. Liz the First

    If AFP knows anything, it's scare tactics. that's their stock-in-trade! they and the Bond-villain Koch Brothers are spending billions lying and scaring Americans into voting against their own self-interest and for the folks who will leave the Kochs alone to pollute and plunder to their hearts' content. these creeps are the kingpins of the vast right wing conspiracy that threatens the very fabric of our democracy,.

    February 27, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  22. jinx9to88

    Why don't the Koch brothers just buy a senate seat for each of them instead of having all these little puppets running around doing their dirty work? Two brothers have more say in policies than million's of people, some democracy we have here.

    February 27, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  23. jinx9to88

    "AFP spent a whopping $130 million dollars against Obama and Democratic candidates. It's an incredible amount of money but it's paltry to the Koch's empire that is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars." and the rich cry they don't want to pay anymore taxes. When you throw 130 million to elections your just plan stupid!!

    February 27, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  24. Former republican, now an independent

    If AFP and the Koch brothers want to talk about silencing and intimidating Americans, they should look no farther than their own efforts, along with republican senators and a republican governor who intimidated and threatened workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga recently. Senator Corker even used extortion, saying that the state of TN would take away the incentives the state gave to VW, and if the workers would turn down the UAW, he promised new business even though the plant's management said it wasn't true. This is true intimidation, extortion and illegal involvement in an NLRB election. But as AFP and the Koch brothers well know, money can buy their way in and out of anything, and at the same time sway the thoughts of Americans through their TV outlet, Fox News.

    February 27, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  25. Hector Slagg

    Profile of the typical Democrat. Harry Reid.

    February 27, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
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