Iowa-based American Future Fund runs attack ads in Michigan

'Swift Boat'-affiliated group targets Michigan's 7th District; Schauer campaign blasts org

By Susan Horowitz

With the last of the primaries over, the right-wing funding machine has mobilized into high gear. One of the newest players in the 2010 campaign cycle is the Des Moines, Iowa-based conservative organization American Future Fund. It was founded in the spring of 2008 to help campaigns across the country elect candidates who believe in "conservative and free market ideals."

In an interview with the Center for Public Integrity last month, American Future Fund spokesman Nick Ryan said his group plans to spend between $20-25 million on political ads this fall. On Sept. 15, that spending began in Michigan when the group purchased TV ads targeting the state's 7th and 1st U.S. House Districts.

The cookie-cutter attack ad, an adaptation of which is running in 13 other U.S. congressional districts, is targeting incumbent Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) who is running against former Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton). The ad cost over $500,000 and is expected to run over 4,000 times in the district through Election Day. It targets Schauer for his votes on health care reform and energy taxes, attacking him as a "liberal" who needs to "disappear." In 2008, the Human Rights Campaign gave Walberg a rating of zero and endorsed Schauer.

In a press release, the Schauer campaign called American Future Fund a "shadowy special-interest group," that has hired consultants who were behind the 2004 "Swift Boat" ads.

The Iowa Independent investigated the American Future Fund in 2008 and reported that Ben Ginsberg of the Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs is the group's legal counsel. Ginsberg provided advice to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 presidential campaign that erroneously attacked John Kerry's military service record. Another American Future Fund adviser, Larry McCarthy, produced the infamous 1988 racially tinged Willie Horton TV ad that helped defeat Michael Dukakis, the democratic presidential candidate that year.

The individuals behind American Future Fund are also allied with the "family values" crowd. The board president of the organization is Republican state Senate candidate Sandra Greiner. On June 25, Greiner held a fundraising event for her campaign, the guest speaker for which was anti-gay former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Santorum has been seen a lot in Iowa and there has been speculation that he is testing the waters for a presidential bid. He will be returning to Iowa for the American Future Fund speaker series on Oct. 1.

Last week, Greiner was in the national spotlight joining a chorus of Republicans that have been calling the president's religion into question. She told KTVO, "I am saying I don't know. ... He says he is a Christian. If he says he is a Christian I will take his word for it until somebody proves to me otherwise. I don't have time to do the research right now."

The Republican candidate for governor of Iowa, former Gov. Terry Branstad, is a board member of the American Future Fund. While seen as more moderate than his primary contestant, Bob Vander Plaats, who lost in June with 42 percent of the primary vote, Branstad has flip-flopped regarding the Iowa Supreme Court justices' unanimous decision to allow same-sex marriage.

In May 2009, Branstad told the Des Moines Register, "I do respect the existence of the separation of powers." However, candidate Branstad is now endorsing changing Iowa's merit-based system for selecting judges, considered one of the best systems in the nation.

Right wing eyes Iowa Supreme Court justices

Meanwhile, as another Focus on the Family Values Voter Summit ended last weekend in Washington, D.C., attracting most of the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls, the Iowa court decision was cited at the podium by a number of speakers.

One of the most onerous was Bryan Fischer, the director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association. Fischer's remarks to the gathering were anti-gay and anti-Muslim, emphasizing that Christians need to be involved in politics or else the "pagans and atheists" will run government.

Fischer is working with partners in Iowa that include the Iowa Family Policy Center.

He told the gathering that the American Family Association had already spent "several hundred-thousand dollars" to defeat three Iowa Supreme Court justices because of their "activist" role regarding the decision to allow same-sex marriage.

Having lost the primary election for Republican candidate for governor of Iowa, Vander Plaats is heading up the Iowa Family Policy Center http://www.ifpc.org. On Aug. 6, the website Bleeding Heartland http://www.bleedingheartland.com reported that Vander Plaats will be leading the charge in a public campaign against retention of the Iowa Supreme Court justices.

Eastern Iowa Government's website http://easterniowagovernment.com indicated that Vander Plaats has the support of the Republican Governors Association in his efforts to defeat the Supreme Court justices. IFPC hopes to set a precedent that other Republican governors can follow in the future.

The IFPC identifies a key issue on the website (http://www.ifpcaction.org) as follows: "Sexuality: IFPC affirms sexual relations within the bond of marriage, and opposes distortions of sexuality or special rights to those practicing distorted sexual behavior." The Family Research Council's Tony Perkin's has recorded a short disinformation commercial addressing "why gay marriage matters" in Iowa, in an attempt to alarm voters.

In a video on the website, IFPC Action Board Chairman Danny Carroll addresses a gathering to discuss the April 2009 Supreme Court ruling which he said "violated God's design for a successful and healthy society" and he emphasized the need to reverse the opinion as soon as possible.

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