American Action Network

The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that describes itself as an “action tank.”[1] Along with its associated policy institute, the 501(c)(3) American Action Forum, it is part of the Karl Rove-headed network of conservative groups.[2][3] It even shared office space with Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC.[4]

The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that the AAN has spent $43.75 million on elections since the 2010 cycle – primarily via non-candidate ‘electioneering’ ads.[5][6][7] Furthermore, according to ProPublica, the AAN and groups like it “have interpreted the IRS guidelines to mean they can report what the FEC considers to be electioneering communications as ‘education,’ ‘lobbying’ or ‘issue advocacy’ on tax filings,” despite the requirement for reporting electoral spending.[8] This allows these groups to circumvent the restriction of spending less than 50% of their budget on politics.

The AAN is directed and staffed by the same Republican power brokers who run the Congressional Leadership Fund.[9] Like the CLF, the AAN is chaired by former Senator Norm Coleman. Coleman also lobbies his old colleagues on behalf of the Saudi, Emirati, and Indonesian governments.[10] As summarized by Noah Bookbinder of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, “[Coleman is] someone who pushes the envelope on what is allowed under tax laws and campaign finance laws. It’s just hard to know what all his motivations are and whether each group is properly staying in its lane. … You have all these transparency issues because it’s so hard to tell where all the money is coming from and how these groups work together.”[11]

[1]American Action Network – About.” Accessed 12/10/15

[2]American Action Network – About.” Accessed 12/10/15

[3]The newest dark money power player: American Action Network.” Zachary Roth, MSNBC, 03/18/14

[4]The newest dark money power player: American Action Network.” Zachary Roth, MSNBC, 03/18/14

[5]American Action Network – Outside Spending Summary – 2014.” Accessed 12/10/15

[6]American Action Network – Outside Spending Summary – 2012.” Accessed 12/10/15

[7]American Action Network – Outside Spending Summary – 2010.” Accessed 12/10/15

[8]How nonprofits spend millions on elections and call it public welfare.” Kim Barker, ProPublica, 08/18/12

[9]PAC profile: Congressional Leadership Fund.” Reity O’Brien, The Center for Public Integrity, 5/19/14

[10]Former Sen. Norm Coleman works the halls of power.” Allison Sherry, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/16/15

[11]Former Sen. Norm Coleman works the halls of power.” Allison Sherry, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/16/15