Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the nonprofit organization they founded and continue to support, achieved a 95 percent success rate in the 2014 election races where it spent money. But in Alaska, a state that could be pivotal in the 2016 elections, the group’s reception has been surprisingly chilly.
Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly two to one in America’s northernmost state, and the GOP candidate has won every presidential contest in the state for the last 50 years. The conservative AFP’s message of free markets and limited government, along with its strong support for oil industry interests, resonates here. But the same independent spirit that defines Alaskans also makes them bristle at attempts by outsiders to shape their thinking, political analysts say, and the Kochs are viewed as outsiders here by many Democrats and Republicans alike.
Christopher Neefus, a spokesman at Americans for Prosperity’s Washington headquarters, disputes claims that the group has struggled in Alaska. He notes that AFP opens chapters only in states where support has reached critical mass. A year ago, he said, 5,000 people in Alaska had either signed AFP-sponsored petitions, connected with the group on Facebook or Twitter, or in some other way added their names and contact details to a list maintained by AFP.
AFP’s efforts in Alaska come just as the red state is becoming slightly more purple. Anchorage voters elected a Democratic mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, this spring by the largest margin of any vote in city’s history – despite attack ads run against him by AFP. And some political analysts say Begich, who narrowly lost his Senate race, is in a good position to run for the seat currently held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who won as a write-in candidate in 2010. As a non-profit, issues-based group rather than a political action committee, AFP is limited in the political support it can provide.
Its volunteers can’t stump for specific candidates, and the group can’t lobby or make specific endorsements. But it can run education campaigns and air ads attacking candidates on issues.