American Future Fund Scrutinized for Ties to Ethanol Industry
Another day, another Section 501 nonprofit under scrutiny for its political activity. Today The New York Times profiles the American Future Fund, which does not disclose its donors but was revealed in interviews last week to have been founded with seed money from Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter, a co-founder and chief executive of Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the nation’s larger ethanol companies.
While the AFF claims a broad mission “to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint,” the Times notes that its activities have often appeared more like advocacy on behalf of the ethanol industry:
Among the first politicians it supported with advertising was Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota and a co-chairman of the Senate Biofuels Caucus, during his losing 2008 re-election campaign.
Later that November, it focused on an unexpected target: the Indy Racing League.
In a radio advertisement, the fund attacked a deal the racing association struck to power Indy cars with sugar-based ethanol from Brazil, portraying it as a slight to American producers.
The campaign may have seemed odd for a group promoting free-market principles. But days earlier, ethanol executives, including Mr. Rastetter, had met with racing officials to unsuccessfully demand that they abandon the Brazilian deal.
These days, the group has widened its scope, attacking Democrats in several states on broad issues like the stimulus and health care reform. But, again, the Times notes that a pattern of going after Democrats who serve on panels related to ethanol is easy enough to make out:
Of the 14 “liberal” politicians singled out in a list it released last month, nearly every incumbent sits on a panel with a say over energy or agriculture policy. Five sit on the Agriculture Committee; four others are on related committees with say. One candidate was a staff member on a related panel.