The conservative political group Americans for Prosperity is shocking no one by announcing its support Tuesday for Colorado's U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, but the organization's change in mission could pack surprises — including endorsing some Democrats.
Gardner faces one of the toughest races in the country next year, and Democrats view unseating the Republican from Colorado as their pathway to seizing the majority in the Senate, to go with the left's hold on the House. Gardner faces at least 10 Democrats so far.
"Gardner embodies the philosophy espoused by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to unite with anybody to do right," Jesse Mallory, the Colorado director and a senior adviser for Americans for Prosperity Action, said in a letter of endorsement.
"When he agreed with President Donald Trump on the need for criminal justice reform, he supported the First Step Act, which will provide educational and substance-abuse programs to help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter their communities, among other changes that will make the federal justice system smarter on crime and softer on taxpayers."
Mallory continued, "Even though Gardner disagreed with the administration on tariffs and trade, the senator wasn’t afraid to support simplifying the tax code and making U.S. businesses more competitive when he voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Once again, Gardner’s main priority was putting the American people — and their opportunity to prosper — first.
"Straight talk, principled stands and a determination to get results ought to be the hallmarks of every elected official. Coloradans can count ourselves fortunate that we have such an official in Sen. Cory Gardner, and we should enthusiastically reelect him."
The push comes at a time Americans for Prosperity shifts away from partisanship and more toward policy and coalitions.
In a June 6 internal memo to staff and activists, Emily Seidel, CEO of the national Americans for Prosperity and senior adviser to the AFP Action, the organization's super PAC, said AFP will "redouble" its efforts to build diverse, non-partisan coalitions.
It will do so "by supporting candidates who lead and unite people to achieve principled public policy. We are committed to unite with anyone to do right and no one to do wrong, regardless of party," she said.
Last week Americans for Prosperity launched a seven-figure campaign on corporate welfare with mailers featuring Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, but the campaign also takes on a Republican, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, along with Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada.
AFP will look to tone down the political rhetoric, according to Seidel's memo.
"AFP and AFP Action’s advocacy efforts will lead with a positive vision and focus on the issues," she wrote. "Going forward, we will expect the same of candidates we support politically. Addressing complex issues requires working with people who hold different points of view. If candidates engage in personal, ad hominem attacks and other divisive tactics during their election, it makes it difficult for them to work productively with others after the election. We can disagree without being disagreeable and AFP is committed to helping chart a new way forward toward civil, political discourse and we encourage others to join us."
Seidel announced "major investments" to sway policymakers.
"We’ll bring our full capabilities to bear including major digital and TV advertisements, nation-wide phone calls, door-to-door citizen engagement, grassroots rallies, and more," she wrote in the memo obtained by Colorado Politics.
The organization also plans to add staff "to provide bold, actionable policy ideas," Seidel said.
"Focusing on what’s 'politically possible' is insufficient for breaking the biggest policy barriers," she wrote in the memo. "We will bolster our team to help equip and support policymakers who share that commitment to lead. These enhancements will help us build stronger policy coalitions based on the ideals of equal rights and opportunity for all, articulated in the Declaration of Independence. They’ll improve our abilities to drive reforms applied to issues ranging from economic policy to criminal justice reform, from trade to immigration, free speech to health care, and other issues that matter most to the American people"