Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the nonprofit financed by David Koch and other wealthy Republican businessmen, has spent some $31 million on anti-Obama ads since April. The group recently opened 98 Get-Out-the-Vote offices, hired some 200 field staffers, and has been distributing its state of the art voter targeting technology on Samsung tablet computers to its volunteers. Now AFP is hoping to win hearts and minds with gifts of free gas.
AFP is hosting events at gas stations across the country to provide gasoline to motorists for the price of $1.84 per gallon. The group is paying for up to 15 gallons for 100-150 drivers at each station, telling them that the $1.84 price symbolizes the price per a gallon before Obama took office in 2009.
The Koch’s political operatives are hoping drivers forget the fact prices peaked over $4.00 under Bush, that the prices in January 2009 were artificially low because of the financial crisis, and that there’s little a president can do to affect oil prices. There’s also the hypocrisy problem. Koch Industries, the company that invented the oil derivative, considers itself one of the world’s biggest players, up there with Goldman Sachs, engaged in the type of commodity speculation that many experts believe is a key driver in rising gas prices. AFP is also providing free barbeque to at its anti-Obama rallies as well as gift cards to its phone bankers, which in the past have been as high as $200 each for the most productive volunteers.
AFP’s giveaways seem to be increasing at a time when other related groups are adding more incentives for people to volunteer against Obama. Last Thursday, the Republican Jewish Coalition, another undisclosed group associated with a small set of wealthy patrons, including Mel Sembler and Sheldon Adelson, began giving away iPads to its most active volunteers. The Huffington Post reported on the RJC’s efforts to “woo” volunteers:
Put in at least 20 hours at an official RJC phone bank in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York or here in Washington and receive a $100 American Express gift card. Up that to 30 hours and one gets an older model iPad 2 (worth about $200). And to volunteers who dial up Jewish voters for 50 hours or more, the RJC will give a new 32GB iPad 3, worth $599. Less time gets a lesser tablet, with 40 hours on the phone equaling a 16GB iPad 3 ($499).
Of course, some pro-Obama groups are providing minor gifts to their supporters as well. As far I know, it’s been limited to free pizza, or in one case, a $5 gift card for an evening of phone banking.