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Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Nicole Kaeding of Americans for Prosperity talks about grass-roots campaigning outside the group’s local office on Dawsons Creek Boulevard. A touring bus is seen in background.

Activists take message on road

Buses drive home point in big letters

– They are the food trucks of politics.

Conservative groups are serving up a mobile menu of slogans, messages and allegations on the sides of buses that travel the country, stopping in cities for rallies and to distribute campaign materials.

In recent months, the Tea Party Express, Concerned Women for America, American Energy Alliance, Heritage Foundation and Family Research Center have decorated buses with their views.

The left has been known to take the same route. When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rode a bus to campaign appearances this summer, the Democratic Party chased after him with its “Middle Class Under the Bus” bus.

Americans for Prosperity operates three buses. On Wednesday morning, one stopped for a half-hour at an office park near Dupont and Lima roads on the northwest side of Fort Wayne.

Two representatives of Americans for Prosperity spoke briefly to the two-dozen people who showed up. But the group’s green bus spoke much louder.

Large white lettering announced “Obama’s Failing Agenda Tour.” On one side of the vehicle, a huge photo of President Obama’s face declared, “You Didn’t Build That.” On the other side, the same face proclaimed, “The Private Sector is Doing Fine.” The dates that Obama made these lightning-rod remarks accompanied the quotes.

Printed on other sections of the bus were “$1.7 Trillion Health Care Takeover,” “42 Straight Months of Unemployment Above 8 Percent,” “$16 Trillion National Debt” and “Billions Wasted on Solyndra and Green Energy Scams.”

Nicole Kaeding, state policy analyst for Americans for Prosperity, said the bus turns heads.

“We’ve gotten a lot of thumbs-up as we’re driving down the road,” she said. “We pulled into the hotel last night in Fort Wayne and had a bunch of people come out of the hotel and take pictures. Everyone seems to really like it and responds well to it.”

Americans for Prosperity is based in Arlington, Va., and financed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The organization advocates for lower taxes and reduced government regulations.

“I think what makes AFP different than a lot of groups is we do not support or oppose the election or the defeat of any candidate,” Kaeding said. “Our job is to simply educate individuals about the policies that their policymaker has decided to move forward with.”

But according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, an Americans for Prosperity political action committee has spent $30.8 million this election cycle trying to defeat Democratic candidates.

Kaeding spoke to her Fort Wayne audience about Obama’s “failed agenda” and referred to Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly as “Indiana’s rubber stamp for failure. He voted, in general, lock and step with the president.”

Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly’s campaign, responded in an email, “Joe Donnelly has been and always will be one of the most independent voices for Hoosier families.”

Donnelly’s opponent in the Nov. 6 election is Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Americans for Prosperity announced last month it would spend $700,000 to run a TV ad against Donnelly over two weeks. According to published reports, the group later canceled the ad.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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