May 7, 2011
By Adam Bink
Journalist Andy Birkey has a lengthy, well-done piece about the spending:
Anti-gay rights groups around the country will see a cash infusion over the next two years through a plan called “Ignite an Enduring Cultural Transformation.” And the groups are remaining mum about who is responsible.
The campaign, which largely targets states where Republicans won control of legislatures or governorships, has garnered the support of Republican political superstars such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.), and Rep. Trent Franks (Ariz.). The groups intend to pass anti-gay marriage amendments, curtail abortion rights and, in at least one case, ban “transgender bathrooms.”
Family policy councils — a creation of Focus on the Family in the 1980s — have launched the Ignite plan in 15 states. Each family policy council has a three-prong plan to achieve their legislative goals over the next two years: lobbying for legislation, mobilizing pastors and social conservatives and supporting candidates that have backed their initiatives. Each group has used a stock brochure containing nearly identical wording to explain their plan and to solicit funds. In many cases, an Ignite plan was launched with an anonymous matching-grant donor.
Requests for information from many of the policy councils were denied, and Focus on the Family told The American Independent that they have no involvement, declining to offer information on any organization that might back the plan.
Focus on the Family says that while the groups are “fully associated” with FoF, they “are independent entities with no corporate or financial relationship to each other or to Focus on the Family.”
While Form 990s — revenue and expense documents that nonprofits file with the IRS — don’t provide detailed information on political organizing expenditures, The American Independent has provided each group’s average yearly revenues for comparison to their two-year spending under the Ignite plan.
Already, the groups are seeing success in their respective states.
The South Dakota Family Policy Council is spending $72,600 in the next two years as part of the Ignite campaign (PDF), specifically to pass legislation that would force women seeking an abortion to speak to counselors at religious-based crisis pregnancy centers.
SDFPC lobbied heavily for the bill in the media, testified before the South Dakota legislature and organized a pastor’s day at the state Capitol in Pierre in February to advocate for the bill. It passed the legislature and was signed into law in late-March.
The SDFPC is also pushing legislation that would ban surrogate mothers, but thus far the bill has yet to get out of committee. The group lists “Defeat Equality-SD’s radical gay-rights legislation,” as a goal of the Ignite campaign.
All told, SDFPC plans to spend $72,600 under the campaign, a small chunk of the average $304,000 the group took in as normal operating revenue each year over the last 5 years.
SDFPC did not return a request for information about the campaign.
Anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot in 2012
In several states — such as Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — Ignite plans seems to be targeted at getting anti-gay marriage amendments passed.
The Family Policy Council of West Virginia (FPCWV) plans to spend $168,000 through 2012 (it’s average yearly budget is $132,000) during its two-year Ignite campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, and also to defeat laws that would prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians.
In West Virginia, both houses of the legislature are overwhelmingly held by Democrats, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is a Democrat. The planned anti-gay marriage amendment there was voted down in the House of Delegates in February, even though many of the Democrats in the state oppose gay marriage.
There’s also a good deal more information about planned 2012 constitutional amendments out in the states.
A lot of people who contribute to Courage Campaign to fund our work tell me its because the right-wingers always have more money. Independent studies have shown, on a net level, that’s actually true. And it may actually get worse.