mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“About That GOP Clown Car…”: Oh My, Cruz, Carson And Huckabee

Ed Kilgore has been writing lately about the Mitt boomlet and the possibility that the GOP could see yet another clown car field of presidential candidates in 2016. Republican leaders obviously hope otherwise.

But they’re still married to their wackiest base groups, including most prominently the so-called religious right. And that group just made their feelings known:

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won the Value Voters Summit presidential straw poll on Saturday. The crowd burst into applause on Saturday, as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins announced that Cruz won 25 percent of votes at the annual Washington conference.The victory is a big victory to the Republican firebrand and Tea Party icon, coming just a day after he drew standing ovations with a religious and emotional speech that blasted ObamaCare, congressional Democrats and called for Republicans to take over the White House in 2016.
Cruz also won the straw poll in 2013. Coming in second was neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a political novice who has a large following in conservative circles but said earlier this week that there is a “strong” likelihood that he would run for president. He won 20 percent of the votes. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) came in third, with 12 percent of the vote.

Cruz, Carson and Huckabee. Oh my. A lineup like that wouldn’t just lose to Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden. It would lose to almost anyone credible on the Democratic side in 2016.

That doesn’t mean the candidates of the religious right will win the GOP primary. But even if they don’t, they’ll certainly drag the eventual nominee off the cliff during the primary in such a way that they may not be able to make it back to anything approaching center during the general.

 

By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 28, 2014

September 29, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Religious Right | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Covert Religious Supremacist Agendas”: The $1-Billion-A-Year Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven’t Heard Of

Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which starts Thursday in Orlando, Florida?

Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it.

The Gathering is a conference of hard-right Christian organizations and, perhaps more important, funders. Most of them are not household names, at least if your household isn’t evangelical. But that’s the point: The Gathering is a hub of Christian Right organizing, and the people in attendance have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine “religious liberty” (as in the Hobby Lobby case), fight same-sex marriage, fight evolution, and, well, you know the rest. They’re probably behind that, too.

Featured speakers have included many of the usual suspects: Alliance Defending Freedom President and CEO Alan Sears (2013), Focus on the Family President Jim Daly (2011), and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins (2006). This year, however, they are joined by David Brooks of The New York Times and Michael Gerson of The Washington Post. What’s going on? Has The Gathering gone mainstream?

Hardly, says Bruce Wilson, director of the advocacy group Truth Wins Out’s Center Against Religious Extremism and a leading researcher on The Gathering. The selection of this year’s speakers, he says, is just the latest in a long line of misdirections and canards.

To be sure, untangling webs of funders, organizations, and campaigns can often feel like conspiracy-mongering. Your brain begins to resemble one of those bulletin boards from A Beautiful Mind or Se7en, full of paranoid-seeming Post-Its and strings. Wilson has been untangling these webs for years, and sometimes it shows. His many publications and his emails to me are long-winded, occasionally exaggerated, and sometimes hard to follow.

But often he’s dead on. And beneath the hyperbole, The Gathering is as close to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as you’re likely to find. So with this year’s conference about to get under way, Wilson gave The Daily Beast an exclusive interview over email—heavily redacted here—about this shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders.

Lets start with the basics. What is The Gathering?

The Gathering is an annual event at which many of the wealthiest conservative to hard-right evangelical philanthropists in America—representatives of the families DeVos, Coors, Prince, Green, Maclellan, Ahmanson, Friess, plus top leaders of the National Christian Foundation—meet with evangelical innovators with fresh ideas on how to evangelize the globe. The Gathering promotes “family values” agenda: opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, and also a global vision that involves the eventual eradication of all competing belief systems that might compete with The Gathering’s hard-right version of Christianity. Last year, for example, The Gathering 2013 brought together key funders, litigants, and plaintiffs of the Hobby Lobby case, including three generations of the Green family.

The Gathering was conceived in 1985 by a small band of friends at the Arlington, Virginia, retreat center known as The Cedars, which is run by the evangelical network that hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast. This stealthy network is known as The Family or The Fellowship. Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power described it in great detail.

How much money are we talking about here?

The evangelical right financial dynasties and foundations that meet each year at The Gathering dispense upwards of $1 billion a year in grants. But even that is overshadowed by the bigger sums that The Family and The Gathering have managed to route from the federal and state government to fund their movement via the Faith-Based Initiative program, USAID, PEPFAR and other multibillion-dollar programs.

You mentioned the National Christian Foundation. I bet most of our readers havent heard of that, either. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The NCF was created, back in 1982 or so, to maximize hard right-wing evangelical Christian philanthropic giving. It was so novel and complex, the architects got a special ruling from the IRS, to make sure it was legal. The NCF has multiple overlapping legal entities and holding companies, but at the core is a huge donor-advised fund. The NCF is now the 12th biggest charitable foundation in America that raises money from private sources.

Since its founding, the NCF has given away over $4.3 billion, $2.5 billion of it in the last three years. The NCF gave away $601,841,675 in 2012—and is estimated to have given out $670 million in 2013.

One reason the NCF, a donor-advised fund, has been so successful is that it ensures anonymity for its philanthropists. Many of these individuals may fear a backlash, given the controversial causes that they support.

But we do know about the NCF’s leadership. Two of the NCF co-founders were tied to Campus Crusade for Christ, and the late Larry Burkett, a NCF co-founder, was also one of the co-founders of the Alliance Defense Fund/Alliance Defending Freedom, now the religious right’s preeminent umbrella legal defense fund. NCF’s other co-founder, Atlanta tax lawyer Terrence Parker, sits on the board of directors of the Family Research Council, and also The Gathering Foundation, which puts on The Gathering.

From 2001-12, the NCF gave $163,384,998 to leading anti-LGBT organizations. These include Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund), Campus Crusade for Christ (aka CRU), the National Organization for Marriage, and the Alliance for Marriage. They fund ex-gay ministries like Exodus International, exporters of homophobia like Advocates International, you name it.

The NCF is just getting started, though. The Green family—who were at The Gathering in 2008 and 2013—have said they intend to leave much of their fortune to it. And in 2009, Hobby Lobby-related contributions were the No. 1 source of NCF funding (about $54 million), which we know because Eli Clifton, funded by The Nation Institute, somehow got hold of an NCF 2009 990 Schedule B form, which shows NCF’s top funders that year (Hobby Lobby was No. 1, Maclellan Foundation No. 2).

On another note, Chick-fil-A’s VP and CFO, James “Buck” McCabe, is on the board of the NCF, and in 1999 no less than three of Chick-fil-A’s top leaders spoke at The Gathering (S. Truett Cathy, Dan Cathy, and Don “Bubba” Cathy).

Having worked in philanthropy myself, I can say that these figures are astounding. The leading private funder of LGBT issues gives out about $16 million a year. Which other funders will be there?

Other major players include the John Templeton Foundation ($104,863,836 in 2012 grants), the Barnaby Foundation ($39,939,489), the Christian Community Foundation (an NCF “spinoff”), and the family foundations of the DeVos families (including Rich DeVos, one of the original funders of the Christian Right), Howard & Roberta Ahmanson (operating as Fieldstead & Company—and among the most notorious right-wing funders in America), Adolph Coors, and many others.

Interestingly, some more secular right-wing funders—Scaife, Olin, Bradley—are not known to attend The Gathering.

And yet The Gathering also has some mainstream figures on the schedule, including David Brooks of The New York Times and Michael Gerson of The Washington Post.

Well, there are two possibilities. One, Brooks knows a bit about the underlying politics of The Gathering but doesn’t care, which is to say he’s on board with that political agenda to the extent he’s willing to lend his reputation to the event. Two, he’s relatively clueless. He’s been conned. Which would raise questions about his political acumen.

I’m very suspicious that Brooks’ planned appearance at The Gathering was an outgrowth of his heavy participation in the Faith Angle Forum of frequent The Gathering participant Michael Cromartie, who advises elite secular media on the culture wars, which he is also helping to wage. In 2008 Cromartie talked to The Gathering about the need to “infiltrate” secular media. His Faith Angle Forum was created to bring together elite journalists who covered religion and politics with “experts.” And experts they are—but they’re all picked by Cromartie, and many of them have been speakers at The Gathering, as well.

A lot of these issues are pretty unsurprising: fight the gays, fight abortion. But your research also shows that these Christian Right funders are behind a lot of climate denial.

Yup. Over the last decade, he NCF has pumped over $140 million into groups that oppose action to curb climate change and portray concern over global warming as part of a satanic conspiracy to impose a tyrannical “One World Order” or “New World Order.”

Michael Cromartie, whom I just mentioned, will be one of the presenters at The Gathering 2014. He is a signatory to the positions of the Cornwall Alliance, a rump religious coalition opposing action to curb human-caused climate change. The Cornwall Alliance was itself masterminded by E. Calvin Beisner, who helped coin many of the most popular arguments of the global warming denialist/inaction crowd, in a late 1980s-early 1990s book series project led and financed by Howard Ahmanson and his Fieldstead & Co.

Most of the major players in the Christian Right signed the Cornwell Alliance papers. The Ethics and Public Policy Center (NCF gave it $115,000 over 1- years), Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship ($12,768,852), Focus on the Family ($44,754,804), Campus Crusade for Christ ($55,233,717), Family Research Council ($17,707,343), Concerned Women for America ($160,163), American Family Association ($2,024,033), and others.

This is exhausting, depressing stuff. What keeps you going?

First, endless exposure to the politicized religious right renders the disturbing nature of the subject banal. So at one level, it becomes just another job specialization. Most days, I might as well be studying some obscure species of sea snail.

But I think the story of the politicized religious right is one of the biggest untold stories of our time. It’s the story of how a covert political movement, driven by a well-organized, -funded, and committed minority, has perturbed the political arc of the biggest, wealthiest, and most powerful nation on Earth—and how it has subverted the national dialogue.

I’m annoyed at the basic dishonesty of religio/political phenomena such as The Gathering that lay claim to the Christian tradition but ignore its underlying mandate of truth-telling. The semi-covert movement represented by The Gathering may not be able to conquer America and its “7 mountains” (Loren Cunningham, co-originator of the 7M motivational mantra, addressed The Gathering in 2001), but it nonetheless exerts considerable force on international politics, and not in an especially honest manner.

The world needs better. There are many problems to address. And I think world religions can become part of the solutions that guide us toward a better outcome in coming decades, but only insofar as they put aside covert, religious supremacist agendas and work for the common good of all. And workable solutions will require honesty—not currently a hallmark of The Gathering.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, September 25, 2014

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Christian Right, Evangelicals, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donors Before Constituents”: The First Amendment, According To Mitch McConnell

Have you heard that Senate Democrats are working this week to repeal free speech?

I did, yesterday morning, from Mitch McConnell.

Have you heard that Democrats are going to go out and “muzzle” pastors who criticize them in the pulpit?

We did, from Ted Cruz.

Did you hear that Democrats are going to shut down conservative activists and then “brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be”?

We did, last month, from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.

A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying. Another good rule in politics is not to trust what Mitch McConnell says about money in politics.

Because, yes, that’s what we’re talking about here. Not a secret new Orwellian regime. Not a new anti-pastor task force. What we’re talking about is simply limiting the amount of money that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend to influence our elections.

This week, the Senate is debating a constitutional amendment that would overturn recent Supreme Court decisions that have paved the way for an explosion of big money in politics. In those decisions, including Citizens United and this year’s McCutcheon, the Supreme Court radically redefined the First Amendment to allow corporations and the wealthy to drown out the speech of everyday Americans with nearly unlimited political spending. The Democracy for All amendment would restore to Congress and the states the power to impose reasonable restrictions on money in politics, just as they had before the Supreme Court started to dismantle campaign finance laws.

So, what are Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz so scared of?

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Mitch McConnell supported the very laws that he is now dead-set on blocking. Back in 1987, McConnell said he would support a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to regulate independent expenditures in elections — just as the Democracy for All amendment would. And then he introduced that very constitutional amendment. Either McConnell has dramatically changed his mind regarding what constitutes a threat to the First Amendment, or he’s motivated by something more cynical.

So, if Mitch McConnell doesn’t actually think that limiting the amount of money that wealthy interests can spend on elections is a violation of the First Amendment, what is he up to? Could it be that he now finds it more useful to court the dollars of major donors than the votes of his constituents?

Washington is the only place where campaign finance reform is a partisan issue. A poll this summer found that 73 percent of voters support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Americans know that our First Amendment is about protecting the speech of citizens, not the interests of wealthy campaign donors.

Faced with a large, bipartisan grassroots movement that threatens their big-spending friends, the only arguments that Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz have left are wild accusations, flat-out falsehoods, and outlandish interpretations of the Bill of Rights.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WTF Is ‘Natural Marriage’?”: When You Don’t Like The Way A Debate Is Going, Change The Terms

Today’s Politics 101 pop quiz: In the course of a fierce ideological battle, when it becomes clear that one side is getting its butt kicked, what are leaders of the losing team expected to do? A. Double down. B. Scare the crap out of their followers. C. Beg for money. D. All of the above.

No one really needs help with this one, do they?

So with public acceptance of gay marriage growing faster than Justin Bieber’s rap sheet, the culture warriors at the Family Research Council have been hawking their National Campaign in Defense of Natural Marriage. In multiple email calls to arms, FRC president Tony Perkins is urging people of “character and values” to “take a stand” by signing an on-line petition and, while they’re at it, donating a little something to this “counteroffensive.” By March 31, FRC wants—nay, “needs”—250,000 signatures and $1.1 million to “fund this demanding work of behalf of America’s families.” At that point, the e-petition will be deposited at the feet of the group’s latest hero, Sen. Ted Cruz, “in a public display of support for natural marriage.” Perkins pleads/warns/threatens: “I want to encourage you: natural marriage is not a lost cause in America—unless we give up and let the same-sex ‘marriage’ advocates have their way because we failed to stand up for what is right.”

Now, as a political obsessive subscribed to an unhealthy number of email lists, I receive a daily flood of overwrought solicitations from across the spectrum. Most I toss after a quick glance. But Perkins’s latest entreaties stopped me, not because of their tone or topic but because of their language. Specifically, I somehow missed the moment when “natural marriage” became the preferred term of anti-gay-marriage crusaders. (Sadly, despite several interview requests, the folks at FRC were unavailable to discuss this matter.)

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. As political rhetoric goes, “natural marriage” is ever so much more evocative—and, better yet, provocative—than the more commonly employed term “traditional marriage.” After all, plenty of folks would be amenable to, or perhaps even charmed by, the idea of an untraditional marriage. An unnatural marriage, by contrast, brings to mind all manner of unsavory couplings—like, for instance, the man-on-dog action that keeps Rick Santorum up at night. And, indeed, defenders of “natural marriage” talk a lot about how gay marriage is an affront to God’s “natural law.”

The folks at FRC did not, it should be noted, come up with the phrase on their own. The Catholic Church, for instance, tends to refer to “natural marriage” in contrast to “sacramental marriage”—the former being an exclusive, lifetime covenant between a man and a woman of no particular religious backgrounds, while the latter is specifically the union of a man and woman baptized within the Church. In this context, a natural marriage, while good and legitimate, is nonetheless spiritually inferior to a sacramental one.

Less canonically, “natural marriage” is also at times used as a rough synonym for “common-law marriage.” Even if limited to the hetero variety, such non-ceremonial arrangements, recognized by only a handful of states, would seem to be a far cry from the super-stable family environments that natural-marriage advocates are ostensibly seeking.

Not that any of this much matters now, as “natural marriage”  has become a rallying cry for those looking to beat back, as Perkins puts it, “the agenda of the Progressive Left and radical homosexual lobby.” Back in 2004, a FRC pamphlet promoting hetero-only unions was all about “traditional marriage,” as were many of the group’s other communiques up through 2012. More recently, however, its commentary has been increasingly all “natural,” so to speak. Similarly, conservative groups like the Liberty Counsel (the legal nonprofit that takes up conservative causes pro bono) and Americans for the Truth about Homosexuality are solidly on the “natural” bandwagon.

As conservative spin doctor Frank Luntz taught us, if you don’t like the way a debate is going, you need to change the terms. Literally. Trying to rally a nation against the estate tax is a tough lift. But a “death tax”? Now there’s rhetorical gold. “Global warming” = scary and bad; “climate change,” not so much. In some cases, the differences may amount to no more than a couple of letters—say, the Democratic party vs. the Democrat party. And when it comes to firing up the faithful, not to mention separating them from their cash, “natural marriage” certainly seems to pack more gut-level oomph than its more “traditional” cousin.

The debate in question, however, may be beyond the point of such rhetorical retrofitting. These days, not even the veiled threats of bestiality, polygamy, and other comparably “unnatural” acts seem likely to derail the marriage equality train. Which may explain why, with less than a week left in its petition drive, FRC had yet to crack 10,000 signatories. Only 240,000 to go.

 

By: Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast, March 27, 2014

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Backyard Barbeque To Food Fight”: CPAC, The Right-Wing Woodstock Or A Bad Family Reunion?

Like at a family reunion, the infighting at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) started long before anybody arrived.

First, the group American Atheists announced that it would be sponsoring a booth at the conference, with the goal of bringing conservative nonbelievers “out of the closet.” The religious right was not pleased.

“CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense,” said the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. But he made clear that atheists would certainly not fit under his umbrella: “Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God?” he asked. Good question.

So, the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, gave the atheist group the boot. In response, the atheists showed up anyway to debate attendees in the hallway.

Then there was the perennial problem of the gays. In 2011, religious right groups including the FRC boycotted CPAC after the ACU allowed the conservative LGBT group GOProud to cosponsor the event. Once again, the establishment sided with the religious right and for the next two years banned GOProud from participating. This year, ACU offered a “compromise” in which GOProud was allowed to attend the event but not to so much as sponsor a booth in the exhibition hall. The “compromise” was so insulting that one of GOProud’s founders quit the organization’s board in protest.

But what about the people who were too embarrassingly far-right for CPAC? Not to worry, there’s no such thing.

Although the atheist and LGBT groups were too far off-message for the ACU, it did allow the anti-immigrant group ProEnglish to sponsor a booth at CPAC. Just a quick Google would have told the conference organizers that ProEnglish is run by a zealous white nationalist, Bob Vandervoort. In fact, CPAC’s organizers might have recognized Vandervoort’s name from the uproar his inclusion in the event caused in 2012 and 2013.

Now, just because the ACU was ready to welcome anti-immigrant extremists doesn’t mean that that was enough for immigrant bashers. A group of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activists who were worried that CPAC was going too soft on their issues organized an alternative conference across the street. One of their concerns was the perennial conspiracy theory that ACU member Grover Norquist is a secret Muslim Brotherhood agent. Another is that CPAC dared to hold a panel featuring immigration reform proponents.

They shouldn’t have worried. Three days of speeches on the CPAC main stage made clear that many prominent conservative activists have no intention of moderating their stance on immigration reform. Donald Trump told the audience that immigrants are “taking your jobs,” Rep. Michele Bachmann said she wouldn’t even consider immigration reform until they “build the danged fence,” and Ann Coulter, never one to disappoint, suggested that if immigration reform passes “we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America.” Then, there was One America News anchor Graham Ledger, who used the CPAC podium to claim that because of immigration, schools no longer teach “the American culture.”

To be fair, CPAC did make some efforts at opening the Republican umbrella, hosting a panel on minority outreach off the main stage. But the gesture would have been slightly more meaningful if anybody had bothered to show up.

Any family has its squabbles. But this awkward backyard barbeque has turned into a full-fledged food fight.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way; The Huffington Post Blog, March 11, 2014

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, CPAC | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: