Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Follow the Money: the Network Behind Anti-LGBT Funding

NEW YORK CITY (Observer Update) - Social networkers searching Facebook may not find “Elsa Prince Broekhuizen,” but Prince Broekhuizen is part of an influential network, a friends-and-family association of wealthy, powerful people allied to push anti-Gay initiatives in a number of states and at the national level, Lisa Neff with 365Gay.com reported.

Status updates for Prince Broekhuizen might read, “Invested in anti-Gay initiatives, and won.” And her social network of friends and associates would include Howard Ahmanson Jr., John Templeton Jr., Maggie Gallagher, Richard DeVos, James and Shirley Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly, Donald Wildmon, Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins. Some in this network get headlines and column inches. Some advise presidents. Some run campaigns. And some, somewhat quietly, organize behind the scenes and write the checks that finance anti-Gay ballot measures.

On Nov. 4, voters across the nation elected Barack Obama and change in the White House and solidified a Democratic majority in Congress. But voters in three states approved propositions amending their state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage, and voters in a fourth passed a measure intended to prohibit Gay couples from adopting children. The groups formed to promote the initiatives raised money the old-fashioned way — with individual contributions of a dollar and individual contributions of half a million, with business and non-profit donations of $25 and $1 million. Anti-Gay campaigns raised more than $30 million in California, $7.8 million in Arizona, $1.5 million in Florida and a still unknown amount in Arkansas.

In the weeks after the losses at the polls, GLBT activists delved into campaign finance reports to identify the deep pockets involved in the campaigns, especially in California, where Proposition 8 was passed to roll back marriage rights already won in the courts. “We do not want to spend our money at any business owned by individuals who supported this hateful initiative,” reads a statement of purpose from Californians Against Hate, one of the groups that researched the financing of Prop 8. “This country was founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all. Our opponents have every right to contribute vast sums of money to take away our equal rights, and we have every right to fight back, and we will.”

The earliest reports broadly identified the largest funder as the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, which has heavily financed the anti-Gay marriage fight for more than a decade. The church and its members provided an estimated 70 percent of the Prop 8 money. Closer scrutiny revealed another big funder — the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn., and its California chapter donated $1.4 million to the Proposition 8 campaign. The group, chartered as a fraternal society and consisting of chapters throughout the country, may be best known for its insurance benefits to members and Friday night fish fries. But over the years Knights of Columbus and its affiliates donated hundreds of thousands to anti-Gay marriage initiatives including campaigns in Kansas and Arizona.

Fieldstead & Co., owned by savings-and-loan millionaire Howard Ahmanson Jr. of Irvine, Calif., invested $1.39 million in the Prop 8 campaign. The company’s Web site describes its purpose: “Fieldstead is a private company that manages the assets of the Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. family. Among other things, one of the functions of Fieldstead & Company is to help manage the family’s various philanthropic programs as part of a Christian worldview.”

The Web site also features Time magazine’s description of Ahmanson and his wife as being among “the 25 most influential evangelicals in America” for their “cornucopia of faith-based activism,” including support for a foundation that promotes the Christian reconstructionist branch of theology advocating the stoning of biblical lawbreakers.

Campaign finance reports show that Ahmanson associates Roland Hinz, Robert Hurtt and Edward Atsinger III also donated sizable sums to the Prop 8 campaign. They have pooled their resources in the Allied Business PAC and the Capitol Commonwealth Group, according to the Californians Against Hate. The Prop 8 campaign also counted on support — about $1.1 million — from John Templeton Jr. of the John Templeton Foundation, the Pennsylvania-based group established in 1987 to financially sponsor studies of science and philosophy.

The National Organization for Marriage in Princeton, N.J., directed another $1 million to California to promote the anti-Gay measure. NOM’s president is Maggie Gallagher, a syndicated columnist who was paid by the Bush administration to promote its marriage initiative. Focus on the Family spent about $539,000 in California and one of Focus’ board members, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, of the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation, donated about $450,000 to Prop 8.

Other sizeable donations to the Prop 8 campaign included $500,000 from the American Family Association of Tupelo, Miss., $409,000 from Concerned Women for America of Washington, D.C., $200,000 from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Washington, D.C., and $160,000 from the Vineyard Group of Mesa, Ariz. Some of those names show up in campaign finance reports for anti-Gay campaigns in other states last year.

Arizona’s Prop 102 campaign did not attract the hefty donations that California’s initiative drew. Reports for YesforMarriage.com list dozens of donors — homemakers and real estate agents, lawyers and pastors – who helped with contributions from $1 and up. But Arizona’s anti-Gay campaign received $5,000 from Fieldstead & Co., the company that invested $1.39 million in Yes on Prop 8 in California. Focus on the Family donated more than $200,000 in Arizona, much of it in “goods/services” and Knights of Columbus contributed $100,000.

In Florida, Fieldstead & Co. contributed another $5,000, Focus spent $33,281 and NOM donated $10,000, according to campaign finance reports for Yes2Marriage.org.

Those who bankrolled last year’s anti-Gay initiatives are not new to the fight.

Focus on the Family has been involved in anti-Gay initiatives since the early 1990s and, in more recent years, upped its donations despite downsizing plans at its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. Templeton, in 2006, donated $100,000 to an anti-Gay initiative in Virginia, and the Vineyard Group, which spent $160,000 in California in 2008, invested $10,000 in an anti-Gay Arizona initiative in 2006. In addition to serving as the Templeton Foundation’s chair, the retired doctor has been associated with the pro-Iraq War Freedom Watch and the evangelical get-out-the-vote Let Freedom Ring.

Elsa Prince Broekhuizen also has a history of financing anti-Gay causes, and her family has substantial involvement in the religious right. “Elsa was the top contributor, giving $75,000 to the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, the group that was responsible for placing the same-sex marriage ban on the ballot in Michigan,” said Bernadette Brown of the Triangle Foundation in Detroit.

Prince Broekhuizen’s late husband Edgar Price helped start the Family Research Council, and, either independently or through the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, Prince Broekhuizen has supported the Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, the Promise Keepers, the Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America and the Council for National Policy.

While GLBT activists criticize the right’s “family values” efforts as anti-family, there’s no denying the campaigns are family affairs.

Elsa Prince Broekhuizen’s daughter, Betsy Prince, is married to Richard DeVos, of Grand Rapids, Mich. Elsa Prince Broekhuizen’s son, Erik Prince, is the president of Blackwater. Like the Prince family, the DeVos family, whose money comes from Amway, contributed to the anti-Gay marriage initiative in Michigan in 2004 and elsewhere over the years, including $100,000 from Richard DeVos Jr. to the anti-Gay ballot push in Florida last year. “Both families are extremely conservative,” Brown said.

A number of the leading individuals, foundations and businesses invested in the anti-Gay initiatives in 2008 have been associated with the Arlington Group, a somewhat secretive religious right network that proved an influential force in pushing anti-Gay initiatives in 2004 and 2006. The National Institute on Money in State Politics in Helena, Mt., reported that the Arlington Group’s affiliates and associates donated about 40 percent of the contributions to nine anti-Gay initiatives in 2006 and about 85 percent in 2004.

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