EXPOSED: How the Right’s State-Based Think Tanks Are Transforming U.S. Politics



Two networks of conservative, state-level think tanks have matured rapidly over the past three decades. By crafting public policy, collaborating with Republican state legislators, and fostering new leadership for the Right, they have significantly shaped recent U.S. politics. And their work has only just begun.

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Via the 2013 SPN Annual Meeting promo video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyBqRKDLvc

Screencap of 2013 SPN Annual Meeting promo video, via Corey Burres

The Democratic Party’s wins in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and its modest successes in recent Congressional elections, have obscured a series of setbacks for the party in the states. As National Journal put it, the GOP “wiped the floor with Democrats” in the 2010 midterm elections, setting a record in the modern era by picking up 680 seats in state legislatures. The next-largest harvest of legislative seats was the Democrats’ 628-seat gain in the Watergate-dominated election of 1974.[1]The 2010 landslide gave the GOP the upper hand in the subsequent Congressional redistricting process, allowing Republicans to tilt the playing field in their favor and shape U.S. elections for years to come. In the meantime, conservatives have used friendly, GOP-dominated state legislatures to ram their agenda through legislatures—in “red” states and even some states that lean “blue”—on a range of issues: imposing harsh voter restrictions in North Carolina, for example, and passing dramatic anti-labor legislation in Michigan.

The roots of this debacle go far deeper than one or two election cycles and cannot be explained by the normal ebb and flow in electoral fortunes of the two major parties. The seeds were actually sown in the late 1980s, when strategists in the conservative movement came to an important realization. If they were successful in their efforts to devolve much of federal policy-making authority to the states—a key goal of the “Reagan revolution”—they would need relevant resources to elaborate their vision, and the organizational capacity to implement it. The two networks of state-based think tanks that emerged from that realization amount to one of the great under-reported stories in modern American politics. We are just now seeing the implications of the networks’ work, and of the conservative strategists’ vision.

Though several Washington, D.C.-based think tanks were profoundly important in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, few state-level groups existed at the time. Reagan encouraged the creation of think tanks in state capitals, and two related networks of policy shops and advocacy groups emerged from this idea.[2] Both have become part of the deep infrastructure of the conservative movement, and they play a critical role in taking the movement’s agenda to the states, where a fierce battle over the role, size, and scope of government is playing out.

The State Policy Network (SPN) comprises think tanks that are modeled after the Heritage Foundation, in that they conduct research and make policy recommendations to government agencies and legislative bodies. SPN currently comprises 63 member organizations—at least one in each state. SPN members vigorously promote a “free market,” anti-labor agenda, and they are joined in this mission by dozens of conservative and libertarian groups with which they liaise, including national institutions like the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Alliance for School Choice, Americans United for Life, and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.[3]

The second network comprises organizations that are modeled on the Family Research Council (FRC), one of the foundational organizations of the Christian Right that was, for several years, the public policy arm of Focus on the Family (FOF). These think tanks are called Family Policy Councils (FPCs), and they take policy research and political advocacy to state capitals the way the FRC does in Washington, D.C.[4] They focus primarily on reproductive rights, traditional “family values” (especially marriage), and, increasingly, religious liberty. This is in keeping with the agenda of the 2009 Christian Right manifesto, the Manhattan Declaration.[5]

Though the individual institutions tend to command our attention, the influence of the networks is much greater than the sum of their parts. Comprising part of the core infrastructure of the conservative movement, they create synergies by sharing information, resources, and best practices. These synergies allow even the smallest members to rely on the same research as the networks’ largest and best-endowed institutions. Crucially, they also equip the Right with a common set of talking points and understandings, even as the individual institutions maintain the flexibility to tailor their strategies to state-level circumstances.

“The states are our first and final frontiers of liberty,” an SPN video declares. “Just as the pioneers journeyed to the wild west to discover new frontiers and stake their claim for a new life, we must stake a claim for freedom for us and the generations yet to come. Moving the locus of power from DC to the 50 freedom frontiers requires fortitude, bold strategies and a network of equipped trailblazers.”[6]

Division of Labor

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in 1989, Republican political operative Don Eberly outlined
how the networks would operate, explaining that there would be a business-oriented group (the Commonwealth Foundation) and a Christian Right group (the Pennsylvania Family Institute). “We have organized a leadership team,” he said, “that is implementing . . . the Pennsylvania Plan.” He explained that the Commonwealth Foundation, of which he was founding president, would function as the state-based equivalent of the Heritage Foundation, while the Pennsylvania Family Institute, where his wife Sheryl was on the board, would be the equivalent of the Family Research Council.

“We now have both economic and social issues coalitions on the state level that meet regularly and are developing agendas,” Eberly continued. “This September [1989], we had our first statewide conservative conference for local leaders and activists, patterned after [the Conservative Political Action Conference] in Washington. The conference, which will become an annual event, attracted 320 people from all across the state and sent shock waves throughout the political establishment.”[7] The conference is still staged annually and it has served as a model for similar conferences held elsewhere—for example, in North Carolina.[8]

The Pennsylvania Plan was a model for two incipient national networks of think tanks—one wing focusing on economic issues, the other primarily on social and cultural concerns—that would share a common free-market ideology and sometimes a common agenda. Initially, both Pennsylvania groups were substantially underwritten by right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife and other “strategic funders” of the Right, as journalists called them at the time.

The State Policy Network was formed in 1992 to coordinate the activities of the business wing, and it was underwritten by South Carolina businessman Thomas Roe. A small predecessor—the Madison Group, which included Roe’s South Carolina Policy Council, Scaife’s Commonwealth Foundation, and the Independence Institute, underwritten by the Adolph Coors Foundation and other Coors interests—became the core of the SPN. Roe, Scaife, and Joseph Coors—the Colorado beer magnate who led his family into political prominence—were all major funders and board members of the Heritage Foundation at the time.[9]

In recent years, members and associates of the State Policy Network have been the recipients of massive infusions of cash that have come largely from secretive, donor-advised funds serving as financial funnels for individuals, corporations, and foundations. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Donors Trust and the related Donors Capital Fund have quietly funneled nearly $400 million from about 200 private donors (including the ubiquitous Koch brothers) to free-market causes since 1999. The Center also reported, in 2013, that Donors Trust had given $10 million to the SPN over the course of the previous five years, and that in 2012 “SPN used the money to incubate think tanks in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Florida, where it hosted its yearly gathering in November.”[10]

An investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) in November 2013 unearthed an internal list of SPN’s major funders for 2010. It included Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, as well as such major corporations as BMO Harris Bank, Microsoft, Facebook, and the tobacco companies Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) and Reynolds American.[11]

SPN spends about $5 million annually to support existing groups and help start-ups develop the management and leadership skills of their staff and board; recruit and mentor staff; teach strategic marketing and branding; and network with other think tanks to leverage knowledge and resources. Thomas Roe, SPN’s late founding chairman, wanted it that way. “We still do it today,” said Lawrence Reed, president emeritus of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “It keeps us knowledgeable about what everyone else is doing, it keeps us talking, and it stops us from reinventing the wheel over and over again.”[12]

SPN member organizations have used this strategic capacity in the fight for a range of major initiatives, notably anti-labor legislation.[13] According to a 2011 report in Mother Jones, SPN’s affiliates have led the charge at the state level in the Republican Party’s “war on organized labor. They’re pushing bills to curb, if not eliminate, collective bargaining for public workers; make it harder for unions to collect member dues; and, in some states, allow workers to opt out of joining unions entirely but still enjoy union-won benefits. All told, it’s one of the largest assaults on American unions in recent history.”[14]

In Michigan, for example, the Mackinac Center made four policy recommendations to give unelected ‘emergency managers’ more power to terminate union contracts and fire municipal elected officials “in the name of repairing broken budgets,” Mother Jones reported. “All four ended up in Governor Rick Snyder’s ‘financial martial law,’ as one GOP lawmaker described it.”[15] A writer for Forbes called it “one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country,” investing Snyder with the power “not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead [emphasis in original].”[16] The legislation became law in March 2011.

Some SPN institutions are small but exert disproportionate influence by keeping a high media profile. Other institutions, like the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and the Mackinac Center, have multimillion dollar budgets and large staffs, and they play an outsized role in state politics by partnering with other institutions, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Since 1975, ALEC has developed model, business-oriented legislation in cooperation with a national network of state legislators and began a more formal and coordinated relationship with SPN and member organizations beginning in the mid-2000s. A study by the Center for Media and Democracy found that two dozen SPN groups, including the SPN itself, are organizational members of ALEC and serve on one or more of its legislative task forces. CMD identified several areas of ALEC’s policy foci in which SPN members play a role: privatizing public education and public pension systems; rolling back environmental initiatives; disenfranchising people of color, the elderly, and students; and attacking workers’ rights.[17]

Several SPN members have shepherded bills through the process of becoming official ALEC “model” bills. For example, Arizona’s Goldwater Institute and the Mackinac Center were responsible for ALEC adopting five model bills targeting public-sector unions.[18]

According to an investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies, the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation—SPN member organizations in North Carolina—published more than 50 articles, op-eds and blog posts fomenting unfounded fears of voter fraud. These helped catalyze passage of a strict photo ID law, an end to same-day registration, and a shorter early voting period in 2013.[19] The legislation will likely suppress turnout among African Americans and young people. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of key provisions of the law.[20]

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in many ways personifies how SPN provides infrastructure, develops personnel, and hatches ideas for the conservative movement. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2012, he served as a senior fellow with TPPF’s new Center for 10th Amendment Studies. In 2010, he co-authored a report that became the basis of ALEC’s model legislation to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[21]

The SPN’s recent mixing of Tea Party activism (largely funded by the Koch brothers) with more buttoned-down business conservatism is not without its challenges. An SPN “ToolKit” featured on its web site in 2013, for example, urged members to avoid language that smacks of “extreme views,” advising: “Stay away from words like radical, nullify, or autonomy,” and especially “states’ rights.”[22]

Origins of a faux news network

The State Policy Network has now been developing and deepening its capacity—not only to do research and policy work, but also to absorb and integrate new projects—for more than two decades. At the same time, it has faced new challenges and taken advantage of new opportunities in an era of digital activism and new media.

SPN’s adaptability in the new era is illustrated by its development of a news network. Three dozen SPN affiliates now field their own “investigative reporters” on behalf of a recently created member, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which describes its mission as “exposing government waste, fraud and abuse.”[23] It seeks to fill a void created by the loss of a third of the nation’s journalism jobs since 1992. The Center was created by the now-defunct Sam Adams Alliance, which began as a Tea Party organization and was folded into SPN.

SPN’s state news websites collectively produce Watchdog Wire, which publishes work by “citizen journalists.” As the website describes the project, “by covering stories in your local community that are otherwise ignored by the establishment media, you can make a difference!”[24] The Franklin Center claims that it “already provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide.”[25] The basis for the claim is unclear, but whatever its truth, it does speak to the Center’s ambitions.

The Sam Adams Alliance also separately created three websites modeled on Wikipedia: Judgepedia, Ballotpedia, and Sunshine Review. They offer right-wing analysis of (respectively) the judiciary, election issues, and governmental performance. These projects have since been folded into the Lucy Burns Institute, an SPN member based in Madison, WI.  Like many SPN organizations, it has extensive ties to the Tea Party and funding from the Koch brothers.[26]

The Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute are part of a surge of recent development in SPN’s infrastructure that has expanded its capacity to influence both media and public policy, as well as the range of ways by which it carries out its mission. Donors Trust has funneled cash to both the Franklin Center and to many SPN affiliates for their “news” operations. Its $6.3 million donation to the Franklin Center constituted 95 percent of the Center’s revenue in 2011.[27]

This network has had some success. While some affiliates do little more than blog off of Associated Press stories, others feature established conservative journalists. In Oklahoma, the former editorial page editor of the Oklahoman newspaper, Patrick B. McGuigan, serves as the local bureau chief, and he has a weekly segment on the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, called Capitol Report. [28] And stories in the Pennsylvania Independent, a Franklin Center online publication supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, have been picked up by mainstream outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To date, though, the network has shown little capacity to stand on its own and depends almost entirely on funding through Donors Trust. As of August 2013, the Pennsylvania Independent had only one ad—for the Commonwealth Foundation’s own campaign to privatize state-owned liquor stores.[29]

Building for the future

While the State Policy Network has mostly limited itself to the role of influencing public policy through the traditional work of think tanks—research, media work, and lobbying—the Family Policy Councils are more explicitly involved in mobilizing the Right’s grassroots base to become active in electoral politics.

There are 36 state FPCs, which typically have the word “family” in their names, such as the Massachusetts Family Institute, Louisiana Family Forum, and the Family Foundation of Virginia. Others are less obvious, bearing such names as the Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian Civic League of Maine, but they are all outgrowths of the original Reagan era plan to take the Christian Right’s agenda to the states.

A change in the federal tax law in 2004 required 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations to be less political than they had been, necessitating separately incorporated political action arms. As a result, FOF formed Focus on the Family Action, which later changed its name to CitizenLink for the sake of clarity.[30]

While the Family Research Council and its feisty spokesmen, Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin, disproportionately make headlines, CitizenLink quietly cultivates the grassroots. Spending about $13 million annually (as of 2012), CitizenLink coordinates the work of the FPCs, ensuring accreditation and compliance and providing services to increase the capacity of the institutions to carry out their mission.[31] It also does candidate trainings and works primarily for Republicans in national elections. CitizenLink reportedly spent $2.6 million on independent expenditures in 2012, mostly on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”[32]

The network has played an important role in the political development and subsequent raw political power of the Christian Right. Many of the older FPCs have been active for more than two decades, crafting an activist religious-political culture, affecting electoral outcomes, and ultimately developing the clout to influence legislation and policy outcomes on such matters as abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Indeed, FPCs have often been leading actors in the state-level battles over marriage equality. The Christian Civic League of Maine played a central role in the seesaw battle over same-sex marriage, which was endorsed by the legislature and repealed by the voters in 2009, then restored by a second referendum in 2012. The League’s executive director and one of its board members[33] launched a new political action committee, Protect Marriage Maine, to carry out the political organizing and advertising drive against the ballot initiative, collaborating closely with the National Organization for Marriage.[34] Such collaborations have been a hallmark of the FPCs from the earliest days.

An important trend in recent years, indicating the significance of the role of the FPCs in the wider Christian Right, has been the gradual adoption of the integrated, three-part agenda of the Manhattan Declaration. This is evident in many ways, including the way that “guest posts” from FPC leaders are introduced on the national web site. For example: “CitizenLink is proud to work with The Family Foundation of Virginia and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom.”[35]

“These councils are independent entities,” according to CitizenLink, “with no corporate or financial relationship to each other or to Focus on the Family.”[36] But if FOF and CitizenLink are legally separate entities with different tax statuses, they are best viewed as two parts of the same organization. They share the same offices, board of directors, top executives, and president, James Daly.[37]

There is a method to the disclaimers, though, because stretching the rules regarding federal tax-exempt status of the member agencies has been an issue over the years. Many of these groups engaged in lobbying and electoral activities—such as the dissemination of biased voter guides—beyond what the privilege of federal tax exemption allows. Quietly coming into compliance with the law, and becoming more sophisticated regarding how best to use the several relevant legal categories available for politics and public policy, has been a trend for both state networks, following the lead of The Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council.

The creation of separate-but-related groups that can legally carry out various political, lobbying, and electoral functions is an important development in the history of these groups at all levels. For example, the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), which has focused on anti-marriage equality, antichoice, and pro-school privatization issues in recent years, has divided into three closely related but legally distinct entities: FIC itself; FIC Action (a 501(c)(4) lobbying group); and the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee, a political action committee (PAC) that focuses on candidates for state-government offices.[38]

Efforts to draw bright lines for legal purposes notwithstanding, the lines still sometimes blur. “Needless, to say,” wrote Jim Daly in a joint Focus on the Family/CitizenLink annual report, “2012 was extremely busy for our CitizenLink staff as they were actively involved in multiple state legislative and election efforts. More than 2 million emails were sent to CitizenLink constituents regarding important issues. In addition, CitizenLink produced mailers for the November election that went to more than 8 million homes in 16 swing states. And that was just the beginning!”[39]

Two paths converge

Member organizations across both networks share some common issues, such as school privatization and the idea that public education should be controlled locally, though there are often differences of emphasis. The Boston-based Pioneer Institute primarily promotes corporate-style charters and makes little mention of homeschooling, for example, while the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) is primarily interested in homeschooling. “The public schools here have become a primary battleground in the culture war,” MFI declares, “with homosexual activists using them to indoctrinate students with their agenda.” Consequently, “MFI supports the restoration of decision-making authority over school policy and finance to parents, locally elected school committees and taxpayers.[40] In Louisiana, both networks have mobilized to promote and defend Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s controversial voucher program, which extended vouchers even to marginal religious schools, some of which use crackpot textbooks to teach science. One claims that the Loch Ness Monster is both real and a proof against evolution.[41] The Pioneer Institute has promoted New Orleans—where 80 percent of the public schools after Hurricane Katrina became charters—as a model for Boston.[42]

Cross-network collaborations are facilitated by having seasoned leaders who share a common vision and are able to mobilize the resources to carry it out. In creating the State Policy Network and the Family Policy Councils, the conservative movement’s strategists sought to create a deep infrastructure that would be build capacity over time, both in terms of policy development and electoral strength. They were also developing a talent bank of research and policy experts and organizational executives who would create synergies for the movement and shape the priorities of the Republican Party.

And in fact, SPN affiliates sometimes serve as governments-in-waiting for Republican administrations in the states, in much the way that Republican administrations in Washington, D.C., often draw staff from such national think tanks as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. In Massachusetts, Gov. William Weld “hired almost everybody” out of the Pioneer Institute following his election in 1994. Succeeding governors Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift also appointed Pioneer staff or board members to crucial positions that enabled them to implement their ideas, notably in shaping the state’s charter school policies. Cellucci, for example, appointed Pioneer executive director James Peyser as chairman of the state board of education.[43]

SPN think tanks have also provided leadership opportunities for policy professionals and politicians. Veterans of the board of directors of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation include former Lt. Governor William W. Scranton III and current U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA). Three members of Congress—Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and former U.S. Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO)—ran SPN member groups before coming to Congress.

Likewise, the FPCs serve as talent-development agencies. Ron Crews, who led the Massachusetts Family Institute from 2000 to 2004, rode the notoriety he gained in the wake of the historic 2003 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision (in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage) to an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2004. Tony Perkins was the executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum before coming to the Family Research Council. Brian Brown directed the Connecticut Family Institute before leading the National Organization for Marriage.

All of this is important because the cumulative experience of these two networks—in fostering leaders, working with government officials, creating collaborations, and becoming part of the furniture of public life in state capitals around the country—is transforming American politics from the state level up. The networks’ growing ability to craft and influence public policy, working in tandem with the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate interests, and Republican state legislators, has justified the persistence and long-range ambitions of conservative strategists three decades ago, when the movement was just beginning its long march to state power.



[1] Jeremy P. Jacobs, “Devastation: GOP Picks Up 680 State Leg. Seats,” National Journal, Nov. 4, 2010, www.nationaljournal.com/blogs/hotlineoncall/2010/11/devastation-gop-picks-up-680-state-leg-seats-04.

[2] John J. Miller, “Fifty flowers bloom: Conservative think tanks—mini-Heritage Foundations—at the state level,” Hey Miller, Sept. 16, 2009, www.heymiller.com/2009/09/fifty-flowers-bloom. Republished from the National Review, Nov. 19, 2007. See also John J. Miller, “Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent: The Roe Foundation at 39,” Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, May 2007, http://capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185478634.pdf.

[3] “Directory,” State Policy Network, www.spn.org/directory/organizations.asp.

[4] Frederick Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-Level Think Tanks,” Public Eye, Summer/Fall 1999, www.politicalresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/02/PE-Summer-Fall-1999.pdf. In addition to the pieces cited in this essay, see Jason Deparle, “Right-of-Center Guru Goes Wide With the Gospel of Small Government,” New York Times, Nov. 17, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/11/17/us/politics/17thinktank.html?_r=0&pagewanted=all; and Lee Fang, “The Right Leans In: Media-savvy conservative think tanks take aim and fire at progressive power bases in the states,” Nation, Mar. 26, 2013, www.thenation.com/article/173528/right-leans#.

[5] Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance,” Public Eye, July 23, 2013, www.politicalresearch.org/christian-right-seeks-renewal-in-deepening-catholic-protestant-alliance.

[6] “SPN Annual Meeting Promo 1,” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyBqRKDLvc.

[7] Don E. Eberly, “The States:  The New Policy Battleground, Lecture # 225,” The Heritage Foundation, Oct. 27, 1989, www.heritage.org/research/lecture/the-states-the-new-policy-battleground.

[8] “Conservative Leadership Conference,” Civitas, http://clc2014.com.

[9] Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-level Think Tanks.”

[10] Paul Abowd, “Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states: Nonprofit group lets donors fly ‘totally under the radar,’” Center for Public Integrity, Feb. 14, 2013, www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/14/12181/donors-use-charity-push-free-market-policies-states.

[11] “EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government,” Stinktanks.org, Center for Media and Democracy, Nov. 2013. http://stinktanks.org/national.

[12] John J. Miller, “Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent:  The Roe Foundation at 39,” Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, May 2007, http://capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185478634.pdf.

[13] “EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government,” http://stinktanks.org/national.

[14] Andy Kroll, “The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions,” Mother Jones, April 25, 2011, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/state-policy-network-union-bargaining/.

[15] Kroll, “The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions.”

[16] Erik Kain, “Michigan Governor Plays Fast and Loose with Democracy, Invokes Radical New Powers,” Forbes, March 11, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/11/michigan-governor-plays-fast-and-loose-with-democracy-invokes-radical-new-powers.

[17] EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, http://stinktanks.org/national.

[18] Paul Abowd, “ALEC anti-union push includes key players from Michigan, Arizona think tanks,” Center for Public Integrity, May 17, 2012, https://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/05/17/8890/alec-anti-union-push-includes-key-players-michigan-arizona-think-tanks.

[19] Sue Sturgis, “Special Investigation: How Art Pope helped turn back the clock on voting rights in North Carolina,” Institute for Southern Studies, Aug. 2013, http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/08/special-investigation-how-art-pope-helped-turn-bac.html.

[20] Charlie Savage, Justice Department Poised to File Lawsuit Over Voter ID Law,” New York Times, Sept. 30, 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/us/politics/justice-department-poised-to-file-lawsuit-over-voter-id-law-in-north-carolina.html.

[21] Mary Tuma, “Ted Cruz Used Texas to Create ALEC’s Anti-Obamacare Legislation,” Current, Oct. 16, 2013, http://sacurrent.com/news/ted-cruz-used-texas-to-create-alec-s-anti-obamacare-legislation-1.1569056; Ted Cruz,  “Texas Public Policy Foundation report gives states options for pushing back on federal overreach,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov. 18, 2010, www.texaspolicy.com/press/texas-public-policy-foundation-report-gives-states-options-pushing-back-federal-overreach; Ted Cruz and Mario Loyola, “Reclaiming the Constitution Towards and Agenda for State Action,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov. 2010, www.texaspolicy.com/sites/default/files/documents/2010-11-RR11-TenthAmendment-mloyola-posting.pdf.

[22] “A Tool Kit to Keep Government Local People, Local Decisions, Local Solutions,” State Policy Network and State Budget Solutions, 2013, www.federalisminaction.com/wp-content/uploads/Federalism-In-Action_Toolkit_FINAL.pdf.

[23] Jason Stverak, Media Shield Law Doesn’t Protect First Amendment, Free Press, The Franklin Center, Sept. 16, 2013, http://franklincenterhq.org/8258/media-shield-law-doesnt-protect-first-amendment-free-press.

[24] “About Watchdog Wire,” The Franklin Center, Watchdog Wire, May 25, 2012, http://watchdogwire.com/about-the-franklin-center.

[25] “Driving the News:  How right wing funders are manufacturing news and influencing public policy in Pennsylvania,” Keystone Progress, Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/doc/159802911 (subscription required).

[26] Sara Jerving, “The Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows,” The Center for Media and Democracy, Nov. 26, 2012, www.prwatch.org/news/2012/11/11791/lucy-burns-institute-publishers-ballotpedia-judgepedia-and-wikifoia-and-her-right.

[27] Abowd, “ALEC anti-union push includes key players from Michigan, Arizona think tanks.”

[28] McGuigan reported on SPN’s national convention in Oklahoma City without disclosing his relationship to the Franklin Center or the Franklin Center’s relationship to the SPN and the host affiliate, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. See “Capitol Report: National gathering in Oklahoma City focuses on public policy,” YouTube, Sept. 30, 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8OuSdH75tU.

[29] “Driving the News: How right wing funders are manufacturing news and influencing public policy in Pennsylvania,” Keystone Progress, Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/doc/159802911/Driving-the-News (subscription required).

[30] Electa Draper, “Focus on the Family rebrands political arm as CitizenLink,” Denver Post, May 20, 2010, www.denverpost.com/news/ci_15121872.

[31] “CitizenLink,” Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.profile&ein=200960855#.Um6pAvmkpoE.

[32] “Exclusive: Largest Dark Money Groups Share Funds, Hide Links,” OpenSecretsBlog, Sep. 10, 2013, www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/09/exclusive-largest-dark-money-donor-groups-hide-ties-using-new-trick.html.

[33] In the run-up to the 2012 initiative, Emrich was employed by the Family Research Council as its new “Northeast Field Ambassador”: “Bob Emrich joins Family Research Council,” Christian Civic League of Maine, Oct. 27, 2011, www.cclmaine.org/bob-emrich-joins-family-research-council.

[34] This followed a split with former League executive director Mike Heath, whose extreme statements were seen as counterproductive. The split also led to a rebranding in which the League sought to become known as the Maine Family Policy Council. The change apparently didn’t take, and the organization is now known by both names. Brian Tashman, “Ron Paul’s Iowa State Director Dedicated His Career to Fighting ‘Evil’ Gay Rights,” Right Wing Watch, Dec. 30, 2011, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ron-pauls-iowa-state-director-dedicated-his-career-fighting-evil-gay-rights.

[35] See Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance.”

[36] “Family Policy Councils,” CitizenLink, www.citizenlink.com/state-groups. Individual FPCs rarely mention their close connections to FOF, or CitizenLink, or FRC, which maintains a similar, but not identical, list of affiliates. FRC Action, the 501(c)(4) political arm of FRC, also lists the FPCs as state-level affiliates.

[37] For example, see “Focus on the Family and CitizenLink 2012 Annual Report,” Focus on the Family, http://media.focusonthefamily.com/fotf/pdf/about-us/financial-reports/2012-annual-report.pdf. A separate annual report for CitizenLink is at www.citizenlink.com/uploads/2013/04/2012-CitizenLink-Annual-Report.pdf. Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is also a member of both boards.

[38] “Latest FIC Action Committee’s 2010 Endorsements,” Family Institute of Connecticut, 2010, www.ctfamily.org/FIC%20Action%20Committee%20Endorsements%202010.pdf.

[39] “2012 Annual Report,” Focus on the Family.

[40] “Parental Rights and Education,” Massachusetts Family Institute, www.mafamily.org/issues/parental-rights-and-education.

[41] Bruce Wilson, “Nessie a Plesiosaur? Louisiana To Fund Schools Using Odd, Bigoted Fundamentalist Textbooks,” Talk to Action, June 17, 2012, www.talk2action.org/story/2012/6/17/9311/48633.

[42] Jim Stergios, “6 Takeaways on New Orleans’ charter initiative,” Pioneer Institute, Oct. 19, 2013, http://pioneerinstitute.org/charter_schools/6-takeaways-on-new-orleans-charter-initiative.

[43] Paul Dunphy and Nikhil Aziz, “The Pioneer Institute: Privatizing the Common Wealth,” Political Research Associates, July 2002, www.publiceye.org/libertarian/pioneer-institute/index.html; Frederick Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-level Think Tanks.”

Issue Brief: This Month in Reproductive Justice

reproductive health SLIDE

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Reproductive Justice.

One Court Strikes Down Texas Anti-Abortion Restrictions, Another Reinstates
On Monday, a federal district court struck down a provision of the recent restrictions on Abortion rights Texas had set to go into effect on October 29th. The restrictions, signed into law on July 18th by Governor Rick Perry, required physicians that provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The proposed restrictions caused an instant political and media backlash, most notably when State Senator Wendy Davis held an 11-hour filibuster to block the vote on the measures. Although state legislators claimed the provisions were meant to protect the health of women, they were widely condemned as an attempt to deny abortion coverage to over a third of all women in Texas. Over 80 percent of the Texas population opposed the restrictions, and medical experts across the country claimed it would provide no medical benefits, and would in fact “jeopardize women’s health and safety.” In the ruling, the judge noted that the law had “no rational relationship to improved patient care.” While the ruling was a victory for reproductive rights, the ACLU reported that ‘less than an hour after the decision, the state of Texas had already filed its appeal” against the federal ruling. On Wednesday, a panel of three judges (all George W. Bush appointees) granted Texas’ request for a stay on the lower courts ruling, effectively placing the restrictions back into place for now.

Outrage Erupts in England Over Gender-Based Abortions
Christian groups across England are planning lawsuits against two doctors who arranged for the abortion of female fetuses for parents who had wanted boys. Over the past year, the Daily Telegraph began an undercover investigation of abortion clinics, secretly filming doctors that “agreed to terminate fetuses for sex selection purposes.” The investigation caused a media uproar across the country and a subsequent investigation by the British Government. On October 7th, the Government announced it would not charge the doctors, claiming the Abortion Act of 1967 “does not expressly prohibit gender specific abortions.”, and held a debate in parliament over the issue two days later. Numerous anti-choice groups have begun preparing lawsuits against the doctor

In El Salvador, A Miscarriage Can Lead to Jail Time
El Salvador is currently one of five countries to have a total ban on abortion, and outlaws abortions even in cases of rape or when a mother’s health is at risk. The controversial ban sparked worldwide attention this summer when government officials refused to let a dying woman have an abortion, even after it was determined that the baby had no chance of survival. A report by BBC News this past Thursday found from 2000 to 2011, over 200 women have been accused of using a miscarriage as cover up for a suspected abortion. 49 of these women were convicted of murder, with prison sentences ranging from 12 to 35 years. The report also underlines that all the accused women came from the public health sector, and were “overwhelmingly poor, unmarried and poorly educated.” Not a single case started from the private health sector, where it is estimated that thousands of abortion procedures take place annually. Defense Attorney Dennis Munoz Estanle, who represented 29 of the convicted women in court, says these women were used by a criminal justice system “that needs women to make examples of.”

New Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Push Legal Boundaries, Closes Clinics
Since the appointing of Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis to the state medical board in 2011, Ohio has passed extensive restrictions on abortion clinic procedures.  Under one of the new restrictions, public hospitals are barred from making transfer agreements with clinics, resulting in clinics across the state being unable to find a willing private hospital to sned patients to in the case of an emergency. In the past month, two more clinics have closed while another clinic appeals a state order to close, bringing the overall total to five clinics closed in 2013, leaving only nine remaining in Ohio. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a challenge to these new restrictions in state court, arguing that they violated the “single subject” rule in the Ohio Constitution since the restrictions were passed through an unrelated budget bill. Pro-Choice advocates say these restrictions as tip-toeing federal law by both limiting access to abortions, and shaming the women who enter clinics through questionable methods. Starting this month, abortion clinics in Ohio are required to ask all patients if they would like to see an ultrasound of the fetus and feel its heartbeats.

Documentary Highlights Risks For Physicians Who Perform Late-Term Abortions
Earlier this month, the documentary After Tiller was released, which profiles the four doctors remaining in the U.S who “still openly offer the controversial third-trimester procedures,” following the murder of Dr. GeorgeTiller in 2009. Third-trimester abortions are a highly controversial procedure, opposed by many on both sides of the abortion debate, who view them as being too close to childbirth. Tiller, who performed third-trimester abortions through his clinic in Kansas, was shot to death during a service at his local church by an anti-choice radical. Instead of focusing on the political debate surrounding abortion, the documentary highlights the every day risks these doctors face and the emotional toll inflicted on both them and their patients. To little surprise, the ProLife Action Leaguestill found a way to be offended by the politically neutral film, claiming it was filled with “contradictions and moral blindness.”

Annual “1 in 3” Aims to Directly Confront the Stigma of Abortion
October 22nd marked the beginning of the 1 in 3 Campaign Week of Action, a grassroots campaign put together by the Advocates for Youth organization. The campaign aims to show the American public that abortion is more mainstream than people realize, while confronting the negative stigma associated with abortion that “continues to impact women’s experiences with their reproductive health.”The campaign takes its name from recent studies that show about 1 out of 3 mothers will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Despite being a common health care procedure, many of these women are fearful to openly talk about their experience. The organization believes the fear to speak out is directly associated with the increased attacks on women’s reproductive rights. The campaign centers around the stories of many women who have bravely shared their testimonies in a new book published by the organization to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe V. Wade, which made the right to have an abortion legal across the country.

House Republicans Attempt to add “Conscience Clause” to Obamacare
In a last second move, the GOP-controlled congress attempted to add a provision to the Affordable Care Act during their most recent attempt to defund the law. Under the new ACA guidelines, companies with over 50 workers are required to provide insurance plans which cover contraception coverage. Though religious organizations are exempt from this requirement, it was not enough to satisfy House Republicans. Just days before the federal government shut down, conservatives added a “conscience clause” to their funding bill. The move was seen by many as as a symbolic attempt to add their social views into the battle over Obamacare, despite having little relevance to the overall debate and no chance of being passed.

Nebraska Court Rules Teenage Girl “Too Immature” to Have An Abortion
On October 4th, the Nebraska Supreme Court denied a 16-year-old girl’s request for an abortion, claiming she lacked the maturity to make the decision by herself. State law requires pregnant women under 18 to obtain written consent from a parent or guardian before they can have an abortion. The young woman in this case, who became pregnant in May, was placed in foster care months earlier after the parental rights of her biological parents were terminated on the grounds of abuse. Upon becoming pregnant, the woman requested a consent waiver from the state, fearing her foster parents would refuse due to their religious beliefs. The court ruled she was not mature enough to make the decision on her own since she was dependent on foster parents, despite not being her legal guardians. Attorney Catherine Mahern, who represented the young girl, noted this story is only one example in an alarming trend. “The real story here is how many girls in foster care are getting pregnant,” she said. “It’s shameful.” According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011, 33 percent of women in foster care become pregnant before the age of 18, over double the national average at 14 percent.

Lawsuit Challenges Fetal Protection Laws In Wisconsin
This past July, a pregnant woman was arrested in Wisconsin after informing her doctor of a previous drug addiction, on the grounds of “endangerment to her unborn child.” Under a 1998 state law known as the “cocaine mom” act, welfare authorities can confine a pregnant woman who uses drugs and alcohol to “a severe degree and refuses treatment.” Despite years of sobriety, which was validated by a urine test, the doctor and a local social worker informed the police of the woman’s prior drug problems. Upon being arrested, she was brought to the county commissioner, who disregarded her plea for a lawyer, though “the court had already appointed a legal guardian for the fetus.” She was ordered to attend a drug treatment center for 78 days. In response to the ruling, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women filed a federal suit against the state on October 2nd, arguing the law is unconstitutional. In their official statement, the group argues that the law “deprives women of physical liberty, medical privacy, due process and other constitutional rights,” and creates a nature of fear around pregnant women seeking care. The suit also notes hundreds of similar cases, in which “low-income and minority women affected disproportionately.” Wisconsin is currently one of four states with similar fetal protection laws.

Local GOP Party Backtracks After Comparing Abortion to Slavery
On the morning of October 30th, the Republican Party of Chisago County, Minnesota posted a meme depicting a slave auction with the caption “Pro-Choice. Against Slavery? Then dont buy one.” The picture caused an instant media backlash and the group deleted the meme the same afternoon. In a statement responding to the controversy, the Party refused to name who created the picture, but noted they were “very sorry that something so clearly improper (either intended or in poor taste) ever made it to our page”, and that the Republican party “believes in Freedom for all Americans regardless of race or religion. It is after all where the Republican Party came from in its origins, the anti-slavery movement.” But not everyone was offended by the piece though. Minnesota Republican Party Secretary Chris Fields, who is African-American, told the local StarTribune that he saw “absolutely nothing offensive about that (Facebook) post.”

 

 

 

Hell Houses and the Gender Politics of the Religious Right

Image source: http://www.thesecularparent.com/why-hell-houses-hurt-all-people-of-faith-part-1-my-rant/

Image source: http://www.thesecularparent.com/why-hell-houses-hurt-all-people-of-faith-part-1-my-rant/

Last week I had my first experience at a “Hell House,” put on by an Assemblies of God pentecostal church in Temple, Texas. It was sort of like a Haunted House, except the point of the scares was to win people for Jesus. Scenes of “demons” luring people into various “sins,” with tragic and often grisly consequences, were followed by a final act in “Hell” – a place where “demons” violated our personal space (I had to tell at least two not to touch me) and children possibly as young as 8 played the role of screaming, tormented souls.

What was most interesting about the Temple Hell House was how it centered conservative gender politics in its cautionary tales. The central character was “Lindsey,” a white teenage girl portrayed as causing her family’s downfall and eternal damnation by being sexually active, and having a (coerced!) abortion. The violent deaths suffered by her entire family – including a murder and two suicides – are explicitly described as “Lindsey’s fault” for making bad choices.

This narrative brought to mind the surprisingly similar gender ideology promoted in a very different setting: the recent Values Voters Summit (VVS) in Washington, D.C. As with the Hell House, several speakers at VVS presented the well-being or ruin of families as dependent on conformity to conservative Christian gender norms – to the point of arguing for an all encompassing ideology of gender roles.

In the “Future of Marriage” VVS panel, Ryan Anderson – a “Religion and Free Society” fellow with The Heritage Foundation – claimed “biological…[and] social reality” as the basis for reserving marriage for heterosexual couples. Echoing a March 2013 report for Heritage (where Anderson asserted as “anthropological truth” that “men and women are different and complementary”), he made the striking statement that “There is no such thing as ‘parenting.’ There’s mothering and fathering.” Defining same gender unions as legally equal to heterosexual ones, he continued, is the same as “saying that you don’t need to have a mother and a father as an ideal for a child.” When “absentee fathers” are the “most urgent social problem in America,” Anderson concluded, “How will the law teach that fathers are essential, when it’s redefined marriage to make fathers optional?”

Anderson’s comments stood out for putting an ostensibly secular, sociological spin on the well worn argument of “gender complementarity” as an objection to women’s and LGBTQ rights. Like Anderson, others on the Religious Right are adopting messaging that emphasizes secular support for arguments they once made primarily from scripture. A new “issue analysis” on “Complementarity in Marriage” released by the Family Research Council this month highlights several substantial quotes from “secular scientific sources” as proof that “men and women have very different ways of thinking…[and] complement one another.” As they have done with the repackaging of “religious liberty” arguments, the Christian Right seems poised to reframe longheld religious teachings on gender complementarity as conclusions from common sense that’s basic and universal – the FRC report begins, simply, “Men and women and different” – and “born out [sic]” by “hard science.”

This repackaged gender theology resurfaced in a VVS breakout session on “The War on Football” presented by Dan Flynn, author of a book by the same name. Flynn forcefully dismissed scientific studies and media coverage of the NFL’s “concussion crisis” was forcefully dismissed as sensationalist “BS,” part of a broader effort by an ill-defined cabal of football haters to undermine the sport.

Tim Murphy’s excellent write-up for Mother Jones details Flynn’s bizarre claims and rightly diagnoses Flynn’s defense of football as a product of gender anxiety (Flynn: “It’s not that football has grown especially hard, it’s that society has grown soft”). It’s also the product of gender complementarian theology; here too, Flynn claims science as support. Flynn argued that boys need football as an outlet for testosterone and to learn to “become…[men]” – at one point saying, “I have 20 times more testosterone in my body than the women in this room,” and that testosterone needs to be “channeled” somewhere. Flynn also praised football for teaching an important “life lesson”: getting knocked down and taking hits is part of the game, and life. Boys playing football have a choice between crawling to the sidelines and crying over their wounds, or getting back up to “fight.” The difference between “winners and losers” in life is that the former “get up” when they face setbacks, while losers “stay down.”

From the Hell House, to the “Future of Marriage,” to the “War on Football,” conforming to the binary gendered expectations of the Religious Right is marks the difference between individual and society success and failure. The consistency of these messages across such different topics and venues are an indication of just how robust and widespread these gender ideologies are in conservative Christian culture.

Warning, some language in the following video may not be work-appropriate.

Conservative Ideology Not Overtly Racist, But More Insidious

Photo Credit: Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune. Published with permission

Photo Credit: Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune. Published with permission

More and more, we’ve seen U.S. conservatives unabashedly propagate revisionist historical narratives while shrugging off accusations of racism.  Over the past year, public policies and political ideologies targeting communities of color—cuts to assistance programs, opposition to immigration reform, efforts to abolish the 14th Amendment, and voter ID laws have all gained mainstream acceptance within the Republican Party. Conservatives in Congress, state legislatures, and in the courts have embraced policies that disproportionately target and hurt communities of color, even as they seek to discount or dismiss the racialized implications of such policies.

As Allison Kilkenny, co-host of Citizen Radio and a blogger at The Nation, recently said:

“It’s clear [Republicans] know they can’t be overtly racist anymore … but they try to talk in code now. So instead of attacking minorities, attacking poor people of color, they attack programs that benefit those people.”

In order to divert attention away from their own rhetorical and legislative attacks on communities of color, and in an attempt to make their own racist public policies appear tame in comparison, many of these conservatives loudly condemn organizations or individuals whose overtly racial rhetoric or acts can provide them political cover.

For example, one of the Far Right’s favorite straw men is the Nazi Party and the “threat” of America devolving into a Third Reich state. This particular flavor of demagoguery helps conservatives create distance between themselves and more openly-racist ideologies, as they ostensibly disown racism while perpetuating it through public policy.

Leith, a small town in Grant County, North Dakota, has become the latest purveyor of straw men examples for the Far Right. Craig Cobb, a White supremacist who, in 2010, was charged with promoting hate for running a White supremacist website, has begun buying up property to create what he describes as a “Pioneer Little Europe” where other neo-Nazis could have the “freedom” to be White. After 300 protesters rallied against him, many of whom were Native Americans, Cobb said of them, “They’re loud, so what? They’re literally not human to me.”

Stories like this one allow more “mainstream” conservatives to declare, “See? That’s what racism looks like.” Ultimately, though, these stories hide these conservatives’ more veiled—but perhaps even more insidious—attempts at perpetuating discrimination and institutionalized racism though court rulings, public policies, and legislation. While the influence of neo-Nazis in Leith is largely limited to a small city with only a few dozen residents, Republican-supported congressional legislation cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), for example, has a devastating impact on communities of color throughout the country.

In the 2010 midterm elections, conservatives gained enough seats in the House to regain majority control of that body, and they’ve since done their best to oppose progressive social and economic legislation, from Obamacare to immigration reform.  As progressives committed to ending all forms of oppression and racial injustice, we must oppose not only the racism of neo-Nazi ideology but also the ways in which such rhetoric is repurposed by “mainstream” conservatives for the sake of legitimizing more insidious and targeted attacks on communities of color.

**Eric Ethington contributed to this post**

How Fetal Personhood Laws Promote Rape Culture

SONY DSC

Photo by William Murphy from flickr.com

During Wednesday’s hearing on Arizona Representative Trent Franks’s proposed 20-week abortion ban, Franks claimed “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” Using the same pseudo-scientific reasoning as Todd Akin (who infamously said pregnancy by “legitimate” rape was unlikely because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down”), Franks joined the ranks of conservative rape-deniers who privilege “fetal personhood” over a pregnant person’s autonomy.

Similarly in 2012, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Murdock said, “When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen.” Murdock was supported by Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas who said it is a “gift from God.” Although Franks backtracked and clarified his meaning later on Wednesday (“I’m talking about the incidences where pregnancy from rape results in an abortion after the sixth month or beyond are very rare”), his attitude is indicative of a knee-jerk hostility on the Right toward sexual assault survivors and people seeking abortions.

Contrary to Franks’s assumption, pregnancy from rape represents a significant minority of unwanted pregnancies in the U.S. A 1996 study of rape-related pregnancies estimated that 32,000 pregnancies each year were due to sexual assault – with a majority of assaults committed by someone known (often related) to the survivor. Of the survivors who became pregnant, thirty-two percent did not know they were pregnant until the second trimester. Fifty percent of pregnant sexual assault survivors sought abortions.

In the current ultraconservative political climate, “fetal personhood” arguments have gained political traction (fetal personhood laws have advanced in North Dakota and Arkansas) and function as a way to reduce the pregnant person to a host status and imbue fetuses with human rights. Put simply, a fetus’s interests always trump those of the pregnant person.

Defending Reproductive Justice, a recent publication of Political Research Associates, explains that rape exemptions put antichoice activists on the defensive because “prochoice advocates sometimes point to rape exemptions as evidence that opposition to abortion is based on a desire to control women’s sexual freedom, rather than concern for the fetus.” In other words, rape exemptions expose inconsistencies in the Right’s opposition to abortion. Further:

The lack of concern for rape survivors’ rights is part of the Right’s broader failure to take the country’s rape problem seriously. Would murder or any other violent crime be similarly painted as “something God intended”? The right-wing perspective that supports controlling a woman’s body when it comes to reproductive health decisions feeds the fundamental lack of respect for the right to bodily autonomy that enables rape culture.

The mainstream discourse on abortion has shifted significantly rightward now that lawmakers are debating whether to allow rape exemptions. The conversation about rape exemptions, while critical, reframes the debate on reproductive justice in conservative terms. Progressive activists must expand the debate outside the confines of a worthy/unworthy abortion dichotomy to demand that abortion be accessible (legally, financially, and geographically) to sexual assault survivors and everyone else who seeks abortion care. Only when people have full control of their reproductive capabilities can a semblance of gender justice be achieved.

The Legal Arm of the Christian Right

Inside the American Center for Law and Justice

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice with 2012 Republican president candidate Mitt Romney in 2007, consulting during GOP meetings around 2008 presidential nominations.. — Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

After his unsuccessful 1988 presidential bid mobilized Christian Right voters, televangelist Pat Robertson channeled his campaign’s energy into forming two influential right-wing organizations. One was the voter mobilization powerhouse the Christian Coalition of America; the other was the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Make no mistake, the similarity of the American Center for Law and Justice’s name and acronym–ACLJ– to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is no accident. Robertson declared that he founded the group to “stop the ACLU in court.”1 The group claims that “activist judges” and liberal attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Justice have made the judicial branch antagonistic to the rights of Christians, purporting to serve supposedly persecuted Christians by representing them in the courtroom, drafting proposed laws, and promoting a right-wing interpretation of the Constitution.
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The Conservative Attack on Birthright Citizenship

CREDIT: (c) Jim Morin

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

United States Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 1

Among the many low moments of Republican leadership last year, the call by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for hearings on a constitutional amendment to repeal the birthright citizenship provisions of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was among the most dispiriting.[i] Back in 2007, the National Council of La Raza had honored Graham for his commitment to finding solutions to the immigration issue. He had played the responsible grown up among his Republican colleagues at the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

But with the rise of the Tea Party and its increasingly ruthless attempts to purge Republicans of other persuasions from party leadership, Graham seemed anxious to prove his conservative bona fides. He argued that birthright citizenship had encouraged Mexican women to come to the United States to have “anchor babies,” who would enable the parents to remain in the country legally. “It’s called ‘drop and leave,’” Graham explained.

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Beyond Green Jobs

A volunteer from Youthbuild/Service Nation at the September 27, 2008, Green Jobs Now National Day of Action, sponsored by Green for All.

Everyone wants to be green. Fossil fuel companies tout their commitments to the environment, with BP sporting its green and yellow flower logo and Chevron scooping up a Green Apple award for promoting public-school energy efficiency [1]. In 2009 Exxon-Mobil got itself named Forbes magazine’s Green Company of the Year for stepping up its natural gas production [2].

Mix “green” with “jobs,” and everyone ought to love you. In fact, a 2010 Harris Interactive survey found that 72 percent of respondents believed that expansion of green jobs would help preserve a higher quality environment, and 61 percent agreed that expansion of green jobs would have a positive outcome for the U.S. economy. [3] As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to create five million green jobs, arguing that “green jobs are the jobs of the future,” and that they would “help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save this planet for our children.”  As president, Obama has directed $500 million toward green jobs training as part of the federal stimulus funding authorized in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. (ARRA)

But organized opposition to green jobs does exist; in fact it thrives among conservative thought leaders and business groups, who view any push for an environmentally sustainable economy as simply an excuse to further regulate business. The influential Heritage Foundation, for one, claims that a green economy is a contradiction in terms, an approach that will eliminate more jobs than it would create. [4] Heritage also argues that green jobs are anti-free enterprise, propped up by government subsidies. It even pokes fun at green jobs, asking, as Peter Brookes and J. D. Foster do on the Heritage website, “What could be greener than a rickshaw?” [5]

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From Schoolhouse to Statehouse

Curriculum from a Christian Nationalist Worldview

Students rally at a State Board of Education meeting, Austin, Texas,March 10, 2010

On May 21, Texas School Board member Cynthia Dunbar opened the board’s meeting with an invocation: “Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England, or the charter of Massachusetts Bay, or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present—a Christian land governed by Christian principles.”1 The board then voted nine to five, along party lines, to adopt new standards that will be used to teach the state’s 4.8 million students—resisting the pleas of educators, historians, and even Rod Paige, a former U.S. secretary of education under President George W. Bush. The new standards emphasize the role of Christianity in U.S. history and promote conservative values. A New York Times editorial pointed out that the Texas board did back down on a few of its “most outrageous efforts”—such as renaming the slave trade, the “Atlantic triangular trade”—but it nevertheless managed “to justify injecting more religion into government.” According to the Times, the curriculum differentiates between the Founders’ protection of religious freedom and “separation of church and state,”2 which it deplores.

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