By Dave Johnson
Yet another big-money front group is working the scene – poisoning America’s pre-election civic discussion, spending $1 MILLION to saturate the radio with ads that say,
"Black babies are terminated at triple the rate of white babies," a female announcer in one of the ads says.
"The Democratic Party supports these abortion laws that are decimating our people, but the individual's right to life is protected in the Republican platform. Democrats say they want our vote. Why don't they want our lives?"
"Another ad tries to link Democrats to David Duke,a white supremacist who served as a Republican in the Louisiana Legislature. The spot refers to Duke's trip to Syria last year, where he spoke at an anti-war rally.
"I can understand why a Ku Klux Klan cracker like David Duke makes nice with the terrorists," a male voice says. "What I want to know is why so many of the Democrat politicians I helped elect are on the same side of the Iraq war as David Duke."
Johnnie Griffin, a sociology professor at Indiana University, told the Sun: "This is so dirty, but it works. These are race ads. It's incredible."
The front group placing these radio ads in districts around the country is named Americas PAC, and research shows that this one is be part of a web of similar organizations. Americas PAC received major contributions just this last quarter of over $1.5 million from “Woodland Group Indiana LLC.”
Almost no information is available on the Woodland Group. However, from the Center for Public Integrity’s, Silent Partners, How political non-profits work the system,
Three different firms listed at the same address—7440 Woodland Drive in Indianapolis, Ind.—combined to give $2,250,000 mostly to Republican-leaning 527s. That address is home to Golden Rule Insurance Company, one of the biggest backers of medical savings accounts and a longtime GOP supporter.
A spokeswoman for Golden Rule said she had never heard of Woodland Group Indiana LLC, one of the contributors listed at that address.
A search on Woodland Groups’ address, 7440 Woodland Drive, Indianapolis, eventually yields “The Golden Rule Building” and Golden Rule Insurance as well as Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust – “A CEO America Affiliate Program” (Childrens Educational Opportunity). The Golden Rule Insurance Company’s former head is J. Patrick Rooney. According to People For the American Way,
J. Patrick Rooney … is well known as one of the largest individual donors to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as well as to his GOPAC and Progress and Freedom Foundation. Rooney is also a founding board member of Republican National Coalition for Life, a PAC founded by Religious Right heavyweights like Phyllis Schlafly, Gary Bauer and Beverly LaHaye to keep the abortion plank in the Republican Party strong.
GOPAC and Newt Gingrich are known for, among other things, introducing the language of incivility into our politics. For example, the 1994 Newt/GOPAC document "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," tells Republicans to use words like, “decay... failure… incompetent… sick… traitors” to describe Democrats – just to use the words for the negative effect the words have on people’s perceptions.
Rooney and his Golden Rule Insurance Company have long been major funders of the far right, especially promoting Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and the 2004 Mother Jones article Medicare"s Hidden Bonanza may just explain why,
After millions in campaign contributions, an insurance magnate's 10-year lobbying campaign finally pays off.
… there is little doubt about the biggest short-term winner. He is J. Patrick Rooney, a major Republican campaign donor from Indiana who has done more than anyone else to make health savings accounts a reality. Rooney is the chairman emeritus of the Indianapolis-based Golden Rule Insurance Co., which has been selling health savings accounts through a now-expired pilot program that Rooney helped convince Congress to approve in 1996. Just days before the new Medicare bill passed, UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurer in America, paid $500 million in cash for Rooney's family-owned company—a move that analysts said was directly tied to the Medicare bill's provisions broadening the market for health savings accounts.
A $500 million return on the investment in poisoning America’s political environment! It brings to mind a cliche -- but at Patriot Project we don’t think we’re in the wrong business. This is wrong – these front groups are set up to skirt the law, and they harm democracy. And now some of that $500 million is being funneled back into the political system, diverting the public from problems we need to solve, distracting from the real issues of the election, and aimed at obscuring the corruption and poison these groups spread.
In 2004 Americas PAC received large contributions from another front organization – the Republican Leadership Coalition. The Republican Leadership Coalition was established by Scott W. Reed, former head of (yet another front group) the American Taxpayers Alliance, which ran ads blaming California Governor Gray Davis for the energy crisis – which readers might recall later turned out to be a manipulation of markets by Enron. Reed also managed Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign for President, and was executive director of the Republican National Committee under Haley Barbour. Reed started his career with the Christian Coalition (but is no relation to Jack Abramoff associate Ralph Reed), in the past worked as a lobbyist for (yet another front group) Americans for Gun Safety (2002), and was President and Founder of the lobbying firm Chesapeake Enterprises (2004)
While Americas Pac lists its location as Marion, Indiana, in previous years they were listed at an address in Overland Kansas. Americas PAC is affiliated with and gave $260,000 to yet another front group, a 501 (c) 4 “think tank,” Americas Majority, which shared Americas Pac’s earlier address in Overland. From Americas Majority’s website,
Americas Majority was founded to increase the constituency for conservative causes: free market economics, international anti-totalitarianism, and morals based on Jewish and Christian scriptures.
According to SourceWatch, Americas Majority is headed by Richard Nadler, an “Intelligent Design” advocate who also heads the firm Access Communications, which receives money (over $400,000 in 2004) to handle the advertising for Americas Majority. Richard Nadler was listed at the 2004 CPAC conference as Political Director of the front group Republican Leadership Coalition – which made Public Citizen’s 2002 list of “shadowy” 527 organizations.
Patriot Project is working to expose these front groups, set up at election-time to pervert the process, smear honest public servants and poison our democracy.
Dave Johnson is the lead blogger at Seeing the Forest and a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute, where he studies the conservative movement’s network of foundations and think tanks and the extent of their influence on American society.
The Patriot Project is working to expose the front groups, their funding, their connections and their tactics.