The Right Places All Its Hopes in Blackwell

For the last several days we've been chronicling how various right-wing leaders have been rallying behind Ken Blackwell in his campaign to become the next head of the Republican National Committee - perhaps nobody more so than Tony Perkins, who has dedicated the lead article in his daily "Washington Update" to proclaiming Blackwell the "right man at the right time"

What the future holds for the Republican Party will be largely decided by the selection of the next Republican National Committee chairman. As you may have noticed, the list of potential suitors includes a familiar face to the FRC family, our own Ken Blackwell. After weighing the decision of whether or not to throw his hat in the ring, Ken ultimately decided that the opportunity to advance a pro-family agenda in the GOP was compelling. Although I have historically declined to endorse candidates in party elections, this is a tremendous opportunity for a proven public servant to re-interject traditional values into a party that has lost its way. For that reason, I support and encourage others to support Ken Blackwell for chairman of the RNC. His record of service to our nation and his commitment to core conservative issues make him the clear choice in this race.

At a debate yesterday hosted by Americans for Tax Reform, Ken called for a renewal of the Republican Party. He understands that any successful movement must embody a strong grassroots effort that empowers state and local communities. The RNC will make a very critical decision when it meets at the end of January to select the party's new chairman. If they choose a moderate, it could mean a continued drift from core conservative principles. On the other hand, the selection of Ken Blackwell would assure conservatives that they finally have a true advocate in a party that has increasingly attempted to marginalize them.

It is clear that Blackwell's supporters see him as their best hope for making their right-wing agenda the centerpiece of the GOP's politics moving forward and are doing everything in their power to ensure his election ... even going so far as to shut down an RNC straw poll that Blackwell appeared poised to lose:

A straw poll that could have influenced the outcome of an upcoming election for Republican National Committee chairman slammed into a wall of unexpected opposition Monday, largely with the help of supporters of former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, several participants in a meeting of a rump group of RNC members said.

The planned poll was supposed to rank how conservative Mr. Blackwell, Mr. Steele and four other Republican national chairman hopefuls are -- at least in the estimation of the rump group.

But some members told The Washington Times that Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, the incumbent chairman seeking re-election, probably would have won a plurality in such a poll, weakening both Mr. Blackwell, who has strong outside backing from prominent conservatives, and Mr. Steele, who some on the national committee regard with suspicion for consorting with the handful of prominent liberals in the Republican Party.

The 28-17 vote to cancel the poll came during an extraordinary meeting -- 37 who showed up in person and others who participated by phone -- of an ad hoc group calling itself the Conservative Steering Committee, an exclusive assemblage of self-identified conservatives who are part of the 168-member RNC and who formed to try to ensure a conservative is elected as the next national party chairman at the end of this month.

Two More Culture Warriors Seek RNC Chair

Over the weekend, Family Research Council fellow Ken Blackwell announced that he was seeking to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee:

Ken Blackwell, a former U.N. ambassador and former Ohio secretary of state, has become the second black man to plunge into the heated contest for Republican National Committee chairman, The Washington Times has learned.

Mr. Blackwell, 60, joins former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the other black Republican seeking to be the next national chairman when the 168-member Republican National Committee meets Jan. 28-31 in Washington.

Mr. Blackwell has worked with economic, national security and religious conservatives in his party.

"I am a full-portfolio conservative," Mr. Blackwell, 60, said in a phone interview Saturday from his home in Cincinnati. He noted that he is a board member of of the National Taxpayers Union, the Club for Growth and the National Rifle Association and holds fellowships at the Family Research Council and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In a letter to RNC members announcing his candidacy, Mr. Blackwell notes that he "vocally opposed tax increases offered" by his state's Republican governor and "helped to successfully lead the fight to amend the Ohio Constitution to ban government recognition of same-sex marriages."

Blackwell first made a name for himself back in 2006 when he linked up with the “Patriot Pastors” [PDF] in Ohio run by Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson:  

It was during the Issue 1 campaign that Parsley and Johnson began a fruitful collaboration with the amendment’s chief proponent, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell’s close association with Parsley and Johnson has continued since the passage of the anti-gay constitutional amendment, ranging from public rallies and “Patriot Pastors” policy briefings to flying on a church-owned plane.

With Blackwell’s gubernatorial campaign in full swing, the “Patriot Pastor” events have featured Johnson and Parsley highlighting Blackwell and extolling the candidate’s virtues. At a rally on the state Capitol steps, Parsley boomed over a Jumbotron screen, “Let the Reformation begin! Shout it like you’re going to carry the blood-stained banner of the cross of Christ the length and breadth of the Buckeye State!” Parsley then introduced Blackwell as “a man of great conviction, consistently standing for family, life, marriage, and faith throughout his public service.” At other events, Johnson followed Blackwell’s speech to pastors by presenting the man he called a “leader of leaders” with a “courageous leadership award” in the form of a large, gilded-eagle trophy—a ritual he repeated a number of times before different audiences of pastors.

And today, Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager Chip Saltsman has announced his own bid for the RNC chairmanship and Huckabee is already doing what he can to generate support for his close ally:  

I am proud to endorse Chip Saltsman for RNC Chair.  Chip has proven to be a dynamic leader within the Republican Party over the years.  His youth and experience are combinations that are vital to leading the Party into the 21st Century.  Over the last two years I have seen Chip in action and have observed and admired his talents as a tactician and strategist.  Chip Saltsman's management of my Presidential campaign showed Chip's skills to operate in a very frugal manner, something that will greatly benefit the RNC.

As the Party searches for the leadership skills necessary to lead the Republican Party forward I believe that they will find that Chip Saltsman is the right person for the position of RNC Chair.  Chip's technological skills will be an important part of his accomplishments with the RNC. The national party needs to function so as to empower and assist local and state party organizations and become a more ground-up, grassroots army.  Chip Saltsman will bring energy and a willingness to listen and open doors to new ideas.  I urge you to visit Chip's website at and learn more about this uniquely talented man.

Not the Glory Days for Club for Growth

Club for Growth, the radically anti-tax and anti-government organization, has often targeted Republican incumbents it deems insufficiently devoted to its free-market fundamentalism. But Politico points out that its endorsement may not be such a great thing for candidates these days.

It couldn't have been a nicer Saturday for Democrat Frank Kratovil, up on stage playing blues guitar for an oyster-slurping, beer-drinking crowd on the water in Queen Anne's County, Md.

 When he's done with his set, reporters from CQ, Politico and the New Republic are waiting to talk with the man who may be the next member of Congress from Maryland's 1st District.

This isn't what the Club for Growth had in mind.

Back in February, the conservative PAC helped knock off moderate Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the GOP primary here, in the hopes of installing a more conservative Republican in his place.

But it may not work out that way. With less than a month to go before Election Day, Kratovil is running neck and neck with the Club for Growth-backed GOP nominee, Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris, in a district that's about as red as they come.

And with voters worried about their retirement accounts and suddenly suspicious of the free-market economics espoused by the Club for Growth, Kratovil is using the Club for Growth's support of Harris as a way to bludgeon him.

 "We need to stop listening to those people, like my opponent and his million-dollar backers, the Club for Growth, who believe in no regulation," Kratovil says.

For Club for Growth-backed candidates across the country, this is sounding like a familiar story.

Politico reports that Rep. Tim Walberg, elected in 2006 after defeating moderate GOPer Joe Schwarz in a Club for Growth backed primary challenge, is now seeing the Club's backing used as a major line of attack from his opponent. And it's forcing the GOP to spend money to defend what were once considered safe seats:

Still, the club's investment in GOP efforts may end up costing the party more than it saves it, forcing the National Republican Congressional Committee to spend money in what might have been forget-about-'em races if more moderate Republicans were on the ballot.

It seems likely that Grover Norquist's expressed desire to shrink government to the size that he could "drown it in the bathtub" doesn't resonate too well with voters who see the financial meltdown draining their retirement plans as the result of a little too much "magic of the marketplace" and not enough oversight or regulation.

In addition . the group played a key role in funding conservative Rep. Steve Pearce in his New Mexico Senate primary victory against Rep. Heather Wilson. Wilson was viewed as the more electable Republican against Democrat Tom Udall; with Pearce as the nominee, the GOP has written off the seat.

Harry Jackson: DINO

Acronyms like DINO (Democrat in Name Only) and RINO (Republican in Name Only) are generally thrown around as pejoratives, suggesting that the person in question claims to be a member of one party while disagreeing with or failing to support key issues by which that party is traditionally identified. 

Nobody better exemplifies this term than Harry Jackson, who continues to get mileage out of pretending that he is a Democrat:

Similarly, evangelical leader Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., who leads a socially conservative black pastors group called High Impact Leadership Coalition, has urged his black congregation in Maryland as well as other black Christians to vote on their values rather than their race.

Jackson is a registered Democrat but has joined several Focus on the Family Action broadcasts to criticize Obama for his support of abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

Yesterday, Jackson joined a group of African American and Latino pastors in Florida to rally supporters to ban gay marriage and again used his Democratic affiliation to create the impression that his efforts are something beyond standard right-wing activism:

A group of black and Latino pastors pledged Wednesday to rally support among their congregations for Amendment 2, the measure that would essentially ban gay marriage in Florida.


"We are not standing here against gays," Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. the coalition's leader and pastor of Hope Christian Center in Beltsville, Md., said at a news conference at the Tampa church. "We're standing simply to proclaim that marriage should be preserved."

Nearly 40 pastors stood behind Jackson, the second gathering of bay area pastors working to support Amendment 2. This month, a separate, similar effort launched that drew mostly white Southern Baptist pastors.

Jackson, who is a black Democrat, said he aims to build bridges between minority and white clerics so they can work together on social issues from a biblical perspective.

As we pointed out several months ago, Jackson's "Democratic" affiliation is purely a political tactic, which he fully admits:

I voted for President Bush, but here in Maryland—a primarily Democratic state—in order to vote in the primaries that affect the election, you need to be a Democrat. That's where I started. Over time, however, I've found that I have very little in common with the Democratic Party in terms of national moral values issues. Still, being able to say I'm a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off as an "Oreo" or an "Uncle Tom."

Need more proof?  Well, generally Democrats don't respond to allegations that one of John McCain's high-level staffers is gay by calling on McCain to be more vocal in support of efforts to deny marriage equality in order to minimize the damage:

A conservative Christian pastor and political activist says the revelation that John McCain's Senate chief of staff is an open homosexual should compel the presidential hopeful and his running mate Sarah Palin to "rise up" and "unashamedly" declare their support for traditional marriage.


Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of the High Impact Leadership Coalition says the Buse revelation is not likely to diminish McCain's support among conservatives. However, the Maryland pastor is concerned that U.S. senator has not been more vocal about the marriage amendment battles in Florida, California, and his home state of Arizona.

Gary Bauer's Million Dollar PAC

In this CQ article about how much members of Congress raised for their respective PAC in August is this odd little nugget:

With little time left before the Nov. 4 election, lawmakers whose PACs had the largest amounts of cash on hand include Alabama Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby with more than $2.3 million; Gary Bauer, a social conservative activist who bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, with $1.6 million; and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer , a Maryland Democrat, with $1.4 million.

When the Family Research Council announced its own PAC a little over a week ago, they budgeted $250,000 - and they are among the biggest, most influential right-wing groups in the nation.  So how has Bauer, who heads the relatively unknown American Values and hasn't run for office in eight years, managed to pull in more than five times that amount for his PAC

Sarah Palin: The GOP's New Clarence Thomas

Drew McKissick, in a blog post that showed up on the Christian Coalition's new website (yes, they are still around,) has what some high praise for John McCain and Sarah Palin:

The game has changed. In an election of McCain vs. Obama, the race was all about Obama. Not anymore.

Win or lose, picking Sarah Palin will go down as the greatest single thing McCain has done for his own campaign, as well as for the conservative movement. Conservatives are rallying like never before to her presence on the ticket.

You'd think that McCain's long record opposing abortion, fighting for right-wing judges, and all around working to advance the Right's agenda would warrant some praise, but apparently they pale in comparison to his craven capitulation to their demands. 

McKissick goes on to hail Palin for her heroic ability to single-handledly destroy liberalism:

The other risk to liberals? Much like Clarence Thomas did for blacks, Sarah Palin proves to other women that you don’t need liberals, liberalism or government to make it in life.

Presumably, McKissick is hoping that Palin will have a bit more of a tangible impact on the make-up of the GOP than Thomas did:

Organizers conceived of this convention as a means to inspire, but some African American Republicans have found the Xcel Energy Center depressing this week. Everywhere they look, they see evidence of what they consider one of their party's biggest shortcomings.

As the country rapidly diversifies, Republicans are presenting a convention that is almost entirely white.

Only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor are black, the lowest number since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies began tracking diversity at political conventions 40 years ago. Each night, the overwhelmingly white audience watches a series of white politicians step to the lectern -- a visual reminder that no black Republican has served as a governor, U.S. senator or U.S. House member in the past six years.

"It's hard to look around and not get frustrated," said Michael S. Steele, a black Republican and former lieutenant governor of Maryland. "You almost have to think, 'Wait. How did it come to this?' "

This is The Call

As we wrote about last week, The Call is a kind of youth-oriented spin-off of the Promise Keepers 1997’s rally on the National Mall that claims to be less about politics and more about “fasting and prayer for the benefit of the nation.” Of course, that claim is somewhat undermined by the fact that The Call first came to DC just before the presidential election in 2000 because, according to their own video, “the crisis was so real [and] we knew that the nation was a stake and the only hope was massive fasting and prayer.” And wouldn’t you know it, eight years later, just before another presidential election, The Call is coming back to DC:

Obviously, The Call is predominantly focused on fighting abortion and, as we noted last time, founder Lou Engle seems pretty intent on making the issue of judicial appointments a key messaging point.  In this video posted on his blog, he stands with activists outside the Supreme Court and says they must all work to make sure that “the issue of abortion will not be a secondary issue in these elections and that God will drive it like a wedge [into the campaign]”:

In the video posted on his blog awhile back, Engel notes that they has just met with Concerned Women for America and now comes word that Tony Perkins and Mike Huckabee will be joining Engel and others for a “pre-Call Conference” in Maryland just days before the event.  

The Call may not bill itself as a political event, but coming just three months before the election, focusing on issues like abortion and judges, and being supported by the likes of CWA, FRC, and Mike Huckabee, it certainly has many of the characteristics of a political rally.

Bishop Harry Jackson: “Registered Democrat”

Ever since Bishop Harry Jackson first emerged on the political scene a few years ago, he has used the fact that he is a “registered Democrat” as a means of gaining traction in the media in order to assist the Religious Right in furthering its agenda. 

And push the right-wing agenda he has: fighting against hate crimes legislation; participating in right-wing events like the “Justice Sunday” rallies and Values Voter Summits; hobnobbing with the Religious Right powerbrokers in The Arlington Group;  serving as a loyal foot-soldier fighting the War on Christmas; and writing columns criticizing Barack Obama and others minimizing concerns about the thousands of people being killed in the war in Iraq by contrasting those deaths to the “genocidal murder” of “millions of black babies.

Most recently, Jackson has been paling around the country with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, with whom he wrote a book entitled “Personal Faith Public Policy” and now, joining Perkins for regular video features called “The TRUTH in Black and White” (Jackson is black, Perkins is white, get it? If you don't, Perkins kindly points it.)  

Through out it all, Jackson has steadfastly maintained and exploited his status as a “registered Democrat” in order to give himself the appearance of nonpartisanship and independence instead of admitting that he is just another right-wing operative.  And now this “registered Democrat” is penning columns urging John McCain to take a firm stand against marriage equality in order to win right-wing votes by demonstrating fealty to “our cause”:

Yet, we also need to urge John McCain to raise a clear banner for social responsibility. The only way McCain will be able to beat the Obama Express is to rally social conservatives and give evangelicals a reason to get excited about his candidacy. Although many Christians don’t want to acknowledge that we are in a cultural war, millions will gather to support a leader who champions our cause. Let’s ask McCain if he will rise to the challenge.

Of course, the fact that Jackson is supporting McCain isn’t as much of a surprise as it is a sign of just how bogus his “registered Democrat” shtick truly is ... but he’s sticking with it because, as he explained back in 2006, it is something he maintains solely because it suits his political needs:

I voted for President Bush, but here in Maryland—a primarily Democratic state—in order to vote in the primaries that affect the election, you need to be a Democrat. That's where I started. Over time, however, I've found that I have very little in common with the Democratic Party in terms of national moral values issues. Still, being able to say I'm a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off as an "Oreo" or an "Uncle Tom."

For Anti-Immigrant Activists, Subtlety Not Strong Point

Vallario + sombreroWhile the debate over federal immigration reform has been on hold, anti-immigrant activists continue to push for legislation on the state and local levels. At a recent hearing of the Maryland state House Judiciary Committee regarding several bills seeking to crack down on undocumented immigrants, one activist found her testimony that day cut short after she tried to distribute fliers to the committee depicting the chairman in a gaudy sombrero under the phrase “Wanted for Aiding & Abetting.”

The activist, Susan Payne, announced herself as the executive director of the new Maryland Coalition for Immigration Reform, but we remember her as the co-founder of Citizens Above Party, which had at least one other member. Last year, Payne was testifying to the state legislature over REAL ID, warning that her hometown of Gaithersburg—a wealthy suburb of D.C. best known for its New Urbanist planned villages—was “becoming the first authentic barrio in the county.” Payne is one of a few anti-immigrant activists in the state who seem to be quoted in the media again and again.

But Payne doesn’t seem to have trouble finding allies among legislators: Del. Warren Miller is calling on his colleague Joe Vallario, the committee chairman depicted in the sombrero, to resign for interrupting Payne. “I would suggest he move to another country and run for office there,” said Miller.

Susan Payne

(Susan Payne with flier. Photo from Maryland Thursday Meeting.)

Gingrich Games Surveillance Survey

The imaginary Newt Gingrich presidential campaign is an idea that just won’t die. Now that John McCain has earned enough delegates to secure the GOP nomination for 2008, Robert Novak is taking Gingrich 2012 seriously:

Newt Gingrich's efforts to restore his standing among Republican conservatives for a possible future presidential bid have suffered a self-inflicted setback because of the former House speaker's support for liberal Rep. Wayne Gilchrest's unsuccessful attempt to save his seat in Congress representing Maryland's Eastern Shore. …

But even if the prospect of Gingrich running for president is illusory, his bid to be the GOP’s futuristic guru—with a steady stream of book deals and media appearances—seems to be progressing just fine. Gingrich’s “527” advocacy group recently announced it will be opening an office in Menlo Park, California to focus on “[o]nline political technology.”

If Gingrich is hoping to make inroads in Silicon Valley, he would be well advised to cool his over-the-top rhetoric on domestic spying and telecom immunity. Gingrich has focused on the issue in his online commentaries over the last few weeks, accusing Democrats of tendering a “declaration of unilateral disarmament in the War on Terror” and of perpetrating “the most amazing anti-national security action by Congress in decades.”

Washington Times Takes Small Step Toward Mainstream

Associated Press stories run almost identically in various newspapers—maybe the headline will change, or a few paragraphs will be trimmed. Or, in some cases, certain copy-editing standards will be enforced. Take this AP story from last week, as run in the Washington Examiner, a right-leaning tabloid in D.C.:

Md. lawmakers renew debate on in-state tuition for immigrants


ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland lawmakers renewed debate Thursday over one of the sharpest topics to come up in recent years - whether to allow residents who are illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition.

Now consider the version published by the right-wing Washington Times:

Tuition for illegals stirs strong debate

By Kristen Wyatt

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland lawmakers renewed debate yesterday over one of the sharpest topics to come up in recent years — whether to allow residents who are illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition.

Replacing “illegal immigrants” with “illegal aliens” was part of the Times’ stylebook. The same went for “same-sex marriage,” which the Times published as “same-sex ‘marriage’”—that is, the paper added scare-quotes around the word "marriage." These typographical tics were more than a conservative badge of honor for the Times, owned by Korean religious leader Rev. Sun Moon. For many observers, they were also a running gag, a joke that the newspaper didn’t seem to be in on.

But the comical stylebook, at least, is now a thing of the past—another casualty of executive editor Wesley Pruden’s retirement, along with the departure of longtime staffers Fran Coombs and Robert Stacey McCain, who gave the Times an unfortunate air of white supremacy. New executive editor John Solomon promises “news down the middle”; we’ll believe it when we see it.

Economic and Religious Right Team up Against GOP Moderate

This week, the Club for Growth declared victory as incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest lost the Republican primary to the Club’s handpicked candidate. The Club’s PAC, which has carved out a niche for itself with right-wing primary challenges, spent more than $600,000 on the race, mostly with TV ads calling Gilchrest a “liberal.”

But the Club for Growth, known for its hard-line supply-side economics, wasn’t the only outside group giving a boost to challenger Andy Harris. “It is imperative that Dr. Harris win this contest!” declared Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who trumpeted right-wing complaints about Gilchrist.

“He voted against the constitutional amendment (on) marriage; he voted to allow homosexuals to adopt children; he had been pro-abortion," Maryland state Sen. Alex Mooney told Family News in Focus.

This isn’t the first time the Club for Growth and Dobson have joined forces: the duo also backed a right-wing primary challenge in 2006 that ousted incumbent Rep. Joe Schwarz—who, like Gilchrest, had the backing of President Bush. Dobson crowed that the upset would “send a mighty signal that the days of anti-family, liberal Republicans are finally over.” Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, another Club for Growth target, accused the economic group of having a hidden social agenda in its choice of candidates and targets.

If so, it would only mirror the Religious Right, whose definition of “values voter” expands as needed to fit the GOP’s platform. In a recent appearance on MSNBC together, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and Club for Growth President Pat Toomey were in full agreement on the importance of the “three-legged stool.” “For [the] Republican Party to win they must have a conservative candidate who brings together the conservative coalition: fiscal conservatives, defense conservatives, and social conservatives,” said Perkins.

Indeed, while Dobson recently endorsed Mike Huckabee—the Club for Growth’s enemy number one—Perkins has maintained his ambivalence, always making note of the stool.

Breakfast with Bishop Jackson

One of the early morning options was breakfast with Bishop Harry R. Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a Religious Right-supported vehicle for promoting Jackson as a conservative Black church voice. The program was kicked off by a staffer who bragged about how HILC had worked closely in the last election cycle with Michael Steele, then the African American Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and a candidate for the U.S. Senate. HILC brought pastors to rallies and helped Steele figure out how to work the black church. Jackson announced that he and FRC’s Tony Perkins will hold a lunchtime press conference opposition passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act. (But he assured us he would not have hatred for gays in his heart or spirit while doing so, praising the “ex-gay” Exodus as an example of a “heart of compassion.”)

Who Will This Third-Party Savior Be?

With some on the Religious Right threatening to divorce the GOP and support a third-party candidate—as a way to punish Republicans if they nominate Rudy Giuliani—one has to wonder who exactly they would be endorsing. Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan captured the far-right imagination in 1988 and 1992, respectively, but there don’t appear to be any big-name spoilers waiting in the wings this year. Even Alan Keyes, a perennial-favorite losing candidate, has thrown his lot in with the Republican field.

The third-party posturing has been led by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, and his own love-hate past with the GOP gives us a clue. In 1996, unwilling to support Bob Dole, Dobson cast a “protest vote” for Howard Phillips, the nominee of the extreme-right U.S. Taxpayer’s Party (a.k.a. the Constitution Party). Phillips was also present by telephone at the Council for National Policy meeting that discussed the third-party strategy.

Religious Right Rally against Marriage Equality in Florida

Just days after the Religious Right’s B-team gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to question Republican candidates for president (including the ones who didn’t show up), a number of more prominent right-wing figures are convening in Tampa for the Family Impact Summit, sponsored by the Focus on the Family-affiliated Florida Family Policy Council, the Tampa-based Community Issues Council, the Family Research Council, and the Salem radio network.

Advertised topics range from “Christian Citizenship” to “Homosexual Agenda,” but the focus will no doubt be on the 2008 election, and in particular, the effort by Florida’s Right to put a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on the ballot—even though gays are already prohibited from marrying by statute.

Below is some background on the featured speakers, from Tony Perkins and Richard Land to Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell.

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, considered the leading religious-right think tank in Washington, DC. Before coming to FRC, Perkins was a state legislator in Louisiana, and as a campaign manager for a Republican candidate, he reportedly bought David Duke’s e-mail list.

Under Perkins’s leadership, FRC, along with Focus on the Family, put together several “simulcasts” of political rallies held in churches, including three “Justice Sunday” events in 2005-2006—“Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith,” ”God Save the United States and this Honorable Court,” and “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land”—featuring religious-right luminaries such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Phyllis Schlafly, along with politicians like Rick Santorum and then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, arguing that opposition to Bush’s extreme judicial nominees constituted an assault on their faith or Christianity itself. A fourth event just before the 2006 elections, “Liberty Sunday,” promoted the idea that gays and their “agenda” were out to destroy religious freedom.

That fall, FRC also organized a “Values Voter Summit,” in which Dobson and other activists exhorted their constituency to turn out for the GOP; the conference showcased a number of future presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Sam Brownback. A second Values Voter Summit is planned for next month.

Also appearing from FRC at the Family Impact Summit are David Prentice and Peter Sprigg.

Richard Land

Since 1998, Richard Land has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which is “dedicated to addressing social and moral concerns and their implications on public policy issues from City Hall to Congress.”   

Land has been an active and influential right-wing leader for many years and in 2005, was named one of “The Twenty-five Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by Time Magazine, joining the likes of James Dobson, Chuck Colson, David Barton, Rick Santorum, and Ted Haggard.

Land also hosts three separate nationally syndicated radio programs and has written several books including, most recently “The Divided States of America? What Liberals and Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match!,” which Land claims seeks a middle ground between the right and the left on the role of religion in the public square.  In reality, the middle ground Land stakes out consists mainly of standard right-wing positions on political and social issues that are made to appear moderate in comparison to ultra-radical positions put forth by far-right fringe elements.  

In recent months, Land has been positioning himself to play a much more high-profile role in the presidential campaign than he has in the past, repeatedly asserting that he and other Evangelicals will not support Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich, should he run,  while regularly bolstering the campaign of Fred Thompson, who Land calls a “Southern-fried Reagan.”

Harry Jackson

Jackson, pastor of a Maryland megachurch, has become a frequent spokesman for right-wing causes in recent years. In 2004, he played a prominent role in urging blacks to vote for George Bush, and in 2005, he started the High Impact Leadership Coalition and unveiled his “Black Contract with America on Moral Values”—an agenda topped with fighting gay marriage—at an event co-sponsored by the far-right Traditional Values Coalition. Jackson spoke at “Justice Sunday,” a religious-right rally in favor of Bush’s judicial nominees, as well as “Justice Sunday II, where he promised to “bring the rule and reign of the Cross to America.” He is a member of the Arlington Group.

Since then, Jackson has continued to urge blacks to vote for right-wing causes and candidates. “[Martin Luther] King would most likely be a social conservative,” he wrote in one typical column. His most recent efforts have focused on opposing hate crimes protections for gays, falsely claiming that a proposed bill would “muzzle our pulpits.”

In an article in Charisma magazine, Jackson wrote that the “wisdom behind” the “gay agenda” is “clearly satanic,” and he called for an aggressive “counterattack.” He asserted to The New York Times that “Historically when societies have gone off kilter, there has been rampant same-sex marriage.”

Don Wildmon

Wildmon is the Founder and Chairman of the American Family Association, which exists primarily to decry whatever it deems “immoral” in American culture and lead boycotts against companies that in any way support causes, organizations, or programs it deems offensive, particularly anything that does not portray gays and lesbians in a negative light. 

Over the years, AFA has targeted everything from the National Endowment for the Arts, Howard Stern, and the television show “Ellen” to major corporations such as Ford , Burger King, and Clorox.  AFA has also been particularly focused on Disney, declaring that the company’s “attack on America’s families has become so blatant, so intentional, so obvious” as to warrant a multi-year boycott.

Recently, AFA has been busy warning that proposed hate-crimes legislation is designed to lay the “groundwork for persecution of Christians,” attacked presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his time on the board of Marriott Corporation because the company offers adult movies in its hotels, and warned that the US Senate was “angering a just God” and bringing “judgment upon our country” by allowing a Hindu chaplain to deliver an opening prayer. 

Gary Bauer

Gary Bauer is a long-time right-wing activist and leader.  After serving President Ronald Reagan's administration for eight years in various capacities, Bauer went on to become President of the Family Research Council, which was founded, in part, by James Dobson of Focus on the Family, where Bauer also served as Senior Vice President. 

Bauer stepped down from FRC in 1999 when he launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.  After dropping out of the race, Bauer made a surprising endorsement of Sen. John McCain at a time when many of the other right-wing leaders had lined up behind George W. Bush.  

Bauer’s standing took a beating when he defended McCain’s attack on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance” and he was ostracized by many for quite a while after McCain lost.  But Bauer pressed ahead, creating his own non-profit, American Values, and gradually reestablished himself in right-wing circles.  

Since then, Bauer has been active in various right-wing campaigns, most notably joining with likes of Tony Perkins and James Dobson in defending and pressing for the confirmation of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.  

William Owens

Owens, a graduate of Oral Roberts University and a Memphis pastor, founded the Coalition of African American Pastors to combat equal marriage rights for gay couples. Owens reportedly told the “Rally for Traditional Marriage” held in Mississippi in 2004 that “homosexual activists of today have hijacked the civil rights cause,” adding: “We're going to fight until we win,” he said. “We're going to have crusades and rallies like this until we win. We're going to let our political leaders know ‘if you don't stand for God, we won't stand for you.’” Owens lent the CAAP name to the Religious Right’s judges campaign, signing on to the “National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters” and holding a press conference in support of Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court nomination.

In 2004, Owens formed an alliance with the Arlington Group, a coalition of powerful religious-right leaders that was widely credited with being the driving force behind the effort to put anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot in 11 states in that year’s election. Owens is now on the group’s executive committee, alongside James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Bill Bennett, Tony Perkins, Paul Weyrich, Rod Parsley and others.

Alan Chambers

"Ex-gay" Alan Chambers is president of Exodus International and executive director of Exodus North America, which claim gay men and lesbians can be “cured" and "change" their sexual orientation to heterosexual. Exodus' board includes long-time anti-gay activist Phil Burress of Ohio's Citizens for Community Values, his wife Vickie Burress – founder of the American Family Association of Indiana – and Mike Haley, who replaced discredited "ex-gay" John Paulk at Focus on the Family as chief spokesperson on homosexuality and gender issues. Exodus also co-sponsors a series of "ex-gay" conferences across the country with Focus on the Family. One recent Love Won Out event was particularly mired in controversy when it was revealed that one of its presenting organizations had published a racist column that appeared to justify slavery. During a 2006 CPAC conference panel, Chambers insisted "lifelong homosexual relationships are not possible" and the battle for marriage equality was solely being promoted by the liberal media.

Other representatives of the “ex-gay” activist community scheduled for the conference include Scott Davis and Mike Ensley of Exodus and Nancy Heche, whose book “The Truth Comes Out” describes “how to respond lovingly, yet appropriately, to homosexual family members and friends,” such as her husband, who held secret “homosexual affairs,” and her daughter, whose open relationship with Ellen DeGeneres Heche called “Like a betrayal of an unspoken vow: We will never have anything to do with homosexuals.”

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is something of a journeyman within the right-wing movement.  After starting out as a journalist and editor for various newspapers, Knight has held a series of jobs with various right-wing organizations including Senior Director of Cultural Studies at the Family Research Council, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and director of the Culture & Family Institute at Concerned Women for America.

Currently, he is the head of the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute at the Media Research Center and a columnist for

His hostility toward gays is well-known, as evidenced by his response to the news that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of the Vice President, was expecting a child with her partner: 

"I think it's tragic that a child has been conceived with the express purpose of denying it a father," Knight said.

"Fatherhood is important and always will be, so if Mary and her partner indicate that that is a trivial matter, they're shortchanging this child from the start."

"Mary and Heather can believe what they want," Knight said, "but what they're seeking is to force others to bless their nonmarital relationship as marriage" and to "create a culture that is based on sexual anarchy instead of marriage and family values."

John Stemberger

Stemberger, a personal injury attorney and former political director for the Florida GOP, is the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Counsel/Florida Family Action, a state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

Stemberger is leading the petition drive to put on next year’s ballot a constitutional amendment to ban equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, which is already banned by statute. While a 2006 effort fell short, as of September 5, claimed to have gathered 594,000 of the 611,000 signatures they need to submit by February 1, making it likely that the amendment will be on the ballot in 2008.

Ken Blackwell

Blackwell is most famous as the controversial Ohio secretary of state during the 2004 election, overseeing voting laws while moonlighting as state co-chair for Bush/Cheney. But he has a long history of far-right activism on economic and civil rights issues, and in 2004 Blackwell forged an alliance with the Religious Right as he campaigned for an anti-gay ballot measure. By 2006, when Blackwell ran for governor, this alliance had grown into a church-based political machine, with megachurch pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson taking Blackwell to rallies of “Patriot Pastors,” who signed on to a vision of a Christianity under attack by dark forces, in need of “restoration” through electoral politics. “This is a battle between the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell,” declared Johnson.

Blackwell’s gubernatorial bid failed, but he continues his career as a right-wing activist with affiliations with the Family Research Council and the Club for Growth, as well as a column on

Katherine Harris

Harris is well known for her controversial role in Florida’s 2000 presidential election debacle, when she served as both secretary of state, overseeing a “purge” of voter rolls as well as the recount itself, and as a state co-chair for Bush/Cheney. She was elected to the U.S. House in 2002 and 2004, and spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in both 2002 and 2003.

In 2006 Harris made a quixotic Senate run, during which she heavily courted the Religious Right. In an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, she implied that her opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, was not a Christian, saying, “[I]f you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong.” She also advised people to disbelieve “that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state.”

Tom Minnery

Minnery is vice president for public policy at Focus on the Family and a frequent spokesman for the group. He is the author of “Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape Our Culture,” arguing that society should be “changed from the top down morally.” Focus on the Family, with a combined budget of over $160 million, promotes far-right positions on social issues to millions of Americans through radio, print, and the web, and Focus founder James Dobson is probably the single most influential figure on the Religious Right.

“There are more than enough Christians to defeat the Left," Minnery said at a rally in South Dakota. "There are a lot of pastors who didn't want to be seen as an 'activist,' but this issue of marriage has left them with little choice but to get involved."

An "Admitted Homosexual"?

A CNS News article on the Maryland marriage ruling refers to openly gay State Sen. Richard Madaleno as "an admitted homosexual."

Alliance for Marriage Recruits California Latinos

After last year’s mid-term elections dimmed its hopes that a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage would pass the Congress, the D.C.-based Alliance for Marriage announced it was decamping for the field, to drum up anti-gay “caucuses” in the states. On the road to its “50-state strategy,” AFM crowed that a “Marriage Protection Caucus (TM)” was established in each of South Carolina, Maryland, and New Mexico, and its map claims several more, but it’s less clear how many actual legislators signed up in these states.

When AFM announced its “two-year plan” back in November, it also announced that it would be “deploying a diverse group of spokespersons,” claiming that its coalition was “unique and unprecedented in the degree to which it cuts across racial, cultural and religious boundary lines.” Now, AFM has begun to “deploy” Latinos, launching a California Latino Steering Committee to Protect Marriage.

AFM may have an uphill struggle recruit Latino support for an anti-gay amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A 2004 Field poll found that 57 percent of Hispanic voters in California opposed such an amendment. A 2006 poll by the Center for American Values in Public Life showed that Hispanics in the U.S. favor granting committed gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples in areas of hospital visitation, health insurance, and pensions by a two-to-one margin – a higher margin of support than non-Hispanics. In addition, a majority of Hispanics favor recognizing same-sex couples in either marriage or civil unions.

Other right-wing groups attacked AFM for supposedly being soft on civil unions and “counterfeit marriage,” but AFM is apparently focusing its efforts in California on a bill that would expand the rights of domestic partnerships – an act that would “erase the legal road map for marriage and the family from state law,” according to a member of AFM’s Latino committee. Nevertheless, the group’s ultimate goal remains to amend the U.S. Constitution. Speaking of efforts in some other states to erode domestic partner benefits, AFM President Matt Daniels said, "When the dust settles, we'll have a national standard for marriage. What is going on in the states is a dress rehearsal.”

Buchanan: Immigration Bill Part of New World Order Plot

Echoing other anti-immigrant politicians and activists, Pat Buchanan claims the most recent delay to Senate passage of comprehensive immigration reform is “one of the great uprisings of modern politics” in which “Middle America rose up and body-slammed the national establishment.” But he warns, in true Buchanan style, that the bill’s “authors and backers will never quit” because their real motive is the establishment of a U.S.-Mexico-Canada sovereign entity controlled by “global corporation[s] and the transnational elite” and leading, ultimately, “the death of the American republic.”

For this legislation is part of a larger agenda of a large slice of America's economic and political elite.

What is that agenda?

They have a vision of a world where not only capital and goods but people move freely across borders. Indeed, borders disappear. It is a vision of a "deep integration" of the United States, Canada and Mexico in a North American Union, modeled on the European Union and tied together by superhighways and railroads, where crossing from Mexico into the United States would be as easy as crossing from Virginia into Maryland. It is about the merger of nations into larger transnational entitles and, ultimately, global governance.

Previously, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) made the connection between the current immigration bill and the mythical “North American Union” plot. Howard Phillips –  chairman of the Conservative Caucus and at one time an influential activist on the Right – also declared the bill part of such a “dastardly scheme.” Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly has similarly tried to tie the bill to the "North American Union."

First Amendment Protection Only For Those Who Believe

After a lengthy legal battle, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools’ “policy for distributing fliers by community groups [via a "backpack mail" program] is unconstitutional because it gives school officials unlimited power to approve or reject materials.” 

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland, with the backing of the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Legal Society, after its request to distribute fliers regarding its Good News Club - which is designed to “evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living” – was rejected. 

The Circuit Court sided with Child Evangelism Fellowship, ruling [PDF] that the school district’s policy granted it “unbridled discretion to deny access to the oft-used forum — for any reason at all, including antipathy to a particular viewpoint — [and] does not ensure the requisite viewpoint neutrality.”

Around the same time, the Liberty Counsel, which is directly tied to the late Jerry Falwell and his Liberty University, sent a letter to Albemarle County School Board in Virginia, warning it that its refusal to distribute fliers about a church-sponsored vacation bible school via its own "backpack mail" program was unconstitutional.

The school district quickly changed its policy and the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver was quite pleased:

"We're pleased the school changed its policy so quickly and correctly," says Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman. "The law is clear-- when schools allow the distribution of secular material, they must accommodate religious material."

Staver refers to a recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding a Good News Club's right to distribute fliers in Montgomery County schools in Maryland.

"They're not required to accept everything," he says, citing exemptions for libelous, obscene or pornographic material. Nor does he object if Muslim or Jewish groups want to distribute information about their events in schools. "The First Amendment is not just for the Liberty Counsel," he says. "You can't just pick and choose."

But one year later, it seems as if some on the Right are not so happy about Albemarle’s new policy now that students are bringing home fliers for a summer camp for atheists and freethinkers.

Anti-Immigrant Politics Alive and Kicking in Suburban Texas

“This sends a message loud and clear that illegal aliens are not welcome in Farmers Branch, Texas,” declared Tim O’Hare, city councilman in the Dallas suburb, after voters approved a ban on undocumented immigrants renting housing there. “We are fed up with the federal government's inaction on immigration," he said. "We are not going to wait. We are going to take care of it." O’Hare began his crusade last summer against the “less desirable people” who he said “get to come over here and live like kings and queens,” and who were driving down property values and causing shopkeepers to speak Spanish, leaving "no place for people with a good income to shop."

Farmers Branch’s ordinance is modeled on measures passed last year in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which is waiting for a court ruling on their constitutionality.

Compared to last year’s heated immigration debate and its steady supply of headlines – ranging from the touring congressional hearings put on by Republican House members to the effects of anti-immigrant crackdowns like the one just passed in Farmers Branch – this year has been relatively calm. Supporters of comprehensive reform now control Congress, and political news has revolved around presidential candidates, with only one anti-immigrant hardliner among the many second-tier candidates. Meanwhile, both Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project are facing charges of financial mismanagement.

But as the vote in Farmers Branch shows, anti-immigrant politics remain a live wire in various parts of the country.

Meanwhile, in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Gaithersburg, Maryland, a day-laborer center was the target of a recent arson attempt. In response, local anti-immigrant group Citizens Above Party – which, we noted previously, is hardly the simple concerned-citizens operation it portrays itself as – reopened their complaints against the facility:

‘‘Why is the county executive allowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to a facility that does not check the backgrounds of who is coming through the back door?” said Susan Payne, founder of Citizens Above Party, a vocal opponent of the county’s policy to pay for the day-laborer centers. ‘‘We have no idea who these people are.”

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