Anti-LGBTQ megadonor Sean Fieler is helping far-right Virginia delegate Bob Marshall fight off a challenge from an opponent who would become the first ever openly transgender state legislator.
Bob Marshall is a longtime state delegate from Northern Virginia, who has gained national notoriety for saying that children with disabilities are God’s punishment for women who have had abortions, speculating that Justice Anthony Kennedy must be secretly gay because he ruled in favor of marriage equality in the 2013 DOMA case, leading the charge against a gay judicial nominee because his “lifestyle” would be “contrary” to his oath of office, and introducing extreme anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation, including one bill that would have blocked transgender people from using restrooms in government buildings that correspond to their gender identity. Marshall was a cosponsor of a notorious Virginia bill that would have required women seeking abortions to first undergo a transvaginal probe.
Marshall is fending off a challenge from Danica Roem, a former reporter who has focused her campaign on traffic congestion and infrastructure. Marshall has not been above attacking Roem’s gender identity, saying, according to Buzzfeed, that she is “clearly a male” and saying that her behavior “goes against the laws of nature and nature’s God.” In an interview with the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios on Wednesday, Marshall repeatedly misgendered Roem and suggested that she was only in the race to make money off a book deal.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the conservative American Principles Project had been placing polling robocalls to voters in Marshall’s district attacking Roem’s support for various transgender rights policies. APP said that the calls were not a “push poll,” even though they featured questions like, “On a radio show, Danica Roem said that she supports teaching children as young as 5 years old about transgenderism, including the possibility for them to change their gender. Does this make you more or less likely to support Danica?” (On the radio program APP cites, Roem, badgered by the conservative host about what she would say about a hypothetical “transgender curriculum in the kindergarten,” said that she would support “age-appropriate” activities like simply meeting a transgender person.)
APP’s executive director, Terry Schilling, warned in a press release that “Roem can have a serious impact on Virginia children by indoctrinating them into the radical new transgender ideology and forcing them to share private locker rooms and showers with members of the opposite sex.”
The American Principles Project was founded by Robert George, a prominent architect of social conservative strategies, although the group says George no longer endorses everything it does. Its board chair is Sean Fieler, a New York hedge fund manager who has donated millions of dollars to anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ causes, including contributing $200,000 to an effort to repeal a California law on rights for transgender students.
According to data from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Fieler personally contributed $20,000 to Marshall’s campaign in September, making him Marshall’s top donor in this election cycle. [Update 11/3/17: Since the writing of this post, VPAP has logged a large cash transfusion to Marshall from the Republican Party of Virginia and two PACs affiliated with top state GOP leaders, which outpace Fieler’s contributions. VPAP also reports a $2,150 contribution directly from APP to Marshall.]
Other Religious Right groups have also gone to bat for Marshall. The Family Research Council contributed $5,000 to his campaign in August and Eugene Delgaudio’s group Public Advocate has made some modest independent expenditures.
Disclosure: Right Wing Watch is a project of People For the American Way, which has endorsed Roem.