Hand That Feeds
cyncooper printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 06:49:33 PM EST
Wade Horn has been very kind to Religious Right organizations, including the one that he founded in 1994 with Religious Right money -- the National Fatherhood Initiative in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Appointed by President Bush as Assistant Secretary for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, Horn oversees an annual budget of  47 billion dollars.  Horn has shown that he knows all about the hand that feeds, and now, he has taken care to feed the National Fatherhood Initiative with a  "Capacities Building" grant in the amount of $999,534 from a program he started in his agency and called by the familiar-ringing name of the "Responsible Fatherhood Initiative."  

As Peggy Lee used to sing, 'Nice work, if you can get it -- and if you get it, tell me how.'

Serving as a go-to guy for the Religious Right has cemented Horn's career.   The National Fatherhood Initiative, was born and bred to spout "traditional values." It was founded in 1994 with $40,000 from the ultra-right Scaife Family Foundation, according to Media Transparency.org. Its original name -- the National Organization of Fathers -- was meant to serve as a male-fronted counter to the National Organization for Women (since NOW and feminists are evil, in their view), just as the Independent Women's Forum, with which Horn was also involved, was to serve as female-fronted counter, both groups parading "traditional values" in sneaky costumes for the Religious Right.

Most of society's problems, according to a 1997 interview of Horn, are     caused by feminists.  At a time when the National Fatherhood Initiative was still operating from his kitchen, he explained:

Where I think radical feminism is to blame, at least in part, for the collapse of fatherhood is when it confuses social equality with androgyny and insists women don't need men. What it says is not only should my daughter be able to become a physician, but we ought to have a culture which says men and women are exactly the same. They should behave exactly the same.

From what we know, that's just not true. That's right, men are different from women! When it comes to parenting, it's the same thing. Men and women parent differently. Not in every circumstance, but they do tend to parent differently. When children do best is when they're exposed to the complementary aspects of what a man and a woman bring to the parenting equation. It's not that two-parent households are better than one-parent families because of a second pair of hands. It matters to whom that second pair of hands is attached.

As a government official, Horn has shown that he understands the hand that feeds very well.  It was he, for example, who approved the hiring of columnist Maggie Gallagher to promote marriage -- although she denies that she used her column as currency for exchange.  Gallagher had also worked for the National Fatherhood Initiative, according to research by Bill Berkowitz. It was Horn who  gave money to writer Mike McManus to support marriage promotion, while also giving money to McManus' organization, Marriage Savers ("a ministry that equips ... local congregations to prepare for lifelong marriages ...").  Horn, as it happens, is also a founding board member of Marriage Savers.

Horn has also funded a multitude of specious marriage counseling programs that funnel money to churches.

Horn was recently handed additional money to dispense -- the $157 million in abstinence-only education.  He has a nifty idea that abstinence programs could go beyond students, and become engaging programs for adults, as well.

The National Fatherhood Initiative presents a benign facade (helping men to be better fathers)for the same old "family values" of the Religious Right.  Women are nurturing and make meals; men are aggressive and can't cook.  Gays and lesbians cannot be parents (oops, don't tell Dick Cheney or his pregnant lesbian daughter and her lesbian partner) and (heterosexual) marriage will solve all  American problems.

National Fatherhood Initiative co-founder Don Eberly is also deeply embedded in the Religious Right.  He was a former Reagan White House aide, who, Fred Clarkson noted, developed conservative state policy networks to spread "family" issues.  He, too, was tapped by George W. Bush, and named as deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.  Writes Berkowitz,
"Although not normally associated with such Religious Right demagogues as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Dr. James Dobson ... Don Eberly nevertheless plays an essential role defining America's twenty-first century culture wars."

Horn, who has a PhD in clinical psychology, used his position as president of NFI as a platform for reactionary views. He opined that marriage should be promoted by changes in government policy, for example, by letting only children of married couples into Headstart ("there are still going to be plenty of places for children of single women"), and by giving married couples preferences in public housing and welfare benefits. He claimed that domestic partnership is bad because it is "antimarriage," and discourages marriage. Of course, he opposes abortion.

His nomination to a key government position was opposed by dozens of women's groups , which described the "sexist agenda" of the National Fatherhood Initiative, challenged his use of gender stereotypes and "his assertion that wives should 'submit' to their husbands."

Horn's views were well-known to insiders before Bush put him on the government payroll. He had served under the first President Bush as commissioner of Children, Youth and Families in the Administration for Children and Families. He was affiliated with the conservative Hudson Institute, and, as noted above, served on the board of the ultraconservative Independent Women's Forum. According to a 2000 briefing paper by Lee Cokorinos of the Institute for Democracy Studies, Antifeminist Organizations: Instituting the Backlash, the board of the IWF included Lynne Cheney, Mary Ellen Bork and Midge Decter; others affiliated with IWF include ultraconservatives Christina Hoff Sommers, Linda Chavez and Elaine Chao.

Conservative foundations spread the butter for both IWF and Horn's National Fatherhood Initiative. In addition to the Scaife start-up grant for NFI, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc. delivered two grants of $100,000 to get it going. The project continued to be funded generously by Bradley and Scaife, with additional funds from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, the Earhart Foundation (To support a book, 'The Faith Factor in Fatherhood' by Don Eberly), the Jacquilin Hume Foundation, Castle Rock Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation (`Fatherhood and TV Evaluation Project: Wade Horn will direct an effort to examine how fathers are depicted in prime time television). From 1994 to 2004, the National Fatherhood Initiative received 57 grants for $3,554,830 from the conservative foundations tracked by  Mediatransparency.org.

The government began to kick in with NFI funding, too.  According to IRS 990 forms posted on Guidestar.org, the group had total revenue of $4,434,347 in 2002.  Of that, $2,846,095 came from government grants, and $1,153,520 from other grants and contributions.  The 2004 Form 990, covering the calendar year 2004, reported similar, but slightly lower, amounts; $4,102,614 in total revenue and $2,662,916 in government grants.

In those areas in which Horn has been unable to direct government policy to reflect his regressive views, he has deftly directed money to organizations that believe as he does -- such as NFI.

With a million dollars distributed to the National Fatherhood Institute by Horn's own department in a program specially crafted to mirror the mission of the organization, Horn is giving a big handout to his baby. The funds equal one-quarter of the NFI's previous budget, and the great thing about a "capacities-building" grant is that it can be used to cover any number of expenditures -- whether buying mailing lists or outfitting new computers. NFI is using half of its funds (approximately $500,000) to further spread its "traditional families" propaganda to 20 other "comunity-based" or "faith-based" organizations, which will  receive $25,000 to participate in a training program.

The not-so-distant sound is of the Scaife Family Foundation-- clapping with both hands.

Tracking government grants under the Bush administration is an arduous task.  But it's generally informative, and local groups watching or fighting the Religious Right can collect much insight from scrutinizing the grantee lists.

Here are two links for some -- and these are a really a small percentage -- of programs recently funded by Wade Horn.

List one: Compassion Cap Fund Grantees 2006

List two: Healthy marriage, Responsible fatherhood Grantees 2006

by cyncooper on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 07:06:39 PM EST

Thanks for doing this.  I was looking for something current and substantial on FBCI besides Hein v. FFRF.

My interests are more theological and historical, and I have not done much digging in this seriously wrong little corner of our Democracy.

I'm glad you're digging, and I like your links - especially those grant lists in your comment, which I saved on my hard drive for analysis.  

I realize others at TTA are focusing on Hein v. FFRF, but do you have an opinion on it?  Is it the case you would have chosen?  Do you think it will set the right precedents?  I'm a little nervous about the way the justices are talking, and so much is at stake.

thanks again
God bless the whole world - - No Exceptions
by John Anngeister on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 11:39:57 PM EST

Thanks for your comments, John. I actually wrote something about Hein earlier in the month --   here, a kind of primer on the case.

No idea what the Supreme Court will do.  But I appreciate the work of FFRF in pinning down the facts and bringing them to light -- that's some of what I wrote in my piece.  So no matter what the court does, that is definitely something that people concerned about the Religious Right can do and must continue to do.  The power of public attention and opinion can't be underestimated.  Although they may not acknowledge it readily, even the judges are influenced by public opinion and social pressure.

by cyncooper on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 12:07:37 AM EST

Thanks for the link to your diary of Feb. 2.

My wheels were spinning a little on Hein v. FFRF because I am only recently getting wind of it, and I thought I would have liked the case to be one involving a plaintiff religious organization, rather than a non-religious group like FFRF.

Only because I worry that the media spin can be thrown around a phony "defense of religion" claim, where FFRF might be cast in the role of "bad-seculars."  You spoke about the importance of public opinion.

But your writing has helped me get good perspective.

about Barry W. Lynn's comment:

"It's essential that the justices uphold the principle that taxpayers can go to court when their money is being used to advance religion."

I would add "...their money is being used to advance religion where there is no remedy at the ballot box (i.e. by voting out one's congressman).  

As your article makes clear, and as FFRF has made clear.  So Barry Lynn ought to make it clear also.  Maybe I'm still over-sensitive about staying away from any hint of an "anti-religion" complaint here.  That would play into the RR hand, I am afraid.

Of course, the arguments are getting so strange, I wouldn't be surprised to hear a Justice say, "but the president is elected as well, and so can be voted out by the taxpayer."

What the GOP wants us to forget is that the President of the USA is supposed to preside over "the whole" rather than merely the constituency that got him into the White House.

God bless the whole world - - No Exceptions
by John Anngeister on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 12:48:16 AM EST

Cyn,nifty work but what you've just sculled the surface is just the surface. I have been at work on an investigative piece concerning DHHS, WH faith based intitiatives and private contractors for the past several months, thanks to kind support from The Nation Institute. This is will be included in Bad Faith, my book on big money, politics and the Republican Religious Right machine to be published by St Martins in 2008. I hope all can be patient while I wrap this particular sleaze into a coherent package  within the next week and have it published. The cronyism and kickbacks run old and deep and go well beyond the mere shared "faith" of Horn and GWB. It's all about the Benjamins, not the Bible.

by mreyn on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 06:50:21 PM EST
I look forward to reading what you write, and I have no doubt about the money trails.  Everytime I follow one, I am amazed at the scads of dollars pouring into the coffers of churches in the name of 'marriage promotion,' anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers in the name of 'pre natal care' and 'abstinence education,' and even 'HIV care.'  Keep up the digging ... but don't keep it from us for too long.  The public needs to know!

by cyncooper on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 08:12:38 PM EST
Evangelical Christians have always had difficulty thinking of social work as anything other than mission work.

"Getting right with God" is viewed as the basis of social amelioration.  But they are only selling one kind of relationship - an emotional revivalism that leads more than half of their so-called converts to despair and deeper degradation.

To fund these kinds of churches as social networks is definitely nothing more than a federal financing of a rather narrow band of  religious institutions for purposes of their own wealth, their own seed-sowing, and their own kingdom-building.

God bless the whole world - - No Exceptions
by John Anngeister on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 01:20:04 AM EST

The idea that social work and evangelical work are one and the same is very interesting.  I suppose if you believe that you are doing "God's work" you can apply that to any situation -- whether war, peace or social relationships.  Really underscores the need to keep church and state separate, doesn't it?

by cyncooper on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 10:43:11 AM EST
especially in reference to citizens who gravitate toward the so-called "evangelical" denominations of Christianity.

I find that the vast bulk of what is called "social work" by evangelicals in this country has always been secondary to (and in some sense dependent upon acceptance of) Gospel mission.

This brand of Christian is conversion-oriented and therefore intellectually (theologically) unable to see the beauty or truth of the need for the wall of separation - and temperamentally unable to see its inherent morality and civil justice.

All the more important that the rest of us model for them the duty of honoring the external structure (constitution and courts).

God bless the whole world - - No Exceptions
by John Anngeister on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 02:02:22 PM EST

For the records, Wade Horn resigned a few  weeks later.

An update is posted on Talk2Action, here -- Wade Leaps.

by cyncooper on Mon Apr 09, 2007 at 11:54:28 AM EST

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