Far-Right Groups See Major Funding Increases Since 1998
Leininger Dollars a Major Source of Funding for the Culture Wars, New Report Shows
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2008
The state’s most prominent groups affiliated with causes promoted by social conservatives more than doubled their annual fund-raising totals from 1998 to 2006 a period when the Republican Party consolidated its control over Texas government, a new Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report reveals.
Among the largest sources of that funding is a private foundation created by Dr. James Leininger, a wealthy San Antonio businessman. Dr. Leininger is best known for his massive campaign contributions to the Republican Party and GOP candidates. But he has also poured millions of dollars through his Covenant Foundation into the coffers of groups that are hostile to the separation of church and state, oppose abortion and equal rights for gay and lesbian Texans, and support tax-funded tuition vouchers for private and religious schools, said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network and the TFN Education Fund.
“The religious right in Texas simply wouldn’t exist in its present form today without Dr. Leininger’s deep pockets,” Miller said. “Even as we see public support increasing for mainstream policies on religious freedom, civil liberties and public education, funding for the far right in Texas is skyrocketing.”
The funding data is included in The State of the Religious Right: 2008, the TFN Education Fund’s third annual report on far-right politics in Texas. This year’s report is available at www.tfn.org/religiousright/rrreport08/. It focuses on the religious right’s influence on the State Board of Education and examines more than a dozen far-right organizations in Texas. Financial data for 1998-2006 was available for 11 of the most prominent groups:
- Educational Research Analysts, Longview, focuses on school textbook adoptions;
- Free Market Foundation, Plano, grassroots, lobbying, litigation;
- Heritage Alliance, Dallas, linked to the notorious FreePAC, which waged a nasty, but unsuccessful, battle to oust Republican moderates from the state Legislature in 2002;
- Justice at the Gates, San Antonio, a Christian conservative organization;
- Life Dynamics, Denton opposes abortion;
- Texans for Life Coalition, Irving, abstinence-only sex education, opposes abortion;
- Texas Alliance for Life, Austin, opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research;
- Texas Eagle Forum, Dallas, the Texas chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum;
- Texas Justice Foundation, San Antonio, litigation, especially anti-abortion;
- Texas Public Policy Foundation, Austin, promotes privatization of public education;
- WallBuilders, Aledo, militantly opposes separation of church and state.
In 2006, according to tax records, these 11 groups raised nearly $7.4 million. That total was up from less than $3.5 million in 1998. Through his Covenant Foundation, Dr. Leininger’s Covenant Foundation poured more than $1 million each into the operations of three of those groups between 1997 and 2005: The Justice Foundation (at least $1.5 million), Texas Public Policy Foundation ($1.38 million), and WallBuilders ($1.36 million). Covenant money was a primary source of income for various groups in some years. For example, Covenant funding accounted for 60 percent of WallBuilders’ $1.66 million in income for 1999. WallBuilders’ founder, David Barton, had become vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party two years earlier. WallBuilders raised $500,000 in 1998 and $425,000 in 1997.
According to The Foundation Center, the Covenant Foundation ranked as the 21st-largest foundation in Texas in terms of donations in 2005. At $10.8 million, Covenant gave more money that year than heavyweights such as the Wortham Foundation ($10.7 million), the Shell Oil Company Foundation ($9.7 million) and the M.D. Anderson Foundation. ($6.7 million).
The Texas Freedom Network Education Fun is, a nonpartisan research and citizen education organization that works on issues involving religious freedom, civil liberties and public education.