Koch Brothers, GOP Mega Donors, Help Bankroll Religious Conservative's 2012 Efforts from Huffington Post

Peter H. Stone


A conservative group led by longtime political activist Ralph Reed has budgeted $10 million for a major 2012 election push to turn out the religious right and block a second term for President Barack Obama, a top executive with his organization told the Huffington Post.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition's effort, which will include voter registration drives at NASCAR races in Florida, Virginia and other key swing states, is part of a much broader attempt to reactivate millions of socially conservative voters to not only defeat Obama but help some favorite conservative congressional candidates.

Concerned Women for America, a Christian advocacy group, already has run $6 million in ads in six battleground states including New Hampshire and Wisconsin, warning that the White House-backed health care law might limit patient care and increase the federal deficit.

The Pennsylvania-based Let Freedom Ring quietly cobbled together a nonpartisan 2,000-member pastor network to spur voter registration efforts and is planning a multi-million dollar ad drive this fall focused on social, economic and foreign policy issues, according to Colin Hanna, president of the organization

Propping up this trio of right-leaning organizations are several of the country’s wealthiest conservatives. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and John Templeton Jr., who runs a family foundation, are offering financial support, as are organization that receive funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, according to two GOP fundraisers familiar with the separate operations of the three groups.

The ramped-up involvement of these groups is the clearest sign to date that cultural debates long thought to be a side topic in the 2012 election, may still play a role. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Let Freedom Ring and other allies plan to focus heavily on a few hot-button social and economic issues, including the president's support for same-sex marriage, to fire up their base.

Conservative leaders note that evangelical voters, who historically made up as much as 25 percent of the overall electorate, can be especially important in determining the next president in swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Richard Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, an arm of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, told The Huffington Post that he believes evangelical concerns about Obama administration policies will allow conservative religious voters to "overlook any lingering reservations about [Mitt] Romney's Mormonism." The Commission itself is spending a few hundred thousand dollars to promote a nonpartisan voter registration and education drive that will compare the platforms of the two parties on numerous key issues.

Land also predicted that Romney’s recent trip to Israel would give him a boost with evangelicals and agreed with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's controversial comments that “cultural” factors were important in explaining the economic success of Israel compared with the Palestinians. The statement, he said, showed that Romney "was sympathetic to the social conservative world view.”

On the domestic front, Land predicted that many evangelicals and social conservatives would "want to bury Obamacare in a lead coffin with a stake through its heart and cover its grave with garlic," calling the law, "a codification and personification of pro-abortion policies."

The message is likely to be amplified by other religious conservatives. The $10 million that Reed's Georgia-based Faith and Freedom Coalition now expects to spend is double what the group raised in 2010. Claiming 500,000 members and chapters in 30 states, the group is planning to place much of that money behind efforts to bring out the religious vote, Executive Director Gary Marx told Huffington Post.

When Obama "came out with his convenient and suddenly heartfelt support for gay marriage that sent a strong signal" to religious conservatives, Marx said.

A nonprofit advocacy group that isn’t required to disclose its donors publicly because of its tax status as a social welfare entity, the coalition is planning to send out about four million pieces of mail in mid-August aimed at registering two million new evangelical, Catholic, and other religious voters.

Two GOP fundraisers familiar with the coalition’s operations said it has received financial backing from Bernie Marcus of Atlanta and a nonprofit group partly subsidized by the Koch Brothers. Asked to comment, Marx said, "Our donors are private individuals and we let them make their own determinations about discussing publicly their private giving.”

More to come !