What Libertarian Donors Need to Learn From Hobby Lobby

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 28 2014 6:37 PM

What Libertarian Donors Need to Learn From Hobby Lobby

Having spent much of this week lost in a Roman wilderness of legal filings, 990s, and false leads (story to come Monday! Keep refreshing!), I salute the work of "Xenophon" in this post about "Think Freely Media." Using publicly available info, he/she explains how an organization that has never tweeted or published any content of any kind managed to score $600,000 in donations, mostly from the Koch network. Read on—money was doled out for consulting fees to organizations that did goose egg.

Virion Strategies, the company which claimed the lion’s share of TFM’s donation revenue in 2012, used to be RMB Strategies, Inc., which is listed as a “revoked” corporation in Nevada. But in 2012, while it was taking $420k from TFM as Virion, RMB Strategies apparently gave $38,500 in two disbursements to Thaddeus McCotter, the Michigan Republican congressman who failed to turn in enough valid petitions for his reelection and then resigned from office. Like TFM, it is difficult to prove that Virion or RMB actually exists outside of an IRS document. We have found a stub Vimeo profile for Virion that seems to be in the right area, but the associated website, virionstrategies.com, is blank.
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This makes for a nice contrast with the work of the National Christian Charitable Foundation. As explained by Eli Clifton, Hobby Lobby's CFO and a Hobby Lobby affiliate gave nearly $65 million to the foundation, which distributed it to organizations that went on to work—successfully, in some cases—for "religious freedom" legislation, and on legal tests that may end the HHS's contraceptive mandate.

In 2011, the National Christian Charitable Foundation contributed $9,606,281.88 of the Alliance Defending Freedom’s $36,379,373 grant revenue. That same year, the NCF contributed $236,250 of the Center for Arizona Policy’s $1,662,355 in grant revenue.
Overall, from 2002 to 2011 the NCF contributed $1,481,343 to the Center for Arizona Policy and $31,024,584.30 to the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Typically the trail would stop there. The National Christian Charitable Foundation appears to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, single contributor to the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Center for Arizona Policy, but because the foundation is a massive-donor advised fund, its donors are shielded from public scrutiny.

This is not to underplay how effective much of the Koch-directed spending can be. Democrats are not pretending to be afraid of Americans for Prosperity or offended by Generation Opportunity. It's just to point out that the religious right, which has been playing at a high level for longer than libertarians have, is better at directing its resources.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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