The View from the Cheat Seats

The View from the Cheat Seats

January 12, 2022

For Joe Biden, the Atlanta speech checked all the boxes: a handful of out-of-context Bible verses (check), wild historical inaccuracies (check), gratuitous references to January 6th (check), the abandonment of another decades-long political view (check), and a general shaming of any American who thinks consensus and honesty ought to be part of our governing structure. Twelve months into this White House, the president's rambling attack on democracy was the move of a desperate man at the head of a desperate party. It was also, as Rich Lowry put it succinctly, garbage.

Let's set aside for a minute that the Democrats' idea of subverting the Senate -- and later, our entire election process -- is a long shot. As Politico points out, it's not just Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) who are worried about letting a simple majority make all of the decisions anymore, but also a handful of other Democrats who wonder if blowing up their own institution just might come back to haunt them. A lot of them, it turns out, still have regrets about lowering the vote threshold to 51 for nominations -- including the same man pushing for this unpopular overhaul, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has since said he "wish[ed] it hadn't happened."

But Biden, like everyone else on his sinking ship, is out of options. His presidency is a disaster, the American public are starting to turn on the Democratic Party, and the only chance they have to hang onto to power is to abuse the power they have now. "It's all about taking advantage of a temporary moment where Democrats control the House, they control the Senate, they control the White House," Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) explained on "Washington Watch." "And in all cases, they've tried to act like... they have a mandate to move forward with dramatic changes in the country, [and yet]... the Senate's 50/50, House Democrats have the closest margin they've had in 170 years, and there is no mandate."

It's shortsighted, and Democrats know it. But if they can change the rules, if they can ram through their federal takeover of elections, then they're one step closer to a one-party system that controls the states and every lever of government. That's the end game: permanent Democratic rule. If that means calling good Americans racists and lying about the state of election laws, so be it.

Biden wasn't above any of those deplorable tactics Tuesday when he repeated the whoppers about Georgia's election law that earned him four Washington Post Pinocchios -- and topped it with a heaping spoonful of loaded civil rights rhetoric. To Republicans in Georgia, he claimed, "too many people voting in a democracy is a problem. So they're putting up obstacles... Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion... So I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be on the side of Dr. [Martin Luther] King or George Wallace?... Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?"

It's a false choice, and, to many Americans, an offensive one. "The president suggested that anyone opposing the Democrats' [election takeover bill] was not only a bigot but a seditious 'domestic' enemy of the United States," David Harsanyi points out, "a designation that now probably includes six Democratic senators, if not more." To prominent African-American leaders, including Dr. King's own niece, it was also "disgusting, dangerous, and an affront to all of the sacrifices and great successes this country's brace Civil Rights pioneers made." It's a "publicity stunt," Alveda King and FRC's Ken Blackwell fired back in a statement, and it "seeks to divide this nation on racial lines when what we need is leadership that respects the human dignity of all."

It's incredible, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor. The president and Chuck Schumer are pretending it's "a civil rights crisis that Georgia has enshrined more early voting and more absentee balloting than his state of New York has ever allowed... Ten days of early voting and excuse-only absentees in Delaware is just fine, but 17 days of early voting and no-excuse absentees in Georgia is racist Jim Crow?" he fumed. "This is misinformation. A big lie... to justify a top-down election takeover and to justify smashing the Senate itself."

Democrats want to rig a system, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agrees, "where it's impossible for [Republican to win]... And that's what they want to do -- maximize voter fraud." It's not about giving people greater accessibility to vote. If it were, the Left would be on board with Georgia and Texas's laws. "We give you two weeks to vote, two weeks -- two weeks!" Paxton exclaimed. "We added time to it. So it's not about people not voting. If you can't vote in two weeks, you probably don't want to vote. But this idea that we want to loosen it up so we don't know who's voting, that's a different issue."

For now, Biden is content to stake the midterm elections on this last-gasp effort to end bipartisanship and nationwide election integrity. It's a risky gamble. But I suppose from where he sits, it's still preferable to running on his real record of international, economic, health, crime, and border failures.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Shining Light on the Left's Dark Money

January 12, 2022

The Left isn't just trying to cheat at elections -- they're also playing dirty in how to finance them. In an explosive story that's been brewing for months, investigative researchers have traced millions of dollars in extremist organizations to a dark-money "nonprofit" that's bypassing the IRS rules. If you thought the 2020 Zuckerbucks scheme was bad, hang on to your hats. The Democrats have more money secrets than anyone saw coming.

It started back in 2018 when Politico's reporters started sniffing around a group called the Sixteen Thirty Fund. During that November's midterms, more than a few eyebrows were raised at the "green wave," an "unprecedented gusher of secret money" from a "little-known" D.C. nonprofit. The Sixteen Thirty Fund's tax filings, Politico discovered, showed that the group was a major player that year, dropping a whopping $141 million on more than 100 extreme causes -- everything from stopping Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to changing laws on voting and redistricting.

The spending was massive by normal standards and also anonymous (including one mystery donation that dropped everyone's jaws at $51.7 million). It was the kind of gift, Robert Maguire said, that's "unheard of on the liberal side." But now, almost three years later, groups like Hayden Ludwig's Capital Research Center wonder if it's really as rare as people thought -- or an operation that has simply become more sophisticated as time has worn on.

Raising even more suspicions, the Sixteen Thirty Fund operated under "four dozen different trade names in 2018," making it impossible Ludwig explained, "to trace their donors." One of its latest campaigns, Fix Our Senate (whose purpose is to destroy the legislative filibuster), is another "pop-up" organization that bursts onto the scene, runs its attack ads, and disappears before anyone can track it. "Because Fix Our Senate and other 'pop-ups' aren't real nonprofits, they don't file IRS Form 990 disclosures or publicly report their budgets, boards, or lobbying--making it impossible to trace their donors," Ludwig explained. "Instead, all that money moves through the Sixteen Thirty Fund, itself created and managed by the for-profit company Arabella Advisors as a way for liberal mega-donors to quietly fund many of the Left's most extreme causes."

It's the opposite, Ludwig argues, of grassroots activism. Instead it's a front for a multi-billion dollar dark money network that can't be held accountable. "That's the most unfortunate thing about this," he explained on "Washington Watch." "There's no law prohibiting them from doing this, because these websites are basically owned and operated by another nonprofit run by that consulting firm... Arabella Advisors. So Fix Our Senate, for example, if you go to a lot of these pop up campaign websites, they don't disclose the relationship to Arabella or its nonprofit network. They don't mention that if you donate to them, you're not actually donating to this particular group..." In other words, there's no transparency.

In the last three years of digging through data and following the money, Ludwig says that this is the new cutting edge of Democratic politics. "It's also how the Left is increasingly shifting to pushing policy in Washington. They don't want the people to see the real nonprofits and professional activists running these organizations, so they give them phony names and slick campaign websites to totally obfuscate the political debate."

And all the while, at the helm, is this "swanky" for-profit consulting firm called Arabella Advisors, pulling the strings for a fleet of "nonprofits" who all share their address. "In fact, the boards of directors are all run by Arabella staff. Well, these nonprofits, in turn, accept huge contributions. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars... It's like a Fortune 500 company. These nonprofits are hired by outside foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or George Soros's Open Society Foundations or the Ford Foundation, to take money from these organizations and create these kinds of pop-up campaigns that cannot be traced to the original donors."

It's exactly the sort of pass-through money scheme that Democrats claimed to oppose. And, of course, these are supposedly 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) charitable dollars, meaning they have to abide by certain limits on lobbying or direct campaign activity -- unless, like here, you can avoid filing the same kind of IRS nonprofit disclosures of other nonprofits. "It's a brilliant way to move money from foundations, which are usually shy [about] being perceived as too political (they want to be seen as more highbrow and philanthropic... to abortion campaigns for instance." They can do this electioneering and campaigning without admitting the kind of organization they are -- and with the help of the IRS's very generous tax exemptions and deductions. "It's not done out in the open. It's not done with most people's knowledge. It's very insidious," Ludwig argues.

And yet, here's the irony -- no matter how much money these organizations spend, or how successfully they deceive America and take advantage of the system, they have very few victories to show for it. "I find it very striking that the Left seems afraid to bring these policy debates out front and center and actually have a real discussion about their merits with the American people. Instead, they rely on all of these underhanded tactics."

Ludwig is right. The Left makes a lot of noise, but they don't win. Why? Because in the face of a lying narrative, the truth will ultimately prevail. And as discouraging as things may seem right now, that's the reality we need to hold onto. The Left and their media will eventually reap what they've sown. Until they do, Christians need to play the long game -- knowing the truth and standing on it.

Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

California Dreams up New Way to Shut Down a Christian Preschool

January 12, 2022

It's no secret that California Governor Gavin Newsom's (D) administration hates the church. Throughout 2020, state officials used every means at their disposal to shut down churches from serving their flocks, using COVID-19 protocols as their pretext. It took a lawsuit against Newsom and the Supreme Court's intervention to give churches back their constitutional rights to remain open, just as businesses and other gatherings were allowed to.

Now, it is clear that California state officials aren't going to let a little thing like the Constitution and the rule of law get in their way of attacking the church -- they will find other ways to make life miserable for churches and the communities they serve, even if it means shutting down a preschool that served hundreds of families and their children.

On December 10, California's Department of Social Services shut down the Foothills Christian Church Preschool in El Cajon for supposedly violating the state's COVID-19 mask mandate. The state action also included suspending the preschool's director Tiffany McHugh from working with children -- for the remainder of her life. With such a severe penalty, one would think that deaths must have occurred under the preschool's watch. So what was the school's supposed crime? It was the grave offense of not being able to force two and three-year-olds to keep their masks on throughout the entire school day.

All of these mask mandates beg the question: do masks actually protect children against the transmission of COVID? It turns out that there are no conclusive studies to answer this pivotal question. What we do know, however, is that forcing small children to wear masks for extended periods of time does real harm not only to their health, but also to their ability to learn.

As Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins and Dr. H. Cody Meissner of Tufts have pointed out, masks impair vision by fogging up glasses, "can cause severe acne and other skin problems," increase "airway resistance during exhalation ... lead[ing] to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood," can "exacerbate anxiety or breathing difficulties for some students," and "can be vectors for pathogens if they become moist or are used for too long."

Perhaps even more concerning is the psychological harm that can happen as a result of forcing prolonged mask wearing on kids. Makary and Meissner write:

"Facial expressions are integral to human connection, particularly for young children, who are only learning how to signal fear, confusion, and happiness. Covering a child's face mutes these nonverbal forms of communication and can result in robotic and emotionless interactions, anxiety and depression. Seeing people speak is a building block of phonetic development. It is especially important for children with disabilities such as hearing impairment."

Still, Newsom's administration is refusing to let medical science and common sense get in the way of their crusade against churches and the ministries that serve their local communities. Kevin Miller, Administrative Pastor of Foothills Christian Church, joined "Washington Watch" to discuss the extent to which his church was targeted by state officials.

"They came out for nine and a half hours at a time on seven different visits -- 11 overall -- when so many of the preschools in our area -- East County of San Diego -- hadn't had more than one visit in five years," he pointed out. "So they targeted us. They came after us and [were] very, very hostile. They interviewed three-year-olds [and] four-year-olds without their parents' knowledge or permission. They were antagonistic towards our teachers. These are preschool teachers -- I think we know what preschool teachers are like."

State officials also went so far as to rifle through the school's files, looking for any hint of a violation that they could pin on the school. They then had the audacity to accuse the school of putting children in danger because of leaving "poisons" out. What was the "poison" in question? Apparently, a teacher "used a Clorox wipe to wipe down a table, and authorities say she didn't lock the cabinet."

Foothills Christian Church has appealed the ruling, so let's pray for a just outcome.