Alex Blaze

Iowa Family Policy Center is your tax dollars at work

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 20, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: federal government, fundamentalism, iowa, iowa family policy center, marriage

The Iowa Independent is reporting that the Iowa Family Policy Center, a standard-issue state-level homophobic lobby group, received over $3 million in federal money between 2004 and 2009 in grants mostly from the "Healthy Marriage Initiative" to administer their "Marriage Matters" program. In case it wasn't creepy enough that the federal government spends money to dabble in people's relationships (it also says that a healthy marriage is beneficial to the "the husband, wife and children"), here's a group from the far right that campaigns for specific politicians and is waging a war against gay people that's getting this money.

One candidate they specifically supported was Bob Vander Pleets, who's running for governor on positions such as fighting unions, ending same-sex marriage through executive order, and promoting homeschooling. They famously declared gay sex more dangerous than smoking, and have homophobia right in their mission statement:

Sexuality: IFPC affirms sexual relations within the bond of marriage, and opposes distortions of sexuality or special rights to those practicing distorted sexual behavior.

Their application for the funding says that they're supposed to pass it on to a third-party to administer the "Marriage Matters" program, and, according the the Iowa Independent, the third party just happens to be the same people in the same offices as the Iowa Family Policy Center:

Dr. Mike Hartwig is the vice president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, for which he receives an annual salary of $78,098. Hartwig also serves as the program director for IFPC's Marriage Matters, the program that is supposed to be the recipient of the federal grants.

Mike Hartwig, Chuck Hurley, Bryan English, Marriage Matters, The Iowa Family Policy Center and the IFPC Action PAC all share office space at 1100 N. Hickory Blvd. in Pleasant Hill, just east of Des Moines.

According to a representative of the U.S. Healthy Marriage program in Washington, D.C., federal grants are to be passed out through an intermediary organization (IFPC) to the Healthy Marriage Program contractor (Marriage Matters). But he did admit that certain overlap in spending might occur between the grantee and contractor programs, although not technically allowed.

Marriage Matters is not registered with Iowa Secretary of State as a separate corporation, but rather as a registered trademark of the Iowa Family Policy Center.

About half of the IFPC's budget in 2007 came from federal grant money. Would Harwig be willing to work for half of his current salary?

Did he and his staff spend half of their time in 2007 on "Marriage Matters" stuff, completely forgetting about advocacy, to keep it all separate? Or is "Marriage Matters" a great cash cow that they get together for a couple hours of week they affectionately refer to as "justify the grant time"? Who knows?

They would, of course, argue the former. But remember how enamored the right got with saying money is fungible when talking about health care reform and abortion funding:

Currently, the House bill contains what's called the Capps Amendment -- a compromise that maintains Hyde Amendment restrictions. The arrangement protects Hyde by specifying that subsidy dollars could only be used to abort pregnancies that threaten the life of mother or result from rape or incest (Hyde allows for this). Other kinds of abortions would have to be funded with private premiums. The provision also requires that at least one plan in each market area offer abortion services and one plan not. No abortion services--even those allowed by the Hyde Amendment -- can be mandated as part of a minimum benefits package.

Stupak and his allies want to go beyond Hyde. They're arguing that the current firewall between public and private money is inadequate. If a woman uses federal subsidies to pay for a basic benefit, she would have more private money available to fund her abortion, they claim. Or, alternatively, "premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars."

Of course, that only applies to things they don't like. Someone advocating against gay people apparently doesn't count as something that people don't agree with and therefore shouldn't be forced to fund. (And that's not getting into all the other things the federal government does that I don't like....)

This funding should be shut down. These sorts of programs (like abstinence-only education) are just welfare for rightwingers that lets them focus on promoting a political viewpoint on the government's dime. If they really want to help people get marriage counseling, I'm sure they could find private donors to help them with that.

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There are some real winners here in hicksville I mean Iowa.

mmmm--a sort of a Christian "Credit Mobilier" scandal where everyone profits by hiring themselves

Any word that the feds are willing to pull the grants based on the political shenanigans of the Iowa Family Policy Center? Does it make them ineligible for the grant, by any chance?

It sounds like there may be a co-mingling of funds which is illegal. Someone in Iowa should ask the various Federal agencies to investigate.