On the the Behavior of the Family Heritage Alliance: An Open Letter

FHA_2014_Voter_GuideA couple of days ago, I sent this letter to the Family Heritage Alliance.  Since the actions of FHA with which I take great exception were public, I am now making this letter public.

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It pains me to have to say it, but the Family Heritage Alliance has behaved reprehensibly during this election season. In light of the Biblical admonition that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” I hope you will indulge me as I outline why I say this.

1. FHA could have made a difference during the primary season to influence support for a better candidate than the fake conservative who ended up buying the South Dakota U.S. Senate primary with $2.5 million of liberal establishment money. Yet your organization was silent. Keeping your head down and refusing to support people who have reliably stuck their necks out to defend your values is NOT leadership, nor is it courageous. Waiting till the dust settles before taking a stand (lest you offend the establishment-coronated “favored” candidate) is about as gutless as it gets, especially when our nation hangs on the precipice of moral and fiscal disaster.

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2. Your organization completely prostrated its integrity and credibility by going to the South Dakota GOP convention and publicly declaring your electoral support for a candidate who has repeatedly betrayed conservative values–and made your statement even more laughable by declaring that it was “on principle.” Principle–from a candidate who has publicly declared himself a “pragmatist” and has made it clear that principle is the first thing he will throw overboard when the going gets tough???

3. Your organization is partially led by a board member Tom Udager, who recently wrote an article which strongly implies if not outright claims Christians brought the attacks of homosexual activists upon ourselves for “isolat[ing] those members of our communities with same sex attractions” in our “zeal to protect our culture from sexual perversion.” While there is much in his article which is true, this attitude of blaming God’s people for standing for what is right plays directly into the enemy’s hands. God’s people already have to stand against a culture which seeks to emasculate and silence them; now we have people from within our own camp blaming us for somehow instigating the attacks of homosexual activists–attacks which were first launched by homosexual activists, which was the reason we stood up against them in the first place. If this is what a typical FHA board member is like, then it is no wonder your organization would embrace a fake conservative who refuses to fight for our values.

4. Your organization has made a habit of publicly endorsing people who repeatedly betray conservative and pro-family principles like South Dakota Senator Jean Hunhoff. This past legislative session, Hunhoff was reluctant to support SB 125 to add public libraries to the places registered sex offenders are prohibited from loitering in, on the grounds that sex offenders might be limited from too many public places. Hunhoff also voted to kill in committee SB 123 to “require the Department of Social Services to develop a procedure to screen and test applicants for certain financial assistance benefits to determine if the applicants are using controlled substances;” she defended the unwillingness of DSS to police this issue on their own, and voted to kill the bill in committee. Last year, Hunhoff opposed  SB 177 to protect the Second Amendment rights of students on college campuses. Hunhoff also voted to kill not one but two bills in committee to protect religious freedom from homosexual activists; Hunhoff opposed SB 66 in January, displaying a disturbing ignorance or hostility toward church/state issues, and again in February she spoke against and voted to kill SB 128 to “protect the citizens and businesses of South Dakota regarding speech pertaining to views on sexual orientation and to provide for the defense of such citizens and businesses,” stating she was “appalled” that the legislature would even consider protecting the religious freedom of business owners.

FHA also endorsed Gov. Dennis Daugaard who has endorsed liberal “Republican” candidates over conservative ones, and who threw pro-family Senator Phil Jensen under the bus when the “mainstream” media and liberal “Republicans” tried to smear him as a racist for having defended freedom and religious liberty.

If an organization which claims to be dedicated to faith, family and freedom will not hold elected officials accountable for their betrayals of these values (perhaps because of the letter they have after their name), then who will hold them accountable?

5. Your organization has misled the public by publishing an incomplete and distorted voter guide which completely leaves off one of the four candidates for U.S. Senate. In fact, it leaves off the candidate with the most reliable and passionate record of defending conservative and pro-family issues. But when you consider that the real record–not the rhetoric, but the real record–of both your endorsed candidate and the omitted candidate when compared would shame your endorsed candidate and shame you for endorsing him, I can understand why you would completely leave off this “inconvenient truth.”

And the information you did provide on your endorsed candidate was misleading.

Mike Rounds supposedly opposes abortion…yet he vetoed South Dakota’s first attempt to ban abortion, and only grudgingly signed South Dakota’s second attempt, and then was nowhere to be found in defending the legislation against pro-abortionists after declaring that he thought it was the wrong way to go. He also voted against a parental notification bill (SB 1131) while in the South Dakota Legislature.

Mike Rounds supposedly supports a balanced budget amendment…after increasing the size of state government and leaving the state with a $127 million deficit (that even his successor and former lieutenant governor acknowledges on his own bio page).

Mike Rounds supposedly supports the repeal of abortion-supporting and religious-freedom-attacking ObamaCare…yet he resisted the efforts of South Dakota Republicans to fight ObamaCare right after the bill was passed in Congress. Rounds supposedly supports the repeal of ObamaCare…even though he met with and worked with Barack Obama and Tom Daschle, two socialized health care zealots. Rounds supposedly supports the repeal of ObamaCare…even though he admitted he would have been very reluctant to vote for defunding ObamaCare, and applauded the “surrender caucus” in congress last year for throwing in the towel on defunding ObamaCare when they had the chance.

Mike Rounds supposedly supports religious freedom for Christian-owned businesses…when he clearly lacks the will to fight ObamaCare, which seeks to force Christian businesses to provide contraceptives and abortifacients against their will.

Yes, Mike Rounds is a real “principled” conservative fighter…in someone’s dreams.

At a minimum, if you showed Gordon Howie’s record–and even kept the whitewashed version of Mike Rounds’ record–you would at least come closer to providing full information and full disclosure.

If your organization had displayed the intellectual honesty to at least say something like, “Look, Mike Rounds is an unreliable and flawed candidate, but we don’t think a better candidate can win and he’s better than the Democrat,” I could at least respect that on some level even as I disagree with it (the latter part, that is). It would at least be rooted partly in reality and partly in opinion, rather than solidly in whitewashed fantasy.

But to ignore the truth (a truth that is obvious even to most of Rounds’ public supporters) and pretend that the candidate is something he clearly is not? This is unacceptable. And to further injure reality by pretending a more reliable candidate who more faithfully represents your values does not exist? This is unconscionable.

I am well aware of the seductive appeal of “conventional wisdom,” the inclination to listen to the smooth voices of those in positions of power and influence as they tell us who “can win” and who “can’t win.” The uninformed public all too often goes along with these smooth voices without the slightest inkling that they are being manipulated.

But I would have expected better of a conservative organization. After all, we are the ones who should understand better than anyone that if we aligned ourselves with a cause that “could win,” then backing the American Revolution would have been a fool’s choice. In fact, joining the cause of 12 mostly uneducated Jews whose leader had recently been executed for treason would have been pretty crazy, too.

I would have expected a conservative organization to have the clarity of thought to realize that we tend to make our own realities. In other words, as our mothers told many of us, “can’t never could do anything.” If we try, we can often accomplish things the “experts” tell us are impossible. Likewise, if we tell ourselves “we can’t win” (or “our guy can’t win”), then we usually manufacture a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If popularity and odds of success are the measure of what we should do, then conservatives should just quit fighting and join the liberals, because guess what: conventional wisdom always has liberals down as the favored winners. Indeed, perhaps many on the Right have already acquiesced to this pop culture conclusion, and are acting accordingly (defeating their own best candidates without a real fight). Our ailing nation doesn’t have time to waste on go-along-to-get-along nest-featherers who would rather tickle ears than tackle tough issues with conservative solutions. Yet that is precisely what you have helped install another of from South Dakota.

Your organization’s actions this election season have not only betrayed the dedication of the most reliable candidates available, they have betrayed the values for which these most reliable candidates have stuck out their necks to defend–the values your organization claims to be dedicated to. In doing this, you have not only thrown the most dedicated conservative candidates to the wolves in favor of milquetoast glad-handers, but you have sent a chilling message to any future solid pro-family candidates: if you aren’t favored by the liberal “Republican” establishment, you’re on your own, without even the pro-family community to back you. That’s a fine message to encourage new strong pro-family candidates: behave yourself and gain the favor of a corrupt political establishment, or your own people (i.e. the pro-family movement) will pretend they don’t know you.

What’s more, your actions in portraying certain candidates to be something they clearly are not, and in providing skewed and incomplete information, misleads people who depend on your organization for the unvarnished truth.

Finally, you have gravely damaged the credibility not only of your own organization, but the credibility of the conservative/pro-family movement in general. After all, if a pro-family group will in desperation varnish the truth in this instance, in what other instances might they bend the facts? And if this organization will do it, might other pro-family organizations do the same? Hits to the credibility of one pro-family organization hurts the credibility of the pro-family movement in general.

And whoever condones or looks the other way from the behavior that produced that diminished credibility, without denouncing it or distancing themselves from it, becomes complicit with it. Ignoring a problem in our own house makes us a part of that problem.

I wrote a letter to your organization back in July, after you endorsed the fake conservative Mike Rounds. I had hoped you might acknowledge the truth and at least not commit any further betrayals of what is right, if not admit your error. Unfortunately, as outlined above, you have continued to compound your betrayal of the values you claim to support.

When I wrote that letter, I stated your actions in endorsing a fake conservative had caused me to seriously rethink my support for FHA. Some people told me at that time that I should do more than “seriously rethink” it, and just stop supporting the Family Heritage Alliance. But I know FHA has done much good despite recent behavior, and I had hoped that this one mistake was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, as illustrated above, this was not an isolated incident, but rather has become a disturbing pattern of behavior.

Because of that, I have decided to end my financial support for the Family Heritage Alliance until such time as your organization proves that it has returned to reliable support of the best candidates available rather than polished frauds, as well as returns to being fully truthful with the public about the issues and candidates. There remain pro-family groups that have not compromised their integrity this election season, and they will begin to receive the financial support I once gave to you.

I’m sure my monthly contribution to FHA is nowhere near the amount of money you reap from the RINOs you have embraced, so you probably won’t miss my financial resources much. You have proven yourself a faithful arm of the GOP establishment, so I’m sure they will more than make up for the loss of my donations.

But I cannot in good conscience continue to financially support an organization that claims nonpartisan support of faith, family and freedom, yet misleads the public into supporting candidates who clearly betray faith, family and freedom.


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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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  • Chad

    Well said. More of us need to hold feet to the fire when organisations betray the principles they claim to represent.