In the fight for religious freedom, Hobby Lobby is determined to expand the national reach of God's principles — by using their own bank accounts. But the reach of the company's deep pockets may surprise you.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, a case that challenges the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate on the grounds that it supposedly restricts the religious freedom of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain store. The company opposes offering health insurance to cover emergency contraceptives, arguing that they induce abortions (they don't!). But recent investigations into the company's finances suggests that this court case is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the company's larger effort to fund discriminatory policies at a national level.
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Even as the national craft chain fought the Obamacare mandate compelling emergency contraception, the company was investing millions of dollars of an employee retirement plan into companies that produced those very same contraceptive products. This revelation, first reported by Mother Jones' Molly Redden on Tuesday, is based in large part on paperwork filed by the company with the Department of Labor several months after the challenge was filed in the court system.
It just may be one of "the most stunning example of hypocrisy in my lifetime," Forbes contributor Rick Ungar wrote.
But that's not all. Just days after the oral arguments took place, Eli Clifton, an Investigative Fund fellow at the Nation Institute, dug up some more startling political ties between Hobby Lobby and religious groups that have been central in supporting discriminatory policies.
Legal comparisons have been made with Arizona's recently vetoed bill that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Clifton found that Hobby Lobby's CFO Jon Cargill, and an affiliate company, Crafts Etc., are the two single biggest donors to the National Christian Foundation, an organization that supported the groups advocating in favor of Arizona's anti-gay bill — the Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Both groups, in addition to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, have also been vocal advocates for Hobby Lobby's case against the government to challenge the ACA's birth control mandate.
Clifton's report not only details a Hobby Lobby-centric money trail, it also sheds new light on how the right created a process to influence politics by funneling money to influential groups that favor gross extortions of religious freedom. Prominent dark money influencers to use this tactic include the billionaire Koch brothers, whose financial activities have helped push an anti-choice agenda resulting in a national assault against reproductive rights.
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It's not really news that big money is used to influence the political landscape, but what has evolved drastically over the past few years is how this money is used to legitimize third parties who think they have the authority to negotiate the rights, welfare and bodies of others — specifically women.
RH Reality Check’s senior Washington correspondent Adele Stan exposed the Koch brothers' massive spending ties and dark money network. He reports that these groups have nonprofit status under sections 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) that prevents them from having to disclose the identity of their donors.
Last November, Stan wrote that one of these groups, the Center to Protect Patient Rights (reported in early March by Open Secrets to be operating under the name "American Encore") was the single biggest source of anonymous money during the 2010 midterm congressional elections — the same election that saw a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. It is no coincidence that shortly after the elections, more state-level abortion restrictions were enacted than in the entire previous decade.
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The danger of giving powerful corporations and businessmen limitless authority to drive elections is that the outcome will reflect policies meant to maintain white patriarchal capitalism, of which they are steadfast stakeholders.
This kind of financial influence was legitimized by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a Supreme Court case that decided the First Amendment restricts the government from putting a limit on political spending by corporations. This decision set the precedent for the idea that corporations are on the same playing field as ordinary people, despite their vast financial upper-hand. Hobby Lobby argues that their corporation — an entity that serves primarily as a business — should be allowed to discriminate against methods of reproductive health they believe to be unscrupulous.