Focus on the Family helped form a network of conservative political groups that includes the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity, two influential secular groups that share Focus on the Family’s opposition to taxes, government regulation, environmental protections and labor unions.
Focus on the Family’s public policy partner, the Family Policy Alliance, organized the inaugural SoConCon gathering — a “Social Conservative Policy Conference” attended by representatives of more than 100 social conservative organizations, policy makers and elected officials — in March. A second invitation-only SoConCon will be held June 2024 in Washington, D.C.
“We are better together,” said Craig DeRoche, CEO of Family Policy Alliance. “Working in alliances and coalitions leverages our experiences, resources and hope to expand the impact of our individual organizations.”
DeRoche compared SoConCon network members to people on a raft with their arms interlocked. “Because we’re together, no one’s going to pull us down, … no one’s going to pull us back in our country, in our states and our local communities because we can do this together.”
Family Policy Alliance has been working, among other things, to pass legislation restricting transgender medical care in more than 20 states, to train conservative candidates through its Statesmen and School Board academies, and to lock down abortion restrictions through its unsuccessful support of Ohio’s Issue 1.
The March SoConCon gathering featured sessions on “woke capitalism,” abortion after Roe v. Wade, “the LGBT agenda,” “cancel culture,” sex education, transgender rights, parental rights in education, getting out the conservative vote, justice reform, big tech, and restoring faith in America.
One lunch session featured a talk titled “We Are in a Religious War” that claimed liberals are “just adherents to a different religion,” and a conversation with Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose foundation is a major funder of Focus and other conservative groups.
About 50 of the participating organizations were founded by and are aligned with Focus, including legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, D.C.-based Family Research Council, and the Family Policy Alliance’s 40 state family policy councils.
Other groups attending SoConCon included Mercury One, the charity founded by Mormon broadcaster Glenn Beck, the boycott-friendly American Family Association, Regent University School of Law, anti-abortion groups, and three voting-related groups (My Faith Votes, iVoterGuide and CatholicVote).
U.S. Senator James Lankford, R.-Okla., and staffers working for U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, were among the legislative attendees. (FPA paid the expenses for Roy’s staffer to attend.) Roy and Lee worked with Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
SoConCon formalizes a long partnership between Focus, which has annual revenue of $132 million, and two large secular politically active nonprofits: Heritage Foundation ($102 million), and Americans for Prosperity ($114 million).
Heritage Foundation is an influential think tank that flourished during the Reagan administration. It called candidate Donald Trump a “clown” but quickly embraced him after he was elected. Recently it has focused on opposition to U.S. aid to Ukraine, LGBTQ rights and Critical Race Theory. It also has promoted false claims of election fraud.
Tucker Carlson spoke at Heritage’s 50th anniversary gala days before he was fired from Fox News, which settled a $787.5 million defamation case for its lies about election fraud. Heritage leaders praised Carlson’s “ability to articulate what’s good and evil,” saying, “Over the past several years, no one in America has demonstrated more courage in speaking truth to power.”
Americans for Prosperity is a powerful libertarian activist group founded in 2004 by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. AFP, which helped forge the Tea Party movement into a political force, opposes the Affordable Care Act, trade unions, collective bargaining, federal regulation of industry, and raising the federal minimum wage.
The Family Policy Alliance is embracing a social conservative identity at a time when other descriptors — conservative Christian, religious right, pro-family, pro-life — turn off some independent voters. FPA sees hope in “social conservatives.”
“They’re different than everybody else,” said CEO DeRoche. “A lot of people pick their tribes in America and they stay there, come thick or thin. But when you get to social conservatives it’s different. They all switch parties. They will switch allegiances based on the values of the person on that stage.”
Autumn Leva, FPA’s senior vice president of strategy, discussed the social conservative movement during FPA’s “The Ultimate Social Conservative Recap of the First GOP 2024 Presidential Debate.”
“Social conservatives now are one of the largest and growing voting blocs in the entire country, at 40%, and so to win this election these candidates are going to have to cater to and play to the social conservatives they can’t ignore,” she declared.
FPA also produces the “SoCon Report: News for the Social Conservative,” which features articles from Heritage’s Daily Signal, The Federalist, Daily Wire, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, the Washington Examiner, and other conservative outlets. Recent headlines include: “Info RE Soros & Cronies Buying Up Newspapers Released” and “Hunter Biden Suing The People Who Exposed His Tax Cheating.”
FPA also produces social conservative podcasts with topics such as “The Biden Administration Prioritizes Dangerous Gender Ideology.”
The social conservative label may help FPA defend itself as a more mainstream group at a time when aspects of its social agenda, notably efforts to eliminate abortion, are unpopular with voters.
“We’ve allowed the left to define us as the extremists when their position is clearly the most extreme by far of taking human life up to the moment of birth and after,” Leva said.
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