The Mystery Man Behind Prop 8

Who is funding California’s Prop 8, the country’s most controversial ballot measure? The Mormons’ donations are well known, and are a source of outrage among the church’s more moderate elements. But little attention has been focused on two of the proposition’s biggest individual donors: Elsa Broekhuizen, the mother of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., the reclusive theocratic millionaire who inherited $300 million from his famous father at age 18.

When I profiled Ahmanson in a 2004 article for Salon.com, I became the first journalist in 20 years to interview him. Yesterday I resurrected my reporting for The Daily Beast, updating it to cover Ahmanson’s recent machinations, particularly his role in Prop 8. As I wrote, Ahmanson few Americans have heard of Ahmanson — and that’s the way he likes it. His extreme politics and eccentric personality reveal the draconian underside of a ballot measure billed by its proponents as “pro-family.”

During a 1985 interview with the Orange County Register, Ahmanson summarized his political agenda: “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

Though Ahmanson’s rhetoric has softened over the years, his politics are derived from the radical Christian Reconstructionist theology of R.J. Rushdoony, a far-right theologian who advocated replacing the US Constitution with biblical law. “God’s government prevails,” Rushdoony wrote, “and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Those eligible on Rushdoony’s long list for execution included disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, astrologers, adulterers, and, of course, anyone who engaged in “sodomy or homosexuality.”

Rushdoony was the father Ahmanson never had, bringing him to radical right-wing Christianity not long after the anxiety-ridden, Tourette’s-afflicted scion of wealth checked out of the Menninger Clinic. Ahmanson bankrolled Rushdoony’s religious empire; in return, Rushdoony made Ahmanson a board member of his think tank, Chalcedon, which to this day advocates theocratic revolution in the United States. Ahmanson and his wife were at Rushdoony’s bedside when he died in 2001.

Packaged together with my piece is a new video by Michael Wilson, creator of the brilliant documentary, Silhouette City. Wilson also co-produced my video documentary about Sarah Palin’s belief in spiritual warfare, “In The Land Of Queen Esther.”

On November 2, Wilson went to San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium to cover “The Call,” an 80,000-strong Pentecostal rally for Prop 8. The Call organizer, Lou Engle, gathered his troops together for several days of fasting and prayer to stop what he called the “sexual insanity” of Prop 8 opponents. The rally culminated with Engle imploring his fervent crowd to become martyrs, to be willing to lay down their lives for the cause.

The defeat of Prop 8 would be a nightmare for the Christian right. As Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said of the ballot measure, “It’s more important than the presidential election… We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage.”

But behind the Christian right’s panicked pleas for preserving “traditional marriage” lies a more deep-seated fear. California’s rejection of Prop 8 would represent a decisive repudiation of the theocratic fantasy outlined by Rushdoony and mainstreamed by Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Lou Engle and countless evangelical minions. Ahmanson has spent what he could to keep his mentor’s dream alive, but the movement’s nightmare may arrive nonetheless.

The full story on Ahmanson and Wilson’s video are below the fold.

Click here to view Michael Wilson’s video of “The Call.”
Among the local ballot measures to be decided on Election Day, California’s Proposition 8 is perhaps the most fiercely contested. Backers of the proposition to ban same-sex marriage in the state cast their campaign in apocalyptic terms. “This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon,” born-again Watergate felon and Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Chuck Colson told the New York Times. Tony Perkins, the president of the Christian right’s most powerful Beltway lobbying outfit, Family Research Council, echoed Colson’s language. “It’s more important than the presidential election,” Perkins said of Prop 8. “We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage.”
The campaign for Prop 8 has reaped massive funding from conservative backers across the country. Much of it comes from prominent donors like the Utah-based Church of Latter Day Saints and the Catholic conservative group, Knights of Columbus. Prop 8 has also received a boost from Elsa Brookhuisen, the widow of Michigan-based Christian backer Edgard Prince and the mother of Erik Prince, founder of the controversial mercenary firm, Blackwater.
While the Church of Latter Day Saints’ public role in Prop 8 has engendered a growing backlash from its more liberal members, and Brookhuisen’s involvement attracted some media attention, the extreme politics of Prop 8’s third largest private donor, Howard F. Ahmanson, reclusive heir to a banking fortune, have passed almost completely below the media’s radar. Ahmanson has donated $900,000 to the passage of Prop 8 so far.
I first met Ahmanson in 2004, when he and his wife, Roberta, agreed to an interview request for an article I was writing for Salon. Their exchanges with me marked the first time since 1984 that Howard had agreed to make contact with a journalist, and the first time since 1992 for Roberta. Howard agreed to answer questions only by email because, according to Roberta, his Tourette’s Syndrome made chatting on the phone with a stranger nearly impossible. He functions “like a slow modem,” she said. Her dual role as her husband’s spokesperson and nurse quickly became apparent.
“My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives,”Ahmanson once said.
Few Americans have heard of Ahmanson—and that’s the way he likes it. He donates cash either out of his own pocket or through his unincorporated Fieldstead & Co. to avoid having to report the names of his grantees to the IRS. His Tourette’s syndrome only adds to his mysterious persona, as his fear of speaking leads him to shun the media. While Ahmanson once resided in a mental institution in Kansas, he now occupies a position among the Christian right’s power pantheon as one of the movement’s most influential donors. During a 1985 interview with the Orange County Register, Ahmanson summarized his political agenda: “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”
The campaign to teach “intelligent design” in public school classrooms, the Republican takeover of the California Assembly, and the rollback of affirmative action in California—Ahmanson has been behind them all. He has also taken a special interest in anti-gay crusades. Ahmanson’s most controversial episode related to his funding of the religious empire of Rousas John Rushdoony, a radical evangelical theologian who advocated placing the United States under the control of a Christian theocracy that would mandate the stoning to death of homosexuals. With Prop 8 organizers claiming in a virtual mantra that their measure will not harm gays or take rights away from heterosexual Californians, Ahmanson has good reason to conceal his involvement in the campaign.
When Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. was born in 1950, his father, then 44 years old, was feting visiting kings and queens and basking in the opulence of his mansion on Harbor Island, an exclusive address in Southern California’s Newport Harbor. Howard Junior was tended by an army of servants and ferried to and from school in a limousine. Watching the world glide by through darkened windows, he was gripped with a longing to cast off his wealth and disappear into anonymity. He burned with resentment toward his father, a remote, towering presence, referred to by friends and foes alike as “Emperor Ahmanson.”While Ahmanson Sr. showered local institutions in the Los Angeles area with charitable gifts from the fortune he amassed as the founder of Washington Mutual, his son was starved for attention.
The Emperor’s succession plans began to erode when Ahmanson turned ten and his beloved mother served his father with divorce papers. She died a few years later. When Howard was 18, his father died, too, sinking him into depths of despair. With his $300 million inheritance, he was now California’s—and perhaps America’s—richest teenager. But he was without direction, afraid and utterly alone. The tics, twitches and uncontrollable verbal spasms caused by his Tourette’s syndrome worsened. He could not cope with his emotions and during increasingly stressful episodes he would uncontrollably blurt out shocking statements. Unable to look people in the eye when he spoke to them, he became socially paralyzed. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, he spent two years at the Menninger Clinic, a Topeka, Kansas psychiatric institution. “I resented my family background,” he told the Register in 1985. “[My father] could never be a role model, whether by habits or his lifestyle, it was never anything I wanted.”
After graduating from Occidental College with poor marks, Ahmanson became drawn to a heavily politicized brand of Christianity that was growing popular in evangelical circles. He discovered the writings of a radical right-wing theologian whose family was massacred in the Armenian genocide, R.J. Rushdoony, Rushdoony’s book, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, in which the theologian mocked wealthy liberals, struck a particular chord with the young Ahmanson. “The guilty rich will indulge in philanthropy, and the guilty white men will show ‘love’ and ‘concern’ for Negroes and other such persons who are in actuality repulsive and intolerable to them,”Rushdoony wrote. Ahmanson read avidly as though Rushdoony were describing his own life.
While Ahmanson gave no indication he shared Rushdoony’s crude racism, through the theologian’s scathing critique of “the guilty rich” he began to release himself from the burden of responsibility to carry on his father’s legacy. He promptly sold his stock in his father’s company and invested it in lucrative real estate acquisitions, with a goal of earning returns of 20 to 25 percent per year. That assured that his wealth would grow quickly, but it also made him vulnerable to people who manipulated his residual guilt complex to get a cut of his fortune.
Rushdoony’s political ideas provided Ahmanson with a framework for his philanthropic machinations. Describing his philosophy as “Christian Reconstructionism,” Rushdoony painstakingly outlined plans for the church to take over the federal government and “reconstruct”it along biblical lines. He provided detailed plans for how it would provide healthcare, pave roads and reorganize schools, and how it would mete out justice.
Calling for the literal application of all 613 laws described in the Book of Leviticus, Rushdoony paid special attention to punishments. Instead of serving prison sentences, criminals would be sentenced to indentured servitude, whipped, sold into slavery, or executed. “God’s government prevails,” Rushdoony wrote, “and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Those eligible on Rushdoony’s long list for execution included disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, astrologers, adulterers, and, of course, anyone who engaged in “sodomy or homosexuality.”
After Ahmanson’s awakening, R.J. Rushdoony reveled in his discovery of a financial angel willing to fund the growth of his think tank, Chalcedon, while expanding the influence of Reconstructionist philosophy. He rewarded Ahmanson’s generosity by giving him a seat on Chalcedon’s board of directors. Ahmanson was profoundly grateful. At last, in Rushdoony he had found the attentive and approving father he yearned for his whole life. “Howard got to know Rushdoony and Rushdoony was very good to him when he was a young man and my husband was very grateful and supported him to his death,” Roberta Green Ahmanson told me. The Ahmansons were at Rushdoony’s side when he died in February 2001.
Roberta Ahmanson was not reticent about her and husband’s political views. When I asked her if they favored biblical law as a governing model for the United States, for example, she casually responded, “I’m not suggesting we have an amendment to the Constitution that says we now follow all 613 of the case laws of the Old Testament… But if by biblical law you mean the last seven of the Ten Commandments, you know, yeah.”
The year of Rushdoony’s death, Ahmanson gave $1 million to the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a conservative outfit in Washington focused on weakening the political influence of historically liberal mainline churches. The IRD immediately placed Roberta Ahmanson on its board of directors after receiving her husband’s donation. Ahmanson’s money was budgeted specifically to generate a smear campaign against the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, Eugene Robinson. The campaign’s spearhead came in the form of a 2004 column by Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes titled “The Gay Bishop’s Links.”
Barnes, who neglected to mention his membership on the IRD’s board of directors in his column, falsely alleged that the Web site of a gay youth group Robinson founded contained links to “a pornographic website,” and claimed without independent sourcing that Robinson “put his hands on” a Vermont man “inappropriately” during a church meeting “several years ago.” The IRD circulated the column to various cable news networks, but only Fox News—which also employs Barnes as a regular pundit and host of a talk show—agreed to broadcast it.
Though a panel of bishops investigating the charges discredited Barnes’ smear, it helped widen the rift within the Episcopal Church and divide it from its global affiliates. In May 2007, 11 ultra-conservative congregations from Northern Virginia bolted from the Episcopal Church and joined forces with the Anglican Church of Nigeria, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola. Akinola, who once called homosexuals “lower than beasts,” spent much of 2006 lobbying his Nigeria’s legislature to pass a bill meting out five year prison terms to any gay people who dare to gather—or even touch one another—in public.
While the Episcopal global schism represented a towering achievement for Ahmanson, the passage of Prop 8 would be the apotheosis of his long career. He does not seek credit—recognition only damages the causes he funds. Ahmanson derives satisfaction from transforming a nation the same way he transformed himself. “The Christian view of man is that we’re not perfect,” Roberta Ahmanson told me. “You don’t give to things that base themselves on the optimistic view that human beings are going to be doing it right.”

One thought on “The Mystery Man Behind Prop 8

  1. monclerjacketssale

    moncler
    moncler jacket
    montcler jackets
    moncler coats
    moncler coats sale
    giubbotti moncler
    moncler uomo
    moncler sales
    moncler sale
    punti vendita moncler
    moncler daunenjacke
    moncler roma
    moncler winterjas
    moncler winterjassen
    moncler coat
    moncler down jackets
    moncler vest sale
    moncler down jacket
    moncler torino
    moncler jacket women
    moncler ski
    moncler jacket sale
    moncler jackets on sale
    moncler jackets for women
    moncler mens
    moncler dames
    moncler jackets for men
    moncler vanoise
    moncler mantel
    moncler jas dames
    moncler down coat
    abbigliamento moncler
    moncler ski jackets
    moncler herren
    moncler clothes
    moncler price
    moncler veste
    mountain equipment down jacket
    moncler munchen
    moncler discount
    manteau moncler
    moncler discount
    moncler damen
    felpe moncler
    moncler jackets for kids
    moncler kaufen
    moncler
    moncler sauterne
    pink moncler
    moncler coats for women
    moncler shirts
    moncler coats sale
    moncler schweiz
    moncler nantes hooded down coat
    moncler outerwear
    moncler vest men
    moncler deutschland
    moncler coats for men
    moncler shirt
    moncler winter jacket
    moncler sizing
    moncler coats on sale
    moncler sizing
    moncler berlin
    moncler tibet vest
    mens moncler coats
    cheap moncler coats
    moncler down jacket women
    moncler jackets online
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler jassen te koop
    moncler coats for kids
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler jassen te koop
    moncler ski wear
    moncler tulsa jacket
    moncler down vest
    moncler vest for women
    moncler herrenjacke
    moncler coats for cheap
    moncler herrenjacke
    real moncler jackets
    moncler kindermode
    moncler zomerjas
    moncler leather jackets
    moncler summer jacket
    moncler spring jackets
    moncler down jacket
    moncler jackets for men
    moncler coats
    moncler ski jackets
    leather jackets
    moncler jacket
    mens leather jackets
    moncler jackets on sale
    moncler jackets for women
    moncler down jackets
    moncler uomo
    moncler outerwear
    moncler daunenjacke
    moncler spring jackets
    moncler roma
    moncler weste
    moncler discount
    moncler down coat
    moncler torino
    moncler vest men
    moncler munchen
    moncler price
    moncler jacket women
    moncler leather jackets
    moncler sales
    moncler sauterne
    moncler mens
    montcler jacken
    montclair ski jackets
    manteau moncler
    moncler jassen te koop
    abbigliamento moncler
    moncler sweater
    moncler ski wear
    moncler herren
    moncler schweiz
    moncler sizing
    moncler schweiz
    moncler sizing
    moncler zomerjas
    felpe moncler
    moncler tibet vest
    moncler dames
    moncler jas dames
    moncler deutschland
    moncler k2 jacket
    moncler winterjassen
    moncler berlin
    moncler down jacket women
    real moncler jackets
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler kindermode
    moncler damen
    moncler clothes
    moncler herrenjacke
    moncler winter jacket
    moncler winterjas
    moncler kaufen
    moncler coats
    moncler down jacket
    moncler jackets for men
    moncler coats for men
    moncler coat
    moncler coats for women
    moncler ski jackets
    moncler vest
    moncler jackets on sale
    moncler coats for kids
    moncler trench coat
    moncler men
    moncler vest men
    moncler bubble jacket
    moncler jacket
    moncler down jackets
    mens moncler coats
    giubbotti moncler
    moncler roma
    moncler daunenjacke
    moncler coats on sale
    moncler mantel
    moncler shirts
    moncler discount
    moncler torino
    moncler tulsa jacket
    moncler coats for cheap
    moncler jackets for women
    moncler weste
    moncler nantes hooded down coat
    moncler vanoise
    moncler munchen
    moncler summer jacket
    mountain equipment down jacket
    punti vendita moncler
    moncler ski
    moncler sales
    moncler mens
    montcler jacken
    moncler sizing
    manteau moncler
    moncler ski wear
    moncler jassen te koop
    moncler tibet vest
    moncler herren
    moncler schweiz
    moncler zomerjas
    felpe moncler
    moncler jackets online
    moncler sweater
    cheap moncler coats
    pink moncler
    moncler dames
    moncler jas dames
    moncler winterjassen
    moncler raincoat
    moncler shirt
    moncler winterjacken
    moncler damen
    moncler kindermode
    moncler vest for women
    moncler jacket sale
    moncler günstig
    moncler jacket women
    moncler herrenjacke
    moncler ski pants
    moncler winterjas
    moncler down vest
    Moncler Womens Coats
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets black
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets orange
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets pure blue
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets purple
    2010 ladies newest moncler jackets red
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Black
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Black 2
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Brown
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Chocolate
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket DarkOrchid
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket Purple
    Moncler Lucie Pop Star Jacket White
    Moncler Womens Jacket
    Ladies Moncler Fashion Down Coat Black
    Ladies Moncler Fashion Down Coat Blue
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat Blue
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat Brown
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat Purple
    Ladies Moncler Fashionable Down Coat White
    MONCLER LIGHT NYLON SALLA DOWN JACKET
    Moncler Badia Very Shiny Black
    Moncler Women Classical Style Beige Down Coat
    Moncler Women Classical Style Black Down Coat
    Moncler Women Classical Style Blue Down Coat
    Moncler Mens Coats
    Fashion Moncler doudoune Rabbit men coats Cover buttocks
    Long Moncler Down Coats for men’s
    Moncler Cheap Opaque Sport Jacket
    Moncler Coats Hooded down mid length men Coffee
    Moncler Coats Hooded down mid length men Dark
    Moncler Coats men Hooded down jackets dark green
    Moncler Coats men Hooded down jackets nevy blue
    Moncler Discount Jackets 2010 Men Down Jacket
    Moncler Discount Sheepskin&Feather short Down black shop all Mon
    Moncler Down Coat men Hooded mid-length black
    Moncler down jacket man with hooded zip black
    Moncler Jackets Affton Half length Men Brown
    Moncler long down Coat brown
    Moncler long down Coat brown Gray
    Moncler long men down jackets Zegna grey
    Moncler Men Long Down Coats Grey
    Moncler Mens Jacket
    Branson Navy Mens Moncler Jackets Dark Blue
    Branson Navy Moncler Men Jackets Black
    Chartreuse Down Mens Moncler Jackets Grey
    Moncler Arcs Jacket black
    Moncler Aspen Down Jackets Black
    Moncler Branson Down Jacket Grey
    Moncler Bredford Jacket black
    Moncler Bulgarie Jacket black
    Moncler Bulgarie Jacket Brown
    Moncler Chamonix Jacket
    Moncler Chevalier Jacket black
    Moncler Down Jacket
    Moncler For Men Anderson Parka
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket black
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket doudoune brillante veste taille Brown
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket White
    Moncler Himalaya Jacket White
    Moncler Jackets For Men "Christmas Edition" Down Black
    Moncler K2 Jacket 3 Outwear Grey
    Moncler Maya Hooded Parka Navy
    Moncler Maya Jacket black
    Moncler Maya Jacket Purple
    Moncler Men Down Jacket Blue
    Moncler Men Down Jacket – Grey
    Moncler Men Down-Hat Jacket
    Moncler Men Down-No Hat Jacket
    Moncler Men Jacket -leon navy
    Moncler Mens Jacket Blue
    Moncler Mens Jackets Black
    Moncler Striped Technical Menuire Sport Jacket
    Quilted Moncler Ski Jackets with hood
    Moncler Men Sweater
    Moncler 90% of wool Sweater Gray men
    Moncler 90% of wool Sweater green men
    Moncler 90% of wool Sweater green men
    Moncler Cardigan 90% of wool Sweater black men
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Black
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Black
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Black
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater Green and white
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater grey
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater grey
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater shallow and white
    Moncler men 90% of wool Sweater yellow and purple
    Moncler men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men black 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Sweater men blue 90% of wool Sweater
    Moncler Vest
    2010 new Moncler Vests For Women fur down gilet/vest Blue
    2010 new Moncler women fur down gilet/vest Black
    2010 new Moncler women fur down gilet/vest Purple
    2010 new Moncler women fur down gilet/vest Red
    Moncler Milano Multiple logo Women Vest Cream
    Moncler Multiple logo Women Vest Black
    Moncler Multiple logo Womens Vest Beige
    Moncler Multiple logo Womens Vest Black
    Moncler Tibet Vest – Quilted body warmer Navy
    Moncler vest sale waistcoat blue
    Moncler Spring Autumn
    Fashion Men Moncler Spring Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion Men Moncler Winter & Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion Men Moncler Winter & Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion moncler halesia women Spring Autumn Jacket Blue
    Fashion Moncler Men Spring Autumn Jacket blue
    Fashion Moncler Men Spring Autumn Jacket Cream
    Fashion Moncler Men Spring Autumn Jacket white
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket black
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket Gary
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket Purple
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket
    Fashion Moncler women Spring Autumn Jacket white
    Moncler Polo
    Moncler Men stand collar T-shirt black
    Moncler Men stand collar T-shirt blue white
    Moncler Men stand collar T-shirt red
    Moncler Shirts grey Men Short Sleeves T-shirt
    Moncler Shoes
    Moncler cowskin high Vancouver Casual shoes
    Moncler cowskin high Vancouver Casual shoes Chocolate
    Moncler men shoes coffee cowskin high St-Moritz Casual
    Moncler men yellow cowskin Vancouver shearling Boots
    Moncler Monaco Sneakers Brown
    Moncler Monaco Sneakers Brown
    Moncler Monaco Sneakers Chocolate
    Moncler Monaco Sneakers Orange
    Moncler Monaco Sneakers White
    Moncler Scarf
    Moncler Accessories Hat Black
    Moncler Hat Beanie Cream
    Moncler Hats Gray
    Moncler Scarf Black
    Moncler Scarf Gray
    Moncler Skully Scarf Cream
    New Brown Moncler Scarf Hat Set Gray
    New Moncler Scarf Hat Set Black
    New Moncler Scarf Hat Set Cream
    Moncler Kids
    Baby Moncler Clairy Down Sleeveless Vest Black
    Kids Moncler Jackets Clairy Down Sleeveless Vest Brown
    Moncler Children Clairy Down Sleeveless Vest White
    Moncler For Kids Clairy Down Sleeveless Vest Green
    Moncler Jackets Kids Clairy Down Sleeveless Vest Red
    Moncler Bags
    Moncler Bags Black
    Moncler Bags Red
    Moncler Boots
    Moncler Nible Quilted Boots in Black
    Moncler Nible Quilted Boots in Black
    Moncler Nible Quilted Boots in Red

Leave a Reply