News Politics

Susan B. Anthony List Doublespeak: Wanna End the War on Women? Take Away ALL Choices

Robin Marty

In an attempt to invoke "1984" the "women's" political group seems to claim real choice is having no choice at all.

Susan B. Anthony List has begun their 2012 presidential election advocacy with a new “1984”-style web video that ironically is the very essence of “doublespeak.”

Called “Welcome to the Bureau of Womanhood Conformity,” the SBA video recites a list of categories that females must agree to in order to be declared a woman — ranging from the oppressive belief that contraception should be accessible to all, to the idea that pregnancy and childbearing doesn’t have to be the automatic consequence of having sex.

The real war on women, according to the ad, is the attempt to force everyone to believe as the president believes — that all women should have the right to control their own bodily autonomy. That, according to SBA, is oppressive. Instead, women should have the freedom to choose to follow their “faith and conscience” and not allow women choices at all.

Confused?  You should be, because that is the point of “doublespeak.”

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Commentary Violence

#FergusonLive: The End of Suffering Silently

Linda Tirado

Protesters in Ferguson refused to be ignored this weekend. They are the reason that while we might not be able to claim that America is the land of the free, it is most definitely still the home of the brave.

Read more of our coverage related to recent events in Ferguson here.

America is supposed to be the land of the free. Recent events have shown us that while it isn’t free for all, it is at least still the home of the brave.

Thousands of activists gathered in Ferguson, Missouri, October 10-13, to show the world they will not be silenced, unless they choose silence as a weapon. At one point during the “weekend of resistance”—a direct response to the slaying of Michael Brown on August 9, and other Black men across the country in recent months, at the hands of law enforcement—people lay silently in chalk outlines on the road, fists raised.

Back in August, Ferguson residents made a simple demand: Arrest Brown’s killer, police officer Darren Wilson. That was it. Just get the wheels of justice turning. In the intervening weeks, the world learned Wilson didn’t even bother turning in an incident report. We watched the Ferguson police defy the Justice Department and refuse to wear their name badges. But the people in Ferguson were not only watching a failed justice system—they were adding Brown’s name to a long list of police shooting victims and getting organized.

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To this end, the organizers of Ferguson October’s “weekend of resistance,” including Hands Up United, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment invited the world to join in protesting not just one shooting of one man, but to protest the brutal struggle of being Black in America. Mike Brown’s name, like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and John Crawford, has come to represent both a case of police brutality and hope. It means countless indignities and the routine violation of rights that white people take for granted, and also refusing to accept the status quo. Thus, Ferguson October marks the gathering of a thousand voices and the end of suffering silently.

That’s what happened this weekend in Ferguson. Protesters shut down at least three Walmarts on behalf of John Crawford, whom police killed in Ohio in August for carrying a toy weapon in a state where he was legally allowed to carry a real one. Ferguson protesters carried a mirrored casket through the streets so that every one of the people lining the sidewalks could bear witness to the fact that they, too, might be shot down. They used provocative language and tactics, and refused to apologize. They refused to disperse, choosing instead to be arrested in acts of civil disobedience.

The weekend was rainy, and tense. Media coverage focused heavily on dissent within the protesting community, painting inevitable generational divides as something new and different instead of history repeating itself. MSNBC talked about how young people “resorted to profanity,” as though a young Black man in St. Louis protesting the treatment of Mike Brown on the heels of the killing of Vonderitt Myers (another Black teen shot in south St. Louis on the eve of the protests) didn’t have cause to scream obscenities to the heavens and demand more than he is being given.

There’s one young man (dubbed Low Key by his friends because, they say, he has more energy than a hundred toddlers put together) who spoke on camera months ago about his motivations. His arm was wounded and swelling from a rubber bullet that police had fired at him. “Y’all gotta do what’s right on both sides of the law,” he said. He pointed out that it didn’t matter really how he reacted, because he had no reason to think police would protect him. “If y’all didn’t notice, we’re protecting ourselves,” he said. This past weekend, he marched. He marched for the same reasons he marched the very first weekend: because he is young and Black, and he knows that it’s his life and future on the line. He has been marching every night for months, and he will not soon forget the lessons he has been learning from the police. He has become a leader, at the age of 15. He is determined to make his future one in which he does not need to fear that those responsible for protecting him will be his killers. This weekend, he was accompanied by the support of thousands.

But even their nonviolent approach was met with violence from other community members and the police. At a St. Louis Rams game on Monday night, people who unfurled a banner that said “Black Lives Matter” had to face down overtly racist football fans, who not only screamed epithets at them for daring to exist while football was happening, but actually started throwing punches. One man who got hit, Elon James White of This Week in Blackness, credits other protesters for making sure he didn’t get into a fight. That White and his fellow protesters didn’t take the bait, that they had to collectively rise above, that he was hit for nothing more than existing in a space, says everything you need to know about why thousands of people showed up to support Ferguson October.

When residents of Ferguson speak, whether in person or on social media, they talk about dignity. It comes in many shades, sometimes tinged with grief or anger or hope, but it always comes down to dignity. They speak of what it means to know that the more melanin your skin contains, the fewer rights you are afforded. They talk about their right to live, fall in love, and have babies who will not one day be killed for walking down the street when the wrong police officer happens by. They speak with longing and grief about rights that the vast majority of Americans simply take for granted.

For those rights, and more, they protest. It is not a past tense. The weekend of action is over, but DeRay and Netta will still put out the newsletter. Lost Voices will still march.

This weekend saw hundreds of arrests, some for no reason and some for reasons that were later proven impossible, like the time police said people were throwing rocks but no footage could be found, despite the fact that dozens of cameras were rolling and the police themselves were supposed to be wearing body cameras.

James Baldwin once said, “It comes as a great shock … to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance … has not pledged allegiance to you.” This weekend, knowing that many people would not understand, a few protesters burned flags in Ferguson. The reaction was immediate; some people who said they were on the side of the protesters thought it was a rude tactic, maybe a bridge too far.

We require politeness from our oppressed in America. Workers must thank their employers for graciously hiring them rather than simply upholding their contract. Women must gracefully duck away from sexual harassment rather than accuse a man of unacceptable advances. And people of color, particularly Black people, must smile and thank police officers for not killing them. The people in Ferguson, while they were more respectful than the city’s police force might have deserved, refused to be ignored this weekend. They are the reason that while we might not be able to claim that America is the land of the free, it is most definitely still the home of the brave.

Published in partnership with We Act Radio.

Investigations Politics

In North Carolina Elections, Misleading Susan B. Anthony List Ads Star Koch Brothers Operative

Sharona Coutts

The Susan B. Anthony List is known for misleading ads. So it may come as a small surprise that a recent ad it sponsored featuring the Ryun family doesn't mention the family patriarch's long history as a Republican operative with close links to the Tea Party and the Koch brothers.

Ned Ryun and Becca Parker Ryun are a telegenic couple, who star in a heart-wrenching 65-second advertisement that targets North Carolina’s incumbent senator, Democrat Kay Hagan.

The Ryuns tell the story of their daughter, Charlotte, who was born severely premature—at 24 weeks gestation—but survived and thrived.

“I didn’t think, at 24 weeks, you could have a viable baby,” Becca tells the interviewer. “It’s a human being. It wants to live. It has a soul. It has a will. It has a desire to live,” says her husband, Ned.

The emotive video then shows images of the couple’s smiling daughter, as Ned says, “For those that are advocating late-term abortions, look at my daughter.”

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The ad finishes with the message that Kay Hagan is “too extreme for North Carolina,” due to her support for later abortions.

It’s a slick production, and a moving story, paid for by the Susan B. Anthony List, a leading anti-choice group, which announced last month that it was going on another advertising buying spree of up to $100,000, buying ads targeting Hagan, who is facing a tough battle to retain her seat in this year’s midterm elections.

The Susan B. Anthony List is known for misleading ads. In fact, earlier this year, it went to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend its right to lie in political advertisements.

So it may come as a small surprise that the ad tells only part of the story of the Ryuns, presented as an all-American couple, who could well be from North Carolina.

In reality, Ned Ryun has a long history as a Republican operative with close links to the Tea Party and the Koch brothers—context that may well change how viewers see the conclusions he and Becca drew from what was undoubtedly a deeply emotional, personal experience. Neither Ned Ryun nor the Susan B. Anthony List returned Rewire’s requests for comment.

Ned and Becca Ryun don’t live in North Carolina. The couple lives in Purcellville, Virginia, with their four children.

Ned’s father is Jim Ryun, the former Republican U.S. Representative from Kansas who served ten years in Congress. Jim Ryun is best known for his achievements as an Olympic athlete (he was a Silver Medalist in the 1,500-meter race in the 1968 Mexico City games), and for his consistently conservative views. For instance, Jim Ryun voted against No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration’s marquee education law that was intended to boost poor-performing schools. People of all political persuasions objected to the law, but not for Ryun’s reasons: He voted “no” on the basis that states should have more control over education policy and rejected the need for additional funds. This, despite the fact that Kansas has some of the nation’s lowest performing public schools, and the greatest race-based inequality in educational opportunity. He also voted to ban adoptions by same-sex couples, to ban family planning as part of US foreign aid, and against an array of reproductive rights measures. His voting record earned him a zero rating from NARAL.

Jim Ryun now runs Christian running camps, where attendees “learn how to apply racing, training strategies, and as well as hear from top Christian athletes who will share how their faith has helped them reach their fullest potential.”

It’s not just Papa Ryun who is immersed in conservative politics.

Ned himself is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, while his twin brother, Drew, was a deputy director at the Republican National Committee.

Along with their dad, the Ryun brothers have turned Tea Party politics into a family business.

Drew and Jim Ryun are leaders of the ultra-conservative Madison Project, a group whose views of an array of things, including Europe, read more like the satirical news site The Onion.

Referring to many European countries’ policies on abortion, the Madison Project’s website says:

In Europe, the duly elected representatives in parliament decided the issue.  Being that Europe is a morally decedent leftist utopia, they elected politicians who reflect their values.

Ned heads up American Majority Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity whose goal is to “create a national political training institute dedicated to recruiting, identifying, training and mentoring potential political leaders.”

While it claims to be non-partisan, American Majority Inc. says it is committed to promoting “individual freedom through limited government and the free market.” In reality, that has mostly meant the Tea Party. Ned even wrote a monthly column in The Spectator called “With the Tea Partiers.”

Like the brothers, American Majority Inc. has a twin—a 501(c)(4) called American Majority Action, which is led by Drew.

Together, the American Majority organizations have donated to numerous Tea Party groups across the country, according to the entities’ tax filings. In 2010 the American Majority apparatus gave $520,000 to radical groups, including $22,500 to the St. Louis Tea Party in Missouri; $5,000 to the Jefferson County Tea Party in Missouri; and $275,000 to Grassroots Outreach, a Tempe, Arizona-based firm that has been linked to voter fraud.

They have also made multiple donations to so-called 9/12 Project associations. The 9/12 Project is linked to Glenn Beck, and its goals include “tak[ing] over the Republican Party.”

The American Majority nonprofits are licensed to do business in at least 34 states, and have drawn controversy for tactics such as paying field staffers in Ohio up to $10 an hour to get out the vote during Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. Traditionally, field canvassers have been volunteers.

Just as interesting as who gets money from American Majority is who has donated to the Ryuns’ political operations.

An analysis by Rewire, based on numbers collected by the Center for Media and Democracy, shows that American Majority received $3.9 million from DonorsTrust and its affiliated entity, the Donors Capital Fund, between 2010 and 2012. That puts American Majority among the top 15 recipients of DonorsTrust funds.

DonorsTrust is one of the largest pass-through entities for conservative giving. Essentially a legal form of money laundering, DonorsTrust facilitates contributions from anonymous donors to be channeled toward conservative groups they specify. The Center for Media and Democracy names DonorsTrust as a key component of the Koch brothers’ political web.

Between 2010 and 2012, the Donors entities distributed $252 million to a wide range of groups, including the Koch brothers-affiliated Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Mercatus Center (a bastion of libertarianism, partly founded by the Koch brothers, according to Daniel Schulman’s recently published history of the Koch family, Sons of Wichita), and the right-wing Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

And the Ryuns’ connections to the “Kochtopus” don’t end there.

According to The American Spectator, the idea for the American Majority groups “was conceived” by the Sam Adams Alliance, an organization that was active from 2007 through 2011, whose mission was to encourage “citizen engagement in politics, with specialties in studying and training citizen activists and bloggers.”

The alliance was headed by long-time ultra-conservative and libertarian Eric O’Keefe, who has been close to the Koch brothers for decades. According to his online biography, O’Keefe worked on the Libertarian Party presidential campaign in 1980, in which David Koch was drafted by his older brother, Charles, into running as the vice presidential candidate.

O’Keefe became close with another member of the Kochs’ inner circle, Ed Crane, who ran at the top of the Libertarian Party ticket and then spent the next few decades leading the Cato Institute, the extreme “free market” think tank that was almost entirely funded by the Kochs. O’Keefe joined Cato’s board in 1988. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, O’Keefe also worked for a group called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was the predecessor to the Koch’s new funding vehicle, Americans for Prosperity.

Thanks to O’Keefe’s ideas about training citizen activists, the Ryuns are now emerging as potential rivals to Karl Rove, and his enormous political machine, as masters of the “shadow” conservative movement, where power is held not by elected representatives, or even by the Republican National Committee, but by a cadre of highly paid consultants and deep-pocketed donors.

In addition to American Majority, the brothers have established at least two other entities that feed into the extreme right’s political infrastructure.

In 2012, American Majority reported using nearly $900,000 from its nonprofits to support a new outfit, called Media Trackers, a site that says it is “dedicated to media accountability, government transparency, and quality fact-based journalism.”

In reality, Media Trackers has made claims about voter harassment in Wisconsin that PolitiFact later found were “mostly false,” and the group was active in attempting to undermine the Wisconsin effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

Media Trackers is “a project” of another nonprofit entity with the Orwellian name Greenhouse Solutions. Tax filings show that Ned’s brother, Drew, and their father, Jim, are on the board. (It’s noteworthy that of the three bills noted by American Majority Action in its 2011 tax filings as particular lobbying targets, one was the NATGAS Act, a bipartisan measure intended to support natural gas. The name “Greenhouse Solutions” appears to literally be the opposite of what the Ryuns work toward.)

RyunsHowever, perhaps the Ryuns’ most promising new entity is a voter database company known as Gravity. (It goes by iterations of that name—sometimes called Political Gravity, and sometimes, Voter Gravity.)

Political parties increasingly rely on sophisticated voter databases to win elections, and they’re willing to pay high premiums for the best data, and those who know how to wield it.

In the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential race, the relative inferiority of his team’s database—known as Orca—became a key sore point for Republicans. Since then, competing teams in the shadow conservative world have been racing to build new systems to match up with the Democratic Party’s data tools—and with each other. Politico last year reported that the Koch brothers have established a political data company called i360, while Karl Rove’s group, Liberty Works, is also putting together a platform—each attempting to build the dominant conservative data tool.

And then there are the Ryun twins, whose Gravity platform was expected to pass 1 million voter contacts by late 2012, propelling them into the financial center of right-wing politics.

The company’s website boasts that “while Romney’s ‘Orca’ was going belly-up on Election Day, another group of conservatives were enjoying the fruits of labor that began long before voters headed to the polls.” Increasingly, they are being taken seriously as highly connected conservative heavyweights.

While none of this detracts from Ned and Becca Ryun’s experience with the premature birth of their daughter, it does change the way viewers might see the conclusions that the couples drew from that experience.

The Ryuns are far from being “everyday” North Carolinians. They are ensconced in the ultra-conservative movement, and their income derives from convincing the public of their very particular worldview.

It would be fair to say that, if North Carolina voters knew the reality of who the Ryuns are, they’d be less inclined to see Kay Hagan as an “extremist,” and more likely to look closely at what the Ryuns believe.

Moreover, Ned Ryun’s failure to disclose his conflicts of interest raises questions about how much trust can be placed in the views he expresses.

Not only did he and the Susan B. Anthony List neglect to mention Ned’s extensive Koch brothers connections, but neither group mentioned that they had worked together in the past, when they both helped to launch Ohio Life and Liberty in October 2012. Nor did Ned disclose that the Susan B. Anthony List had contributed $28,000 to his father’s political campaign. (Koch Industries contributed more than $86,000.)

But Ned Ryun’s failure to disclose even extends to his interest in Voter Gravity.Ned.Ryun.on.Political.Gravity

On the company’s Facebook page, a reviewer purrs about the quality of Gravity’s service: “It was a bit of a no brainer for me to use Voter Contact: They saved me lots of money and got me a better product.”

The reviewer gave Voter Gravity a five-star rating.

Political Gravity’s account then replies, “Thank you Mr. Ryun.”

That’s right. That reviewer was Ned Ryun, who replies—possibly to himself—“You bet. This is good stuff.”

If the Ryuns’ entity, Media Trackers, is intended to police truth in the media, perhaps they should take a look at themselves. Surely they’d see no conflict of interest with that, either.

Sofia Resnick contributed research to this report.