The recent backlash against the tea party in Congress and the public could provide an opening for religious conservative leaders. They believe that, with a few tactical adjustments, they can capitalize on donor dissatisfaction with establishment outfits like Rove’s Crossroads and fiscally conservative operations like the one connected to the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. Between them, the Rove and Koch networks combined to raise an unprecedented $750 million for their 2012 efforts.
Socially conservative groups, meanwhile, mostly missed the boat on the explosion in unlimited outside group spending in the post-Citizens United world.
The roughly 25 socially conservative groups represented at the Ritz — including [Frank] Cannon’s, as well as Gary Bauer’s American Values outfit, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Americans United for Life, the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage — combined to pull in at least $280 million in 2011 and 2012, according to publicly available tax and campaign filings. While that’s hardly chump change, a majority of it went to groups focused on providing services and “issue education” to like-minded conservatives — including Dobson’s group, which raised $166 million — rather than to more overtly political activities.
“There are enough people out there that are pro-life and pro-family that have the resources to fund political efforts on those issues, and for a variety of reasons they just haven’t stepped up and so we have to do a better job of getting them to step up,” said Bauer, who’s been working with Cannon and others to increase coordination among socially conservative groups. Their leaders, according to Bauer, are increasingly concluding “that we’ve been behind the curve and that we need to do a better job of strategic fundraising and working together in order to get more traction on these issues.”The question is whether they can find many billionaires willing to bankroll an emphasis on issues such as abortion and gay marriage instead of economic concerns.