Choosy Moms Choose Straight Chips
One Million Moms’ Tax-Exempt Outrage Industry
The online arm of the American Family Association is making crazy money—and paying no taxes—off of its campaigns against Chobani, the Muppets, and rainbow Doritos.
The holy war on such salacious brands as Chobani yogurt, the Muppets, and Doritos will be tax-exempt. That is, if you chose to donate to the war chest of the right-wing nonprofit American Family Association, and its vocal subsidiary, One Million Moms.
One Million Moms, the AFA’s online mobilizing arm, is leading its purported million on a crusade against “anti-Christian” messages in the media. With targets like Chobani (which aired a commercial starring a lesbian couple), the Muppets (which added more-adult humor to its new television show), Doritos (which is selling rainbow chips), One Million Moms is openly anti-gay, anti-transgender, and anti-choice.
And as part of the nonprofit AFA, One Million Moms also is extravagantly funded and free of any tax burdens.
In 2013, alone, the AFA pulled in over $28 million, according to the group’s public tax filings. The year was the AFA’s most lucrative in a five-year period, during with the nonprofit amassed over $101 million, mostly from private donations.
“The mission of the American Family Association is to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture,” the group’s mission statement reads.
But in 2013, the AFA spent more of its $28 million on its workers’ salaries and benefits than it did on its mission of education. Salaries and other AFA worker compensation accounted for over $8.2 million, while education cost the group just under $7 million. Of those salaries, multiple employees earned six figures, with AFA President Casey M. Smith Jr. netting over $180,000 and AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon receiving over $127,000.
The group also spends an annual $1 million in lobbying.
While most of the AFA’s income comes in the form of grants and donations, the group also sells family-friendly homegoods. Supporters can pledge their AFA allegiance with this $60 bag of “American Family Coffee honor flavored coffee” or this “JJ and Ron” T-shirt, which is not the name of a happily married gay couple, but that of the AFA’s morning radio show. The nonprofit accepts PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard.
At least $4.4 million of the AFA’s 2013 contributions came from the AFA’s Internet operations, notably its subsidiary One Million Moms, which seldom misses a chance to ask for money, with “donate” buttons on every page of its website. And even if concerned parents cannot spare money for the cause, the conservative group is happy to accept free labor in the form of volunteers.
One Million Moms does not necessarily represent one million moms. The campaign’s Facebook page boasts fewer than 80,000 Facebook likes, while its Twitter has just over 3,100 followers. These supporters need not be moms, either. While One Million Moms condemns the “transgender lifestyle,” it is happy to relax gender constraints for followers. “Despite our name, our membership is open to all,” the group’s About Us reads. “Singles are welcome! As a member, you agree to participate in at least one project a week.”
These “projects” include highly systemized email schemes directed at groups that conflict with One Million Moms’ views. When a new member joins the group, they are added to a mass listserv, and sent weekly emails about the group’s latest campaign, be it an attempt to remove The Muppets from the ABC network, or to end the production of rainbow Doritos.
Emails include a “take action” button, which allows recipients to call the company in question, add its employees on social media, and send angry pre-composed emails in a single click. One Million Moms also encourages members to contact companies that sponsor their targets, a strategy that proved successful when pharmaceutical company Novartis pulled its advertising from Becoming Us, a show about a transgender parent.
This mass-email tactic, which has seen similar success in the Gamergate community, is notoriously difficult to ignore, and One Million Moms knows it. “The new 1MM site now utilizes your own personal mail client (ie. gmail, yahoo, ect.). This reduces the recipient’s ability to block,” the group boasts on its website.
Crusades against Doritos and The Muppets might appear doomed, frivolous campaigns that incite no measurable change other than soliciting donations for One Million Moms and the AFA. But more focused efforts, like One Million Moms’ campaign against transgender teenager Jazz Jennings, has real-world victims, in this case a 14-year-old at the center of a global debate.
In a blog post titled “God doesn’t make mistakes (but humans do),” One Million Moms claimed that a documentary series about Jennings was “attempting to normalize the transgender lifestyle and make it appear OK”. Jennings’s family did not respond to the campaign.
“By calling AFA and the Family Research Council ‘hate groups’ the SPLC has confused the public, making them think that those conservative family organizations advocate either violence or harassment of homosexuals. We do not,” wrote the group, which now advertises nine campaigns against LGBTQ media on its One Million Moms site.