City Burgess Update
posted by August 30 at 15:12 PMon
As I reported earlier, David Della opponent Tim Burgess’s consulting firm produced media materials and wrote copy, among other services, for Concerned Women for America, a far-right fundamentalist group founded by Beverly LaHaye, the wife of apocalyptic novel author Tim LaHaye.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, Concerned Women for America (a misnomer, as many of its members and spokespeople are actually men) has advocated against making emergency contraception available over the counter on the grounds that EC encourages promiscuity; has said gay marriage will destroy civil society; calls the Equal Rights Amendment an attack on traditional families; opposes abortion rights, stem-cell research, and comprehensive sex education; and believes birth control is a form of abortion.
Burgess told me the firm he founded, now called Merkle/Domain (Burgess sold it in 2005) represented CWFA for eight or nine years. Crucially, those years included 2003-2004—the year Bush won reelection. Burgess says that he does not agree with CWFA’s political views, but adds that he was fully aware of those views when he took them on as a client. “We were in the business of helping nonprofit organizations with their marketing,” Burgess says. “We generally did not have an ideological screen on clients. We’ve served all kinds of groups, [including] some others that I don’t always agree with.”
Some in the comments thread on my previous post have said that Burgess “had every right” to take on Concerned Women as a client, and have suggested that not taking them on (and taking their money) would amount to “censorship.” Oh, please. Of course he had the right to take their money (although not taking on a client, in a free market, hardly amounts to “censoring” them). But by allowing his firm to help them produce media and ad campaigns in the critical year of 2004, Burgess profited from the promotion of a radical right-wing agenda that, if implemented, would cause immediate and profound harm to gays, lesbians, young people, and women—even if he did, as he told me, eventually recuse himself from working for them personally. In 2003, according to its 990 form with the IRS, Concerned Women spent nearly $8 million on outreach efforts, including $328,479 to Burgess’s Domain Group. The money, according to the IRS form, paid for direct mail to Concerned Women’s constituents.
Burgess’s client list when he owned the Domain Group included numerous other faith-based organizations. Among them: The Christian Management Association, which aims to “validate and advocate the legitimacy of a Christian worldview in management practices within our culture”; Food for the Hungry, Inc., which got money from the Bush Administration to promote its “life-saving message of abstinence” in Africa, where AIDS has decimated the population; the Bible League, which distributes Bibles and seeks to convert people to Christianity in places like China, Africa, and the Middle East.
There’s also the op-ed Burgess wrote for the Times in 2005, which Dan linked to earlier; in it, Burgess said that people of faith, like him, “don’t like abortion” and “value the sacredness of marriage between a woman and a man.” Well, frankly, I don’t like abortion either—who does? I just want to have the right to have one, a choice Burgess says he supports. But I do stumble a bit at “sacredness of marriage between a woman and a man.” That’s pretty standard code for opposition to gay marriage. Maybe the choice of words was unfortunate, but maybe not, and that’s where I start to get nervous.
On the other hand: Burgess (who, for the record, has repeatedly said he supports marriage equality and abortion rights) says he’s been up-front about his work for CWFA in endorsement meetings. And he has received endorsements from many progressive groups and individuals, including the 34th and 46th District Democrats, gay former City Council member Tina Podlodowski and gay state Rep. Joe McDermott. (Podlodowski has said she was aware that Tim had represented CWFA when she endorsed him). And the gay and lesbian candidate ratings group SEAMEC gave him a rating of 3—”meets expectations”—noting in the minutes of the interview that “prominent leaders in the LGBT community are supporting Mr. Burgess’s candidacy, which suggests his support for marriage equality and LGBT rights is genuine.”