Gary Bauer has been one of the nation’s most visible and outspoken social conservatives since his work in the Reagan Administration — fighting against LGBT equality, pushing to restrict women’s reproductive rights, and promoting Islamophobia. But while the former Republican presidential hopeful’s myriad political organizations and tax-exempt groups claim to support conservative values, a ThinkProgress analysis suggests that of late he uses them primarily to funnel money into his own pockets.
As president of American Values, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) “charitable” organization focused on “defending life, traditional marriage and equipping our children with the values necessary to stand against liberal education and cultural forces,” Bauer received an annual salary of about $120,000 in 2011 — and another $30,000 in other benefits. His wife Carol, who worked 10 hours a week as secretary/treasurer for the organization, received an additional $60,000 in annual compensation for her efforts. According to the group’s annual disclosures, its accomplishments included educating policy makers and the general public about family, defense, and foreign policy, numerous published quotes and opinion pieces by Bauer, and a daily e-mail update mailing.
But Bauer augmented this — and the considerable investment portfolio he disclosed during his 2000 presidential campaign — by hiring himself as a “consultant” for the various political committees he controlled.
During the 2004 campaign, he created a 527 committee (a type of outside political group commonly used before Citizens United) called Americans United to Preserve Marriage. Fueled primarily by $1 million in combined contributions from Oklahoma City Thunder co-owners Aubrey McClendon and Tom L. Ward, the committee spend heavily on anti-gay attack ads against 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. After the election, the group scaled back its efforts and allowed its website domain to lapse. With hundreds of thousands left in the bank, Bauer hired a campaign strategy and communications consultant: Gary Bauer. In the 2005–2006 cycle, he took $40,000 in fees; in recent years his figure has risen to $3,000 a month. So far, Americans United to Preserve Marriage has paid Bauer more than $260,000 — and between 2009 and 2012, Bauer received more than half of the committee’s total spending.
With the advent of super PACs in the 2010 campaign, Bauer quickly moved to create the Campaign for American Values. Dedicated to “fighting to protect and defend your values-based way of life,” the super PAC raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 2012 presidential campaign on ads to “expose Obama’s radicalism on values issues.” After the President Obama was re-elected in spite his efforts, Bauer again saw hundreds of thousands of left over cash-on-hand and arranged a $1,000 monthly political and administrative consulting gig for himself — another $8,000 to date.
Finally, Bauer turned to his oldest available account for his most lucrative work. The Campaign for Working Families PAC, a traditional political action committee first created in 1996, began 2013 with nearly $1 million left in the bank. The committee, which calls itself “the leading pro-family, pro-life political action committee in America,” claims to exist “solely to raise funds to support or oppose candidates based upon their political views.” But starting in March, Bauer began paying himself $13,750 a month for “political and admin” consulting — $68,750 over the past five months, and several times more than the $8,250 the committee has given, total, to federal political candidates so far this year.
At these rates, his annual consulting fees for these committees would project to more than $200,000. This would be in addition to his full-time American Values job and any payments he receives from his weekly columns, SiriusXM radio show, and other work.
A spokeswoman for Bauer told ThinkProgress:
Mr. Bauer is a consultant to the political committees you mentioned in your inquiry. He advises the organizations on strategy, does fundraising for them, consults with office holders about their agenda, attends strategy sessions representing the groups, interviews and selects candidates the groups endorse or does educational work for. He frequently lectures, debates and writes op-eds on issues for each of these organizations. In addition, he advises each of them on educational ad campaigns and partisan ad campaigns, depending on the group and its legal limitations. Americans United to Preserve Marriage is an organization that promotes strengthening traditional marriage as the institution that produces the best outcomes for children. The fee that Mr. Bauer receives is for the voluminous amount of speaking, writing, publishing and debating he does every week on that subject. He is also responsible for fundraising for the organization.
But Bauer has not raised any significant money for Americans United to Preserve Marriage since 2008. Indeed its lone $50,000 donation this year came from Bauer’s own Campaign for American Values PAC. And given that the agenda for all of the other groups seems identical, it is hard to imagine how his socially conservative speeches, op/eds, and other work would not also be part of his 40-hour-a-week job as president of American Values.
Bauer, who did opposition research for the Republican National Committee during the Nixon years, was president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council from 1988 to 1999. He received 8 percent of the vote in the 2000 Iowa Republican caucus.