California State Sen. Mimi Walters (R) announced Tuesday that she will run for the open seat of retiring Congressman John Campbell (R-CA), with the endorsements of seven current California Republican Congressmen. While the Orange County Republican says she is running to promote small government and freedom, one of her largest career campaign donors is a millionaire advocate for strict biblical law in the United States.
Walters, who ran unsuccessfully for California Treasurer in 2010, has received at least $22,500 over her career from Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr.’s Fieldstead & Co — making it one of her top ten industry funders, and making her their second biggest state recipient, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Ahmanson, heir to a banking fortune reported to total hundreds of millions, has distributed millions of dollars to right-wing political causes promoting a “Christian worldview.” Fieldstead & Co. is an incorporated private company which Ahmanson uses to distribute money to his favorite causes without having to disclose the donations publicly.
Most notorious among these was the Chalcedon Foundation. Ahmanson served for decades on the board of this radical Christian Reconstructionist organization and heavily funded its efforts. The group’s late founder, Rousas John Rushdoony advocated for American laws to literally follow those in the Book of Leviticus, including death by stoning for gay and lesbian people and similar execution for adulterers, juvenile delinquents, non-believers, and most other Americans. While Ahmanson has made clear he personally does not advocate “the stoning or execution of homosexuals,” he conceded to the Orange County Register in 1985: “My purpose is total integration of biblical law into our lives.”
Ahmanson is a major funder and director of the Discovery Institute, a group which promotes creationism and tries to obstruct science education. He was one of the largest contributors to the unconstitutional Proposition 8 campaign to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, spent heavily in support of school vouchers efforts in Colorado and California, backed CareNet (a group that provides “crisis pregnancy centers,” which mislead women about abortion), and, reportedly, funded a $1 million smear campaign against the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop and efforts to split the worldwide Anglican Communion over LGBT inclusion. And, he was the second-largest donor to a 2006 California ballot initiative effort which would have required the government to compensate any property owners if land-use or zoning laws hurt the value of their property; Walters served as honorary chair for the unsuccessful effort and called the position her “proudest accomplishment.”In her time in the California Assembly and Senate, Walters has accumulated a voting record that is very much in line with Ahmanson’s far-right views. She has consistently voted against LGBT equality, endorsing Prop. 8, protecting harmful “ex-gay” therapy, and opposing anti-discrimination laws. She opposes women’s reproductive rights. She also is a strong supporter of “school choice” and vouchers.
Walters has called herself a “proven conservative” and has drawn criticism for her anti-immigrant campaign ads. She voted against California’s same-day voter registration law and amassed an embarrassing 3 percent lifetime score from the California League of Conservation Voters.
In the past, even anti-LGBT conservatives like Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and former Gov. Linda Lingle (R-HI) have returned campaign contributions from Ahmanson in light of his radical views and record (Full disclosure: in 2004, the author was president of an LGBT-rights group that successfully pushed Wolf to return a $1,000 contribution from Ahmanson). But Walters has accepted his money since her 2006 campaign.
This post has been updated to clarify the source and measurement of the campaign finance data.