Faith and Family Alliance

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The Faith and Family Alliance was a Section 527 group established in February 1999 that made its first and only political appearance in the June 2000 Virginia primary. Four days before the primary vote, it sent out 40,000 fliers in the 7th Congressional District of Virginia that criticized state Del. Eric Cantor, who vied for the Republican nomination against state Sen. Stephen H. Martin.

The mailers and this group were actually closely associated with the Martin campaign. According to the organization's incorporation papers, Martin's campaign manager, Philip J. Cox, created the Alliance, listing his home address as the headquarters. Prominent Republican attorney James Bopp, Jr. was listed as the incorporator.

The mail piece claimed that a business partner sued Cantor for fraud and that Cantor bounced large checks. It read: "Millionaire lawyer Eric Cantor says he wants to cut your taxes - but he didn't pay his own." Cantor's camp denied the allegations, while Martin decried the negative independent expenditure. Martin lost the election by a slim margin of 300 votes.

Cox later told the press he had resigned from Faith and Family Alliance in April 2000, before the mailers were sent out, to devote more time to the campaign and had no prior knowledge of the mailers.

On June 18, 2000, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported that the Faith and Family Alliance was "set up under the guidance of political consultant Tim Phillips, who was employed in Federal elections in Virginia this year by Republicans George W. Bush of Texas and Stephen H. Martin of Chesterfield County." Philip J. Cox of Charlottesville, Pat Mullins of Louisa County and Kevin Gentry of Fairfax were "three of the four Republicans who set up the Faith and Family Alliance under directions from Phillips, a social conservative business partner of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed of Atlanta. Gentry and Mullins said Phillips approached them about founding it as directors." But Cox "bailed out in early April and worked as campaign manager for Martin in his bid for the 7th CD nomination in Tuesday's GOP primary, which Martin lost by 264 votes." Questioned by the Daily Progress, Mullins, Gentry, Cox, Phillips and Martin "all denied knowledge of the attack mail. Gentry said he quit the alliance as soon as he found out about it June 9." The Daily Progress also reported that the mailing was prepared and sent by Robin Vanderwall, a Virginia Beach man who served as president of the Alliance. Vanderwall said he used $15,000 from an anonymous donor to pay for the mailing.

"Although the Alliance filed a Notice of Organization with the IRS, no financial information has been submitted," reported the Center for Public Integrity in November 2000. "This suggests three possibilities. First, the group may have chosen not to disclose its funding in hopes that the law will be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Secondly, the group might not meet the minimum required annual expenditure amount of $25,000 and therefore would not have to disclose financial activity to the IRS. Or thirdly, the group might not have received contributions or made expenditures since July 1, 2000."

In fact, however, the group did receive funds since that time, which it never reported. Tim Phillips went on to become vice president of Century Strategies, Ralph Reed's lobbying firm. In an October 2005 report on the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, the Washington Post reported that Vanderwall and the Faith and Family Alliance acted as a conduit for funds that were channeled to Reed's lobbying firm as payment for some of Reed's services on behalf of Abramoff. "In a telephone interview," the Post reported, "Vanderwall said that in July 2000 he was called by Reed's firm, Century Strategies, alerting him that he would be receiving a package. When it came, it contained a check payable to Vanderwall's group for $150,000 from Americans for Tax Reform, signed by Norquist. Vanderwall said he followed the instructions from Reed's firm -- depositing the money and then writing a check to Reed's firm for an identical amount."

"I was operating as a shell," Vanderwall said, adding that he was never told how the money was spent. He said: "I regret having had anything to do with it." [1]

Personnel

Contact information (no longer valid)

Faith and Family Alliance
P.O. Box 11644
Richmond, VA 23230

Resources

  • Tyler Whitley, "Martin and Cantor Clash Over Leaflet," Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), June 11, 2000, p. A-14.
  • "527 Group Used To Attack Cantor Examined," The Bulletin's Frontrunner, June 19, 2000.
  • "Ralph Reed firm draws criticism for dirty tricks in Virginia race, Church & State, October 2000.
  • "The Black Hole Groups," Center for Public Integrity, November 2000 (last updated February 9, 2001). A copy of this page is available on the Internet Archive.
  • Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi, "How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck," Washington Post, October 17, 2005.