Independent Women's Voice

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The Independent Women's Voice (IWV) is a nonprofit organization advocating conservative policy established in 2003. IWV is the self proclaimed sister organization of Independent Women's Forum. According to it's website, "Like IWF, IWV is dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility. ... IWV seeks to ensure that our mainstream voices are heard in the media and before state and national policymakers, in order to educate the public about how our conservative principles benefit women, men, and families, and are critical to the future of our country."[1]

News and Controversies

IWF and IWV Market Right-Wing Ideas to Reach Independent Women Voters Under the Guise of Neutrality

The Independent Women’s Forum and its 501(c)(4) affiliate, the Independent Women’s Voice, market themselves to the media and voters as “non-partisan,” “independent,” and “neutral.” An investigation of the groups by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveals them to be anything but that.

Joan Walsh wrote for The Nation, "IWF and its political arm, Independent Women’s Voice, have become aggressive players in Republican politics, embedded in the network of organizations backed by Charles and David Koch, advocating for the Koch brothers’ myriad concerns, and playing on their 'independent' label to elect GOP candidates."[2]

Heather Higgins, the President of the Independent Women’s Voice and the Board Chair of the Independent Women’s Forum, admitted as much in a speech to potential 2016 donors at a David Horowitz Freedom Center retreat:[3]

Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position. Our value here and what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal is a group that can talk to those cohorts [women who are not Republican conservatives] that would not otherwise listen but can do it in a way that is taking a conservative message and packaging it in a way that will be acceptable.

IWV Spent to Help “War On Women” GOP Candidates

  • IWV made $67,242 in independent expenditures aiding Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin with calls and independent voter outreach in November 2012, after Akin claimed on August 19, 2012 that rape victims couldn’t get pregnant because “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
  • $176,991 on a “Romney wants Mourdock” ad after Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock asserted that when a woman is raped, she carries a “gift from God” and that such a pregnancy “is something that God intended to happen.”
  • Joe Walsh, a GOP Rep. from Illinois claimed in the 2012 race against Tammy Duckworth that abortions to save a mother’s life are never medically necessary. Two weeks later, Independent Women’s Voice spent more than $5,000 on calls and outreach to independent voters in his district.
  • In the 2014 Senate races, CMD’s research finds that Independent Women’s Voice spent more than $850,000 on GOP candidates, most of whom had 0% NARAL ratings; it spent more than $5 million that year on related advocacy.
  • Higgins also told donors that Independent Women’s Voice made the only significant independent expenditure in Mark Sanford’s 2012 congressional race in South Carolina. She said Independent Women’s Voice worked to convince “evangelicals to hold their nose and vote for Mark in order to be able to hold onto that seat and not have the liberal win it.”[3]

2013 Mark Sanford Campaign

Years after former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford's political popularity plummeted after a public confession of infidelity in 2009, Sanford ran and won against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a special election for a position in Congress.[4] The Independent Women's Voice reported spending $250,000 in support of Sanford in just the last week of the election.[5]

Ties to Koch Brothers

Although the Independent Women's Voice calls itself "nonpartisan", the group has numerous ties to the billionaires Charles Koch and David Koch, arguably two of the most influential financiers of anti-regulation and right-wing ideology in the United States.[6]

IWV reportedly received $250,000 from the Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), another Koch affiliated organization.[7] This conservative advocacy group is run by Sean Noble, who Politico has described as a "Koch Operative".[8] Nobel was hired by the Kochs to coordinate with other conservative Super PACs to target Democratic representatives in 2010. [9] Other individuals associated with the group also have Koch ties. Consultant Cheryl Hillen has raised at least $2.6 million for the organization and was formerly director of fundraising for the Koch Brothers-backed Citizens for a Sound Economy (which later split into Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks). One of CPPR's original directors, Heather Higgins, is chairwoman of the Independent Women's Forum, a climate change denialist group that has received Koch money and was previously run by a Koch lobbyist.[10]

In 2004, the Independent Women's Voice listed Nancy Pfotenhauer as its president. Pfotenhauer is a former Koch Industries lobbyist, and has rotated between various leadership roles at Kochs' flagship special interest groups including Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Sound Economy.[11]

IWV's sister organization has been openly receiving funding from Koch brothers' Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation since 1998.[12]

Koch Wiki

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.

Funding

2011-2018

Although IWV is not required to disclose its funders by law, The Center for Media and Democracy uncovered over $4,765,000 to IWV between 2011 and 2018 through an analysis of IRS filings.[13]

Of the six identified funders, three are part of Leonard Leo’s dark money network utilized to promote Trump’s judges which gave $4.2 million: 45Committee, Freedom and Opportunity Fund, and Judicial Crisis Network.

“IWV was vociferous in its defense of [Brett] Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a Stanford professor who knew the justice while he was in prep school,” the Center for Responsive Politics reported. “IWV’s president, Tammy Bruce, said on Fox News last year that Kavanaugh was ‘effectively being used as a stand-in for all perpetrators.'”[13]

Funders

Core Financials

2018[14]

  • Total Revenue: $2,148,976
  • Total Expenses: $2,911,604
  • Net Assets: $3,200,101

2017[15]

  • Total Revenue: $3,014,965
  • Total Expenses: $2,025,703
  • Net Assets: $3,966,199

2016[16]

  • Total Revenue: $5,152,385
  • Total Expenses: $2,371,287
  • Net Assests: $2,989,507

2015[16]

  • Total Revenue: $980,320
  • Total Expenses: $1,781,059
  • Net Assests: $208,409

Personnel

As of February 2020:[17]

Staff

As of February 2020:[18]

  • Heather R. Higgins, CEO
  • Tammy Bruce, President
  • Carrie L. Lukas, Vice President
  • Victoria Coley, Vice President of Communications
  • Heather Madden, Director of Operations and Policy Research
  • Somerlyn Cothran, Senior Vice President for Development
  • Hadley Heath Manning, Policy Director
  • Charlotte Hays, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Julie Gunlock, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Patrice Lee Onwuka, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Ashley B. Carter, Director of External Relations
  • Sekayi Stephens, Graphic Designer
  • Natalie Le, Development Associate
  • Casidy McMeans, Development Associate
  • Cassie Alsfeld, Senior Digital Marketing Advisor
  • Jamie Whitefield, Investor Relations Coordinator

Former Staff

Board of Directors

  • Heather Higgins
  • Tammy Bruce
  • Midge Decter

Contact Information

Independent Women’s Voice
1875 I Street, NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 857-3293
Fax: (202) 429-9574
Email: info@iwvoice.org
Web: http://www.iwvoice.org/

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2018

2017

2016

2015

External Articles

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. Independent Women's Voice, About, organizational website, accessed May 17, 2013.
  2. Joan Walsh, Meet the ‘Feminists’ Doing the Koch Brothers’ Dirty Work, The Nation, August 18, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lisa Graves, Kim Haddow and Calvin Sloan, Independent Women's Forum and Independent Women's Voice Use “Independent” Brand to Push Right-Wing Agenda to Women Voters, ExposedbyCMD, August 17, 2016.
  4. Kim Severson, Looking Past Sex Scandal, South Carolina Returns Ex-Governor to Congress, New York Times, May 7, 2013.
  5. Independent Women's Voice, IWV's Unique and Critical Role in Mark Sanford's Victory, organizational website, accessed May 17, 2013.
  6. Andy Kroll, Koch-Linked Women's Group Takes Credit for Mark Sanford's Win, Mother Jones, May 8, 2013.
  7. Bridge Project, Conservative Transparency, organizational website, accessed May 20, 2013.
  8. Ken Vogel, Kochs brothers' plan for 2012: raise $88 million, Politico, Feb. 11, 2011.
  9. Lee Fang: Koch Operative Steered $55 Million To Front Groups Airing Ads Against Democrats; Ads Assailed Candidates Over Abortion, 9/11, Medicare, Republic Report, May 19th, 2012.
  10. Brendan Fischer, Americans for Job Security Targets WI GOP Senate Race, From the Shadows, PRwatch, Aug. 10, 2012.
  11. Americans for Prosperity, About, organizational website, accessed May 20, 2013.
  12. SourceWatch, Contributions of the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, organizational website, May 17, 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 David Armiak, Dark Money “Women’s” Group Claims Pivotal Role in 2016 Presidential Election, ExposedbyCMD, February 24, 2020.
  14. Independent Women's Voice, 2018 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, October 22, 2019.
  15. Independent Women's Forum, 2017 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, August 17, 2018.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Independent Women's Voice 2016 990 organizational tax filing, Sept. 9, 2017
  17. IWV, Staff, IWF, February 2020.
  18. IWV, Staff, IWF, February 2020.