The Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC) formally announced a new layer of its organization on Sunday. IFPC and Marriage Matters are now subsidiaries of a parent organization named The FAMiLY Leader. The group also announced that Bob Vander Plaats would serve as its President and CEO. One could say that IFPC is in the midst of making an extreme makeover.
Chuck Hurley, IFPC’s President and founder, told that audience that the event marked an important night for its ministry. While the group has a new name and a new leader, its not as if it is a new entity or even has a new purpose. In fact, the organization that Vander Plaats now leads has been decimated in the nine months following its decision to put his gubernatorial campaign in front of its own causes.
While IFPC’s endorsement of Vander Plaats and countless attacks on those who disagreed or were troubled by its actions generated a lot of ink in the newspaper for the organization, it also crippled the organization’s ability to raise funds. When it became publically known that IFPC was being funded in part by a $3 million federal grant, the organization lost even more credibility. Finding itself in a precarious position, the conservative group made the decision to forgo any additional federal grant money. That decision only made IFPC’s financial woes even worse.
Sunday’s event was attended by 1000 or more people, yet there were three people who played a major role with IFPC in the past that were nowhere to be seen. Mike Hartwig, who headed up Marriage Matters since its creation, was shown the door this fall.
Sources told TheIowaRepublican.com in October that Hartwig was initially excited about Vander Plaats’ new position with the organization. Hartwig was assured that his position would remain intact, much like Hurley’s position currently remains. However, once Vander Plaats was officially installed as the President and CEO, everything that was agreed upon before was suddenly thrown out the window, and Hartwig was forced out since the organization didn’t have the resources to pay him and also afford Vander Plaats’ new $120,000 annual salary.
In addition to Hartwig, Tom Steen, who was just appointed by the IFPC Board of Directors to be the organization’s Chief Operating Officer in March of 2009, has also left the organization, as did Bryan English, the group’s Communications Director.
What was never discussed at Sunday’s event was why these changes were made or why they were even necessary. Mike Wells, a long time supporter of IFPC and Vander Plaats, came the closest to informing the audience of the reason behind the decision when he introduced Vander Plaats by saying, “What about Bob? Well, we are going to give him a position to lead.” It’s obvious that the members of the IFPC Board, all of whom financially supported Bob’s campaigns, were actively looking for a position to give Vander Plaats.
However, Matt Reisetter, the organization’s development director, told the audience later in the event that the staff of IFPC had prayed that Vander Plaats would join the organization in a full time capacity. The reason they were on their knees praying for Vander Plaats wasn’t because the organization needed leadership. It had that with Hartwig, Steen, and English. It needed Vander Plaats because the organization was in desperate need of a well-known fundraiser to prevent its doors from closing.
What was interesting about the IFPC event was that the group seems committed to following the same exact steps that led it to the dire financial position it is in today. Hurley announced that they are already in the process of evaluating potential 2012 presidential candidates as they plan to make an endorsement for the first time in the caucuses.
As was the case in the Republican gubernatorial primary last spring, nobody would have an issue with IFPC, or any other group for that matter, for endorsing a candidate that it believes represents the values and agenda of the organization. The problem with IFPC’s endorsement was that, instead of being a positive thing for its endorsee, they made it into a negative thing for those who they didn’t endorse.
Vander Plaats made a point at the event to say that his joining the organization was not self-serving. Even the group’s new name The FAMilY Group is trying to dispel the notion that it’s focused Vander Plaat’s personal ambitions instead of promoting pro-family polices. That’s while the “i” in FAMiLY is in lower case. In his own remarks, Vander Plaats said that the focus of the organization is to put the cause before one’s self.
If The FAMiLY Leader is indeed focused on the cause of reinstating traditional marriage in Iowa, then endorsing a candidate in the Iowa Caucuses is a distraction to its legislative agenda. There is also something to be said for using the caucus or primary process as a way to develop relationships and lobby all candidates, even Democrats, on the issues that they care about.
The reincarnation of IFPC into The FAMiLY Leader needs to be more than just a simple name change. Hopefully it means that the organization will put the pro-family cause above endorsing candidates for a quick dose of earned media coverage.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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