2011-12-23 "Buying an Evangelical Endorsement" by Robin Marty
When Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader set his group up as the gatekeeper to the support of the religious right in Iowa, most of the candidates were willing to do almost anything to get his organization’s endorsement.
No one won it, although former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum got personal endorsements from The Family Leader’s two founders. Vander Plaats then allegedly asked Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to consider giving up her run and throwing her support to Santorum, to which the campaign said no thanks. At the time, I wondered if she was asked to drop because of her gender. Now, we know it was for a different reason.
According to CNN [http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/22/santorum-vander-plaats-said-he-needed-money-to-promote-the-endorsement/], Vander Plaats had been asking Santorum to help the group get money to “promote” an endorsement. “‘What he talked about was he needed money to promote the endorsement and that that would be important to do that,’ Santorum said, referring to Vander Plaats. Yet the candidate added: ‘There was never a direct ask for me to go out and raise money for it.’”
Santorum said that after that, he heard that the endorsement would go to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who’s campaign had much more money to work with [http://caucuses.desmoinesregister.com/2011/12/22/santorum-vander-plaats-told-me-he-needed-money-to-promote-endorsement/].
So, was The Family Leader enacting a pay-for-endorsement scheme to line their coffers and raise their own status? The insinuation from the media was enough to make the group respond to the accusations. “The allegation by an unnamed source that Bob Vander Plaats asked any campaigns for money in exchange for his endorsement is absolutely false,” a statement reads, despite the fact that Santorum himself said that there was no direct ask [http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2011/12/vander-plaats-group-no-cash-ask-108491.html].
Direct ask or not, sources are still stating that the price of the endorsement was a full $1 million, and that previous donations may have been going into play. Think Progress notes that as the story unfolds, three candidates [http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/12/23/394837/bob-vader-plaats-pay-for-play-scandal-charged-a-million-for-endorsement-asked-candidates-to-drop-out/]: Santorum, Perry and Bachmann, all say Vander Plaats suggested they gather behind one candidate. One candidate does not appear to have received the same message — the candidate who formerly gave Vander Plaats campaign donations last election cycle. “While Santorum may be correct that conservatives like Vander Plaats were just trying to unite social conservatives, it may be that Vander Plaats was building support for Gingrich, the thrice-married former speaker whose complicated marital past raised concerns for certain Evangelical leaders [http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/11/18/372066/anti-gay-iowa-leader-who-benefited-from-gingrichs-donations-forgives-speaker-for-marriage-infidelities/]. After all, Gingrich donated $350,000 last year to his campaign against the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality, which is quite the ‘pay for play.’ [http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/03/16/151016/newt-gingrich-anti-gay-hate/]
Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry have the social conservative credentials Vander Plaats would want to endorse without the baggage of Gingrich’s infidelities, but if they had dropped out, he could have endorsed Gingrich without it looking like blatant quid pro quo.”
I wonder how much The Family Leader endorsement will be worth in 2016?