Eye on the right (no liberals in sight)

billboardsTim Graham is a conservative writer for the conservative Media Research Center who has done lots of conservative research showing that mainstream journalists tend to use labels like “conservative” too much.

Which is all well and good. What he has long found interesting, however, is that this tense era is literally crawling with “conservatives” who are in mortal political combat — especially on religious and moral issues — with people who are very rarely labeled at all and, certainly, are rarely called “liberals.”

Graham — a conservative, by the way — has a post up right now taking a few shots at a long, page one Washington Post report by Thomas B. Edsall that ran with the headline “Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues: Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million.”

GetReligion readers will be stunned to know that people who back a conservative approach to faith-based ministries are doing well when it comes to landing grants from a new, conservative-sponsored program that is set up to promote faith-based ministries. Edsall writes:

For years, conservatives have complained about what they saw as the liberal tilt of federal grant money. Taxpayer funds went to abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood to promote birth control, and groups closely aligned with the AFL-CIO got Labor Department grants to run worker-training programs.

In the Bush administration, conservatives are discovering that turnabout is fair play: Millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bush’s agenda on abortion and other social issues. Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies, according to federal grant documents and interviews.

Note the “what they saw as the liberal tilt” language, as if there were no objective facts available for discussion in a major newspaper.

For example, Edsall notes that crisis pregnancy centers and anti-abortion groups have received more than $60 million in grants. This, for me, raises a pretty obvious question — especially after the previous “liberal tilt” language. How much does, let’s say, Planned Parenthood get in taxpayer money?

Well, a conservative, anti-abortion site — drat, there’s that word again — that stores public reports on this kind of thing says (follow the URL for documentation) that Planned Parenthood received $265.2 million in 2003-04 (hat tip to Dawn “friend of this blog” Eden). It would also be interesting to compare the numbers on grants to groups that take a conservative, evangelistic approach to salvation issues, as opposed to the groups — liberal? — that take a hands-off, many-roads-to-the-same-God stance.

But here is the Edsall paragraph that irked that conservative guy named Graham.

The Education Department awarded a $750,000 discretionary grant to the GEO Foundation, run by Kevin Teasley, a former staffer at the libertarian Reason Foundation and conservative Heritage Foundation, and conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, to “provide outreach and information” on public-school choice. The department also awarded $1.5 million over three years to the conservative Black Alliance for Educational Options, which was created in 2000 with support from such funders on the right as the Bradley, John M. Olin and Walton Family foundations, to provide information about the No Child Left Behind Act.

This one paragraph contains a few of the dozen or so “conservative” flags in this one story. Who are the critics of these new faith-based programs? Was any of the information used in this story actually gathered by groups that might be called “left of center” or something like that?

Thus, Graham ends with this conservative conclusion:

Is it biased to write a story like this? No. It is biased to write this story — but not display an interest in writing a similar story on subsidizing liberal and libertine groups years ago, when the Clinton administration was handing out money to NOW and its social-issues allies.

By the way, I think I used the word “conservative” fewer times than the Post story did.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Daniel

    Is the clinton administration still in power? Why, in 2006, would you write about the excesses of the Clinton administration, when you acknowledge there was criticism in the lead of the story?

    Bush–and conservatives–are in power. They control the WH and both houses of Congress. Thus, is it unreasonable to write a story about how those in power have handed out favors to faith-based groups??? Isn’t the purpose of journalism to question the excesses of power?

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    (First: A bunch of your links are broken. On to the main point:)

    I’ve seen discussion of conservative-label vs liberal-label before, and it’s always struck me as a false parallel. The past couple decades of political rhetoric have turned “liberal” into an insult — liberals don’t often use the word to describe themselves. But conservatives describe themselves as “conservative” all the time — Bush described himself himself as a “compassionate conservative” all through his 2000 campaign. The Heritage Foundation describes its mission as “to formulate and promote conservative public policies”. The Center for the Study of Popular Culture says that its founders are at “the forefront of conservatism”.

    There’s also the question of whether money given to Planned Parenthood should be compared with money given to “crisis pregnancy centers” or for “abstinence education”. Is providing birth control for people who want to use it equivalent to telling people who want to have sex not to have it?

    On the evangelism-vs-universalism angle, I noticed this paragraph on the second page of the Wa. Post article:

    The distribution of new money to conservative organizations is a small part of an estimated flood of $2 billion a year in federal grants to religious and religiously affiliated organizations. For decades, in Democratic and Republican administrations, well over $1 billion annually has been going to such groups, most of it to mainline organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and Lutheran Social Services.

  • ceemac


    This is a bit off topic but you once again used a phrase in this post that I find is a bit sloppy.

    “many-roads-to-the-same-God stance.”

    Now that phrase may describe many universalists. But it does not describe me or most of the Presbyterians I know who have universalist leanings. Those of us who come at universalism via the influence of Karl Barth would never use such language. There are not many roads to God. There is not even one road TO God. Salvation is a reality becuase God in Christ came redeem humanity. All of it.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com Molly

    Amen, ceemac.

    Interesting that the “faith based inititatives” have supported only CHRISTIAN inititatives when I seem to remember something about synagogues and mosques receiving money too….??

    Or am I misremembering?

    Nope: from The White House

    “I believe in the power of faith in people’s lives. Our government should not fear programs that exist because a church or a synagogue or a mosque has decided to start one. We should not discriminate against programs based upon faith in America. We should enable them to access Federal money, because faith-based programs can change people’s lives, and America will be better off for it.”
    ~ President George W. Bush

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com Molly

    You missed this quote at the end of the piece:
    In addition to liberals, there are conservative critics of taxpayer funding of groups on the right.

    Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the grant-making is “corrupting.”

    “The danger is that any group that gets money from the government will end up serving the interests of the state rather than the constituencies they are trying to serve,” he said. “The guy who writes the check writes the rules.”

  • Michael

    I’d love to see the data on how much money went to mosques and synagogues. I imagine it is proportionately small, although i’d be thrilled to be proven wrong. There seems to be little doubt that this faith-based money has been used to feather the pockets of conservative, religious groups in hopes that the money would translate into votes. Payoffs are payoffs, whether they go to Planned Parenhood or the Good Mission Baptist Church.

  • tmatt


    The synagogue and mosque is totally valid. The question, of course, is how many social programs they operate that are open to those outside their community. It also is a matter of percentages. If you have thousands of Christian parachurches and only a few hundred Muslim organizations that do similar work, you will find it hard to place grants among Muslims.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    And don’t forget the covens! (Neo-pagan discussions seem about evenly divided between “Why don’t WE get any credit for what we do?” and “Why aren’t WE doing more instead of complaining about TheChristians all the time?”… Probably not noticing that Julian the Apostate complained about the same thing when “Hellenists” left charitable work to “the impious Galileans” rather than get off their encounter-suited butts.))

    Avram must have spenthe “past couple of decades” somewhere where he got a very different dose of “political rhetoric” than I did. Ever since I can remember, it has continued the chorus of “Liberal good, conservative baaaad!”… which is why I was totally baffled when the McGovernites started complaining about being called “liberals” and all the “liberals” started vanishing to be replaced by “moderates”… although *I* get jumped on for calling people “moderates” too! Also, there are still “ultraconservatives”, but a glaring absence of “ultraliberals”.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Sorry, I confused Dukakis with McGovern.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com Molly

    Which is an equally valid question to ask of Christians, isn’t it?

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com Molly

    The question, of course, is how many social programs they operate that are open to those outside their community. It also is a matter of percentages. If you have thousands of Christian parachurches and only a few hundred Muslim organizations that do similar work, you will find it hard to place grants among Muslims.

    Oops, the above comment should have included this quote; goofed the codes, I guess.

    Also, percentage wise, Bush made it sound like his administration was going to be proactive in its search for Jewish and Muslim charities. Or was I just being too optimistic about this?