Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Iowa Family Policy Center didn’t reject federal funds until last month
Iowa Family Policy Center did not notify government officials that it no longer wanted to receive federal funding until six weeks ago — nearly a year later than it originally told the media the decision was made.
In April, The Iowa Independent reported the Iowa Family Policy Center had received more than $3 million in federal funding for a marriage mentoring program. Following the story, the group’s spokesman, Bryan English, told Des Moines Register columnist Rehka Basu that it would no longer accept the funds, saying “the decision [to not take additional funding] was made at a board meeting in September , but just hadn’t been announced yet.” English made a similar statement to Iowa Public Radio.
In early July 2010, a Freedom of Information Act reconsideration addendum was filed by The Iowa Independent specifically requesting proof of relinquishment of federal funds by IFPC. Follow up phone calls to the Administration for Children and Families, the agency responsible for grant oversight, could not confirm the funds had been denied at that time.
Phone calls to English in July and August regarding termination of funding went unanswered. Just last week, the FOIA reconsideration request was finally filled, revealing IFPC did not notify the government they would forgo additional funding until August 10, 2010.
“We believe federal constraints are impeding our progress to help a broader range of couples,” Chuck Hurly, IFPC’s president, wrote in the Aug. 10 letter to the Administration for Children and Families. “We believe organizationally we are in a position to become privately funded.”
Even if the Iowa Family Policy Center made the decision to relinquish funding at their September 2009 board meeting, they had already received the $550,000 award for 2009-2010. According to the Tracking Accountability in Government Grants website, the IFPC received the $550,000 on Sept. 17, 2009.
IFPC leadership has repeatedly denied that federal funds have been used for anything other than the Marriage Matters program, which is not a separate organization but rather a trademark of IFPC. But a representative of the U.S. Healthy Marriage program in Washington, D.C., said earlier this year that even though it isn’t allowed, certain overlap in spending might occur.
It is this potential for overlap that has some concerned, as IFPC is no stranger to political controversy. Earlier this year, it made waves when it announced it would not endorse the Republican Party’s nominee for governor, Terry Branstad, do to his alleged moderate views on social issues like gay marriage. Later, the organization publicly declared that homosexuality was more dangerous to the public health than second-hand smoke. In June, Hurley said religious leaders who supported marriage rights for same-sex couples were “confused at best and blatantly evil at worst.”
And in a press release earlier this month, Hurley denounced politicians who say the GOP should focus on economic issues rather than social issues, saying, “I don’t think it’s coincidental that the origins of the word ‘economic’ relates to household management. We need to understand that we cannot rebuild our national economy if we are actively undermining the stability of the American household by condoning homosexuality.”
The group is also somewhat involved in the campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices due to their decision last year that legalized same-sex marriage.
The Iowa Family Policy Center’s acceptance of federal funds, coupled with a religious political agenda, prompted the ACLU of Iowa to announce it would investigate whether the funding violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Randall Wilson, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, said in an e-mail that the “investigation is ongoing,” into potential misuse of federal funding by the IFPC. “I have had an intern chasing information,” in regards to how IFPC’s federal grant was spent and, “we still haven’t been able to receive a full accounting from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”
A lack of transparency and unresponsiveness within the Administration for Children and Families, a sub agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, appears to be the norm, according to a report earlier this month.
Several calls for comment to IFPC Spokesperson Bryan English were not returned.