Kony 2012's Visible Funding: Invisible Children's anti-gay, creationist, Christian right donors

(Photo: The Kony 2012/Invisible Children guys posing with SPLA soldiers on the Sudan-Congo border in April 2008. Photograph by Glenna Gordon.)

Over at Alternet, Bruce Wilson digs in to the sources of funding for the group behind "Kony 2012," and discovers 990 IRS tax forms and yearly financial disclosure reports from the nonprofit and its major donors "tell a story that's jarringly at odds with the secular, airbrushed, feelgood image" it has cultivated.

The documents show that Invisible Children, Inc. received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the biggest financial backers of California's anti-same-sex marriage Proposition 8, with links to James Dobson, The Family (see Jeff Sharlet's excellent book on the subject), and ideologically similar Christian Right entities.


(…) What does Invisible Children share in common with James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council (pegged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group"), or the Fellowship Foundation — one of the nonprofit entities of the Washington-based evangelical organization also known as "The Family" (covered in two books by journalist Jeff Sharlet) whose leader Doug Coe has been captured on video celebrating the dedication inspired by Hitler, Lenin, and Mao ?

What does IC have in common with the ministry of California evangelist Ed Silvoso, who works directly with leading Ugandan author and promoter of the Anti Homosexuality Bill (also called the "kill the gays bill") Julius Oyet — who claims that "even animals are wiser than homosexuals"?

The answer? — all of these ministries – the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Fellowship Foundation, The Call, Ed Silvoso's Harvest Evangelism, and Invisible Children – received at least $100,000 in 2008 from what has emerged in the last decade as the biggest funder of the hard, antigay, creationist Christian right: the National Christian Foundation.

Wilson's post is cross-published here with additional links at Talk2Action, his site on religion and politics. I've been blogging about the viral phenomenon here at Boing Boing, with perspective from aid workers, and a round-up of voices from Africa here (just updated with new additions).

A related digging-through-the financials post at Demand Nothing argues that the group works in a manner similar in style to "evangelical modes of operation" because they are effectively "a continuation of the same tactics used by more explicitly christian charities that operate in Africa and internationally." Snip:

Of Invisible Children's network of supporters, two are run on a specifically US evangelical Christian stance. These are AIM AIR and National Christian Foundation. AIM AIR involves itself in the transport of resources to help expand evangelical work and Christian relief in Africa. Their aim is to "share the vision of Africa Inland Mission: to see Christ-centered churches among all African peoples." National Christian Foundation sponsor organisations who push Christian ideals. They believe in funding organisations that will lift those out of poverty and educate them with Western Christian morality. They seek evangelism and discipleship amongst less controversial aims such as clean drinking water.

The National Christian Foundation is run by board members who have ties to many conservative religious political organisations. Terry Parker is a founder of National Christian Foundation and has served on the Family Research Council , which is registered as a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center for its denigration of the LGBTQ movement and lobbying against equality legislation. James B. McCabe is senior vice president, finance and chief financial officer of Chick-Fil-A. His company has given $3 million to conservative anti-gay organisations since 2003 and $2million in 2009 alone (technically speaking they did it through their charitable arm, Winshape, and not directly. see: pp41-42 of their IRS form). Jay Bennett is trustee to The Bob Buford Institute.This institute runs several initiatives dedicated to expanding church activity and influence across the US.

More of Invisible Children's money goes to "awareness" than to Africa, according to its "director of idea development," Jedediah Jenkins. Production costs for their recent Kony 2012 viral short appear to be somewhere around USD $1 million. From the watchdog site "Visible Children":

According to Jason Russell's appearance on the Today show several days ago, over 500,000 action kits have been ordered at $30 a piece, meaning this campaign has brought in a minimum of $15M in revenue this week. This is great news: at least 500,000 people are "advocate[s] of awesome" according to the group's webstore! So where's that money going? I'll leave it to Jedidiah Jenkins, Invisible Children's Director of Ideology:

"Thirty-seven percent of our budget goes directly to central African-related programs, about 20 percent goes to salaries and overhead, and the remaining 43 percent goes to our awareness programs. […] But aside from that, the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don't intend to be. I think people think we're over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization."

(thanks, Bruce Wilson, @somebadideas, @stannenb, Joshua Eaton, and all others who shared.)