Maurice Cunningham: Just who is behind Moms for Liberty?
Moms For Liberty is mounting a big gathering this coming weekend, which makes this the perfect time for Maurice Cunningham, an expert on dark money groups, to look at how authentic this turf really is.
Moms for Liberty is holding its national summit next week in Tampa, and that’s quite an achievement for a grassroots group started just last year by two liberty-loving moms. But since even the “two moms” claim falls apart, it’s worth asking what Moms for Liberty really is.
I pay attention when a new “parents” or “moms” group bursts upon the education/politics scene. I exposed the millions in dark money behind Families for Excellent Schools during a 2016 charter schools ballot question campaign in Massachusetts. New groups like Moms for Liberty are just as transparently Astroturf — a group that claims to be grassroots but is actually artificial turf.
One of the best tools for analyzing phony education groups is a four-part test by Professor Daniel Katz. Let’s see how Moms for Liberty does.
Growth at a pace that only a corporation’s monetary resources could manage. Moms for Liberty incorporated as an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(4) organization, a form that lends itself to dark money political shenanigans. It exploded on the scene with its leaders being guests on Fox News and breaking into the Washington Post. It has a well-developed website and extensive social media reach. Moms for Liberty has formed three federal and one state political action committees, one of which is a SuperPAC able to accept unlimited donations. Its careers page is seeking state coordinators to work with the chapter chair coordinator, and a communications officer. Here’s something I’ve noticed following Moms for Liberty and similar organizations: the “comms moms” — many of these groups’ leaders have backgrounds in marketing and communications. “At the top, (Moms for Liberty) … are political strategists, risk managers and communications professionals — high-powered women with connections to top state and national Republicans,” reports the Florida Phoenix. Moms for Liberty’s press is being handled by Calvary Strategies whose CEO is a former campaign manager and chief of staff to Sen. (then-Gov.) Rick Scott.
Who is really running the operation? The two “founders” are former school committee member Tina Descovich, a communications and marketing professional and Tiffany Justice, also a former school committee member. But there was a third founder, Bridget Ziegler. She is still a school committee member and her husband, Christian Ziegler, is vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party and the owner of a political marketing firm. He boasts that Moms for Liberty will provide crucial ground support for DeSantis’ re-election.