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Freedom Foundation keeps spending, failing

Originally posted by The Stand at on June 18, 2019

By Peter Starzynski

The Olympia-based Freedom Foundation has been making frivolous claims about the success of the anti-union campaign it has been running for the better part of five years and trying to position itself as the preeminent corporate backed, right-wing organization attacking unions along the West Coast.

Nothing could be further from the truth. After five years and more than $20 million spent, the Freedom Foundation (aka Opt Out Today) has been a massive failure.

In the fall of 2014, the Freedom Foundation, under then new CEO Tom McCabe, launched its so-called “opt-out campaign” in Washington by targeting home care workers, badgering them about their union membership and trying to persuade them to stop paying union dues.

Despite the organization’s tax-exempt status, which strictly prohibits spending for political purposes, McCabe made it very clear that the Freedom Foundation’s mission is to win elections for extreme right-wing politicians in order to push a pro-corporate agenda.

That year at a political fundraiser for Republican state Sen. Lynda Wilson, McCabe said, “When I got to the Freedom Foundation – it was about 13 months ago – I told my staff, ‘we need to fight unions.’ Because unions have corrupted [Washington], they have ensured that [Washington is] the bluest state in the country. And I told my staff, all these things we’re fighting for, whether it’s property rights, whether it’s lower taxes, whether it’s less government spending, whether it’s agencies that are duplicating efforts — all of that stuff cannot be accomplished until the power of unions has been dissipated, until we reduce that power of the union, until frankly we defund it.”

In 2018, groups like the Freedom Foundation thought they had won a major victory, when the Supreme Court attacked public sector unions and collective bargaining in its Janus decision.  They thought they could target all public sector workers with their campaign.

But the size and scope of their campaign has been vastly overstated as their tactics have been reduced to emails and low-dollar online advertising. One year after the Janus decision, unions along the West Coast survive and thrive as a powerful voice for working families, and in many cases their membership is growing.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, overall union membership in Washington grew by a whopping 10% in 2018.

There is a crippling flaw at the heart of the Freedom Foundation’s campaign. The unionized workers being targeted just aren’t buying the propaganda. Workers understand they only win at the bargaining table if they stay strong together. Because unions win higher wages for their workers — 20% more wages than non-union workers over the past 80 years, not to mention a huge advantage in benefits and rights on the job.

Furthermore, union members know that the Freedom Foundation is part of the same right-wing network that has fought for decades to cut their wages, pensions and health care.

In 2011, the Freedom Foundation co-authored a guidebook with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on how states could cut labor costs which included layoffs, cutting pensions, privatization, gutting retiree healthcare, and hiring freezes.

Meanwhile, the Freedom Foundation’s scheme to turn Washington into a “red state” continues to be a fool’s errand. Democrats now hold nearly every statewide office and increased their majority in the State Senate. Washington’s Congressional Delegation is getting more blue as Dr. Kim Schrier flipped the 8th Congressional District and became the first Democrat to ever win the district in 2018.

These political victories have resulted in an unprecedented pro-worker agenda. Since the Freedom Foundation began operating, Washington, along with California and Oregon, have collectively passed one of the most pro-working family agendas in history. This includes statewide minimum wage hikes, increased education funding, paid sick leave for all, and fair scheduling laws — exactly the kind of pro-worker measures the Freedom Foundation was hoping to squash.

As we near the one-year anniversary of the Janus decision, we are certain to hear familiar false boasting from the Freedom Foundation and their ilk. The facts, and recent history, tell a very different story. Renewed vigor and commitment in labor unions, wins at the bargaining table, pro-worker politicians winning at the polls, and massive rollouts of family-friendly legislation — all in spite of the Freedom Foundation’s multi-million-dollar efforts.

In a nutshell, this is what failure looks like for a right-wing union busting group. And victory for every working family across the West Coast.

The Big Money Behind The Freedom Foundation’s Failed Attacks On Workers


The Big Money Behind the Failed Attacks on Workers in the Pacific Northwest

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The Washington Policy Center’s Extreme Right-Wing Agenda

The Washington Policy Center is an extremist organization funded by out-of-state billionaires that want to advance a radical political agenda to privatize public education, keep wages low, and stop the expansion of healthcare to working families in Washington. They, along with the anti-worker Freedom Foundation, are a Washington State affiliate of the State Policy Network: a national network of extremist groups with ties to the Koch Brothers.

They do not disclose their donors but our research has uncovered some disturbing trends: they share funders with anti-LGBTQ organizations, anti-immigrant organizations, and white supremacists. For example one of their key funders, the Murdock Charitable Trust, also funds the largest anti-LGBTQ organization in the country, the Alliance Defending Freedom, who the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. Another funder is based in Pennsylvania and funds one of the nations leading anti-immigrant organization.

They often portray themselves as a legitimate think tank but in reality, they are driving a divisive, extremist agenda. They give the illusion to the public and the media that their regressive pet issues have much more support than they do.

We’ve developed a background document on their policy positions, leadership, and funders. View the document below or click here to download a PDF version.

Washington Policy Center Background 2019


For more information on the Washington Policy Center, contact the Northwest Accountability Project at

Corban University, LGBTQ Rights, and Gay Conversion Therapy

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association issued the historic (and overdue) ruling that same-sex attraction was not a mental illness nor a sickness that needed a cure. It helped shift public opinion nationwide to a more compassionate, pragmatic view of sexual orientation, but it did not gain traction everywhere. To this day, arcane institutions, advocates and funders still promote a practice called “gay conversion therapy,” a horrific practice based on the fallacy that sexual identity can be flawed, and can be changed.

The Northwest Accountability Project has a history of exposing the regressive entities that promote or fund the movement that promotes gay conversion therapy, like Vancouver, Washington’s Murdock Charitable Trust. Now we are shining the light on Corban University in Salem, Oregon, which receives federal aid (your tax dollars) while still endorsing this appalling practice.

Send a letter to your Senators and Representatives and ask them to revoke Corban’s Title IX exemption.

The historical practice of “gay conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” began barbarically. Mental health professionals employed institutionalization, castration and electroconvulsive shock therapy to try and stop patients’ natural inclinations. In 2009, the American Psychological Association reported that therapists attempting to “fix” their lesbian gay, bisexual and transgendered patients had at some point utilized forced nausea and vomiting or induced paralysis while showing the patient homoerotic images.

The medieval techniques used in the past have today given way to hypnosis and counseling as primary “conversion” methods, but the dangerous philosophy underpinning these practices remains the same.  At Corban University, for example, the student handbook says students who “struggle with gender identity” are expected to explore these feelings in school-sanctioned settings and “continue to identify with their biological sex.” While students who are experiencing same-sex attraction are “expected to remain celibate and refrain from dating.”

Students who have suffered from Corban University’s restrictive view of sexual orientation and gender identity, have left testimony on a website called OneCorban. According to the site, after school administrators inspected his web search history, one student was threatened with expulsion if he didn’t agree to enter a gay conversion therapy program. The student says that the school counseling staff did not come from a place of understanding, and eventually he withdrew from Corban in order to “put himself in places where others would accept me.”

The cottage industry around gay conversion therapy in the United States has all but collapsed, once led by the likes of Exodus International, a group that offered “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” The group shut down suddenly in 2013 with an apology for three decades of damage done to the LGBTQ community, and an admission from its president that he still held same-sex attraction. Even hardline groups like Exodus have moved on from the backward barbarism of reparative therapy, but Corban University continues on.

Corban doubles down on its LGBTQ prejudice by inviting speakers and hiring professors that toe the same hurtful line. Mark Yarhouse, an anti-LGBTQ psychologist who refers to that community as “sexual minorities” and believes family history is more important than genetics in sexual identity, was hosted by Corban University. Yarhouse has claimed that attempting gay conversion therapy “does not appear to be harmful on average or inherently harmful.” Corban also hired Corey Gilbert as their Chair of the Psychology Program, whose research includes “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

To make matters worse, we are all subsidizing Corban University’s bigotry. A loophole in the federal Civil Rights Act allows Corban to receive a “Title IX religious exemption,” freeing them to aggressively discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community. Because of this exemption, Corban still enjoys a windfall of federal student loans, huge savings from their non-profit status with the IRS and a continuing flow of grants that are tax-deductible to their donors.

What you can do to help:

While we in the Northwest celebrate LGBTQ rights and the diversity of our population, Corban University stays mired in hurtful out-of-date bigotry, while benefiting from all of our tax dollars. Please send a letter to your Senators and Representatives to demand that Corban University not be able to benefit from public funds while continuing to promote division and hatred. Together we can close Corban’s Title IX loophole of bigotry and protect our values and the students of Corban University.

*Prior versions of this blog unintentionally misrepresented the nature and location of a specific “reparative therapy session.” We regret the mistake and have made the necessary changes.

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