Caution: It’s just a Political Action Committee whose “values” are to elect Democrats. Its name is misleading.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court campaign finance decision, new groups have emerged on Kentucky’s political scene. Often referred to as Super Political Action Committees (Super PACs), they influence elections by making independent campaign expenditures to support or oppose candidates.
The Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (KREF) designates Super PACs as “unauthorized campaign committees” and, as of July 2018, listed 15 registered in Kentucky.
One of these Super PACs, Kentucky Family Values (KFV), has attracted attention because of controversy surrounding its methods and messaging in the last few election cycles. At issue are KFV’s logo and name and its claims to support conservative family values and oppose out-of-state big money groups that influence Kentucky elections.
“What initially caught our attention was that their logo and messaging was strikingly similar to that of our organization,” said Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation. “Many of their radio ads described their organization and their candidates as having ‘family values’ or being ‘conservative,’ but the candidates’ values they supported were vastly different than what we stand for. I assume they are just doing political tricks to get votes for their endorsed candidates.”
Voters have been misled. Even some legislators confused the newer Super PAC with the traditional values nonprofit group. During the November 2014 election, the nonprofit’s staff received many calls and emails. “Citizens assumed the ads they were hearing on the radio and seeing were from us. Many were upset about the candidates they thought that we were supporting,” said Ostrander. “We repeatedly explained that Kentucky Family Values is not our group, and furthermore, our group does not endorse.”
Supporters of The Family Foundation were frustrated because candidates endorsed by Kentucky Right to Life Association were opposed by KFV. According to reports filed with KREF, in one Kentucky House race alone, KFV spent $129,978 opposing the prolife Republican incumbent and supporting his Democrat challenger.
Clearly KFV defines family values far differently than traditional conservative family values groups do. Most Kentuckians consider the sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, and religious freedom to be examples of traditional family values issues. But those have not been the values of KFV.
According to Kenny Colston of WFPL News in Louisville, Kentucky Family Values is a Democratic Super PAC that helped “Democrats beat back the GOP’s attempt to take control of the House.” Investigation into their spending in the last three general elections confirms that all money KFV spent was to elect Democratic candidates and defeat Republican candidates.
And where did their money come from?
Despite KFV’s radio ads stating that voters were “tired of out-of-state big money influencing elections” and “spending millions to buy this election” and that KFV was from “here in Kentucky,” donor data obtained from the KREF shows that for the November 2014 and 2016 elections, the majority of KFV’s donations came from out-of-state “big money,” mostly powerful Washington, DC-based unions.
In the 2016 November election, KFV’s contributions totaled over $3.3 million with just over $1 million coming from within Kentucky. That means over two thirds came from out-of-state sources, most located in Washington, DC. In other words, Kentucky Family Values is supported predominately by people with non-Kentucky values.
In the 2012 and 2014 general elections, KFV spent over $2 million; in 2016 over $3.3 million. To illustrate KFV’s intensity, KREF reports for the November 2014 election show KFV spent more than all of the other Kentucky-registered Super PACs combined (See chart left). All the races it targeted were Kentucky House races.
Teachers’ unions alone contributed $1.375 million to KFV for the Fall of 2016 and it was spent supporting Democrats and opposing Republicans in State House Races.
Based on their spending, it would be more honest if they just said, “Our goal is to return the House to Democrat control.”