Harry Jackson Fundraises for Anti-Obama Campaign

A few weeks ago RD reported on a fundraising call that Charisma publisher Steve Strang had hosted for Bishop Harry Jackson’s new campaign to use marriage equality as an anti-Obama racial wedge strategy. In a breakout session at the Values Voter Summit this past weekend, Jackson fleshed out the campaign, which is working to turn minority voters against Obama and Democratic candidates in seven swing states. He’s already had several events, but he’s still scrounging for cash to fund the full effort.

“I think that we’re going to win this battle for marriage and I believe that we’re going to win this fight even for the presidency,” Jackson said, “but I believe it’s going to be the last two minutes of the game, in the fourth quarter and it’s going to be what you would call a ‘Hail Mary pass.’” At the end of the workshop he made his goal clear: “I’m asking God to give us a victory at the congress and senatorial levels so we have a firewall. I’m also asking him to give us deliverance from the president that’s in the White House today for four years.”

Jackson’s workshop was billed as the “Vertical Vote Campaign for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberties.” The “vertical” title echoes language used by Jackson ally Samuel Rodriguez, who insists that evangelicals have to vote their vertical (God-oriented) values. Events on the seven-state tour are officially called “The Defense of Marriage Summit: The Impact of Presidential Decisions on Social Institutions.” Since Jackson’s group, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, is a nonprofit with a limited ability to engage with electoral politics, he’s using an organization launched last year, E Pluribus Unum, to give the campaign a “527 structure” which allows the group to bring a candidate before the summit in Florida and say, “he’s the man, vote for him.”

Jackson says he wants EPU to be a clearinghouse. There’s very little on the site now, but he promised that within a week it would include videos with African-American and Spanish-speaking messengers that activists could send to friends. He said some videos would feature anti-poverty activists in Uganda and the West Indies complaining that needed aid from the U.S. is being held hostage to the Obama administration’s efforts to promote LGBT rights internationally.

Also speaking was Aaron Manaigo, a political strategist Jackson has hired to run the campaign. Manaigo described himself as having gotten into politics as one of the “young gunslingers” for the late dirty trickster Lee Atwater, and he was reportedly an advisor to Herman Cain during the primaries. Manaigo said marriage is under a “barrage of attacks” and cited polling about the religious commitments of African Americans to suggest they were natural allies to conservative evangelicals. What was needed, he claimed, is a “bridge” to get religious African Americans to vote with conservatives; E Pluribus Unum would create a “comfortable environment” to make that connection.

Manaigo reported that events have been held in Florida, North Carolina, and New Mexico, where the group was addressed by Rodriguez, Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, Lt. Governor John Sanchez, and others. Upcoming events will be held in Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, with a wind-up event in Virginia. 

Manaigo says the campaign’s goal is “to pull together multi-ethnic, multi-denominational groups to swing the difference in some of these elections, be they local, statewide, and certainly we have our eyes fixed in due purpose on the national campaign.”

(Friendly suggestion for Manaigo: If he hopes to raise money from conservative evangelicals, he had better be careful not to describe E Pluribus Unum as the motto of the United States, as he did at the workshop. When President Obama did the same thing, religious right groups pilloried him and said it was evidence that Obama was slighting “In God We Trust,” which Congress voted to make the official motto during the Cold War years.)

At the end of the workshop, Jackson went a bit off message, telling the virtually all-white audience that white evangelicals needed to do more than reach out to African Americans on wedge issues; that if they wanted success in the long-term, they would have to do more to confront issues facing the African American community, like poverty and educational opportunities. He said he was worried about racial violence in Florida when George Zimmerman is released, and about the potential for violence if Obama is not re-elected.

“I’m concerned with what happens if President Obama is not elected again and somebody says the white people suppressed the vote and they stole the election. I’m concerned about that.” Said Jackson, “I believe God is going to give us perhaps one more chance to turn this nation around. But if we don’t take it seriously, guess what saints, guess what folks, we deserve the darkness that comes.”

Jackson didn’t give any specifics about how well his fundraising is going, but he did publicly call out Rich Bott, CEO of the Bott Radio Network and chair of the National Religious Broadcasters’ executive committee, in seeking free time for his campaign: “I need you guys to put 10 black preachers on every available Christian voice in this nation. You need to give us a voice for marriage. You’ve got to pay for it. You’ve got to stop talking this smack and put your money where your mouth is.”

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.