The Independent Women’s Forum and Voice: Not “Independent” and Not Neutral

The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) describes itself as a “non-partisan research and education institution.”

The Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) claims to “ensure that mainstream women’s voices are heard.”

But these groups are definitely not independent, neutral, or non-partisan.

They Told Their Donors that Neutrality Is Just Branding

Here’s how they actually describe themselves to donors:

“Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know know (sic) that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position…”

That’s what Heather Richardson Higgins, the IWV President and IWF Board Chair, told funders at the annual meeting of David Horowitz’ far-right “Freedom Center.”

As this website documents, IWF/V routinely advances positions that weaken women’s rights and that most women oppose.

Standing Against Most Women on Kavanaugh

To take a recent example, the majority of American women disapprove of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, “by a 23-point margin (58 percent to 35 percent),” according to a Washington Post-ABC poll.

Yet IWF/V spent a substantial amount of undisclosed money to help force Kavanaugh onto the Court, despite eye-witness testimony that he had assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and documentary evidence that he had repeatedly lied under oath. The Post’s fact-checker also found that he misled the Senate.

IWF/V did not stand with the majority of women on Kavanaugh.

Instead, IWF/V leaders wore t-shirts emblazoned with “Women for Kavanaugh” as they helped organize rallies and other efforts to pressure the Senate to confirm him.

Part of the Right-Wing Effort to Capture Our Courts

IWF/V sought to use its PR operations to give a woman’s face to the defense of a judicial nominee most women opposed.

It is part of the network of groups tied to Leonard Leo, whom Robert O’Harrow and Shawn Boberg in the Washington Post report is orchestrating a more than 250 million dollar effort to dramatically change judicial precedents and laws through installing his allies on the courts and more.

His radically reactionary agenda (and the agenda of the dark money funders he works with) includes destroying precedents that protect women’s reproductive rights and dictating new limits on the power of women and men in our democracy to regulate corporations.

Like Charles Koch, IWF/V claims to take no position against reproductive rights, even though they both help candidates who are contemptuous of women’s rights to bodily autonomy. Also, like the oil billionaire Koch, IWF/V routinely attacks policies to regulate corporations.

IWF Backed Clarence Thomas, Too, Despite Evidence of His Sexual Misconduct

This is exactly who IWF/V is.

IWF/V grew out of a group of right-wing Washington insiders who worked together almost 30 years ago to defend Clarence Thomas when Anita Hill gave eye-witness testimony of how Thomas had sexually harassed her, even as he led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Back then IWF/V was a committee of friends of Thomas and his wife, Ginni, who asserted that because he had not harassed them he could not have harassed Professor Hill. But, the fact that a man does not harass on all women does not mean he does not harass on any.

When it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, IWF/V has stood on the side of right-wing men compellingly accused of sexual misconduct toward women.

And that’s not all.

IWV Has Backed Men With Extreme Views on Rape

For example, IWV spent money on calls to voters backing U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin after he claimed that rape victims couldn’t get pregnant because “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

IWV helped the Senate candidate who claimed that “if it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” and other rape apologists, too.

And, it spent a six-figure sum on ads backing U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock after he claimed that getting pregnant from rape is a “gift from God” and that gift “is something that God intended to happen.”

The IWF/V have also backed Trump Education Secretary Betsy De Vos’ efforts to weaken protections for college women who are sexually assaulted. IWF has also repeatedly asserted that rape claims by college women are overstated.

IWF/V Is Also a Pay-to-Play Front Group

IWF/V is also a pay-to-play operation that has gone on air to object to tobacco regulations without disclosing its funding from tobacco companies, for example.

IWF/V has also misled the press and public about its funding.

Earlier in 2019, IWF denied getting any funding from groups controlled Charles Koch. But late last year, IWF/V touted funding from the “Charles Koch Institute” to their most ardent members at its annual gala.

IWF actually has a long history of close ties to the Koch network.

Trying to Trade Paid Parental Leave for Delayed Retirement and More 

IWF/V is so aligned with the Koch agenda against family-friendly benefits that most women support that they are actively trying to combat popular support for Paid Family Medical Leave by instead pushing Congress to have parents borrow from their future Social Security retirement to fund parental leave.

IWF’s leader, Carrie Lukas, has even boasted that getting Congress to embrace this would at last open up the Social Security Insurance Trust Fund and have “lasting implications for government safety nets more broadly.”

Privatizing Social Security and getting rid of other safety net programs has also been on Koch’s wish list since at least the 1970s.

IWF has long sought to privatize Social Security and has opposed Equal Pay. It also tried to get Title IX protections for female athletes struck down, and more.

For years and years, IWF has also opposed Equal Pay and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). They have also tried to get courts to strike down Title IX, whose protections for equal opportunity for athletic programs for girls and women have transformed the lives of more than one hundred million women in this country over the last 40 years.

These facts and more are presented here as a resource for documented information about IWF/V to help the press and public better understand this group. 

This site, www.independentwomensforum.org, is a forum for research about issues affecting women and for the voices of independent women who are not beholden to corporate agendas or Charles Koch. It is certainly not affiliated with the organizations calling themselves Independent Women’s Forum and Independent Women’s Voice or with the websites IWF.org and IWV.org.

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