When Dan and Farris Wilks expanded the family's masonry business to include a fracking equipment sideline, belonging to the Billionaire Boys Club was probably not foremost on their minds. But when they sold their interest in Frac Tech to outside investors in 2011, that's exactly what happened. They became instant billionaires, worth more than T. Boone Pickens. That instant billionaire status made the Wilks brothers popular among candidates like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who rely upon the support of the uber-religious and ultra-rich to win elections.
Flush with their new wealth, both brothers set up foundations and set about the business of being charitable fellows, while reaping a nice tax benefit for their largesse. Dan Wilks limited the majority of his charitable activity to church donations and crisis centers, but Farris Wilks linked arms with the Kochtopus and helped fund many right-wing, anti-choice efforts around the country in 2012 through the Thirteen Foundation.
In 2012, the Thirteen Foundation gave the following grants to political organizations residing within the Koch network:
- American Majority - $2,114,000
- Franklin Center for Government and Integrity - $1,309,775
- Heritage Foundation - $500,000
- State Policy Network - $1,526,125
Total given to Koch affiliates: $5,449,900, or 42% of their total giving for 2012.
As you may have gathered from the video above, Farris Wilks is a very religious man who thinks gays are Satan's spawn. But as hot as his fire is for gays, he loathes abortion even more. In 2012 he had the money to back that loathing with action.
Wilks gave to the usual national anti-gay, anti-choice groups like Family Research Council ($265,000), Liberty Counsel ($500,000) and Focus on the Family ($1,100,000). On a regional level, the Texas Right to Life Committee received $160,000 and 40 Days for Life received $20,000. The foundation gives generously to pregnancy crisis centers, too.
But that's the tip of the iceberg. Farris Wilks is the engine underneath two other activist organizations that seek to stop women from exercising their lawful right to choose.
Mother Jones reported in August, 2013:
An anti-abortion group backed by a billionaire fracking tycoon has embarked on an unusual campaign to shut down abortion clinics: direct mailing DVDs to lawyers in order to entice them to sue doctors.
Fifty-three thousand DVDs must have cost a fair amount of money. Life Dynamics took in a modest half million dollars in revenue in both 2009 and 2010. But the group did get a significant influx of new money in 2011, more than doubling its revenue with a single $850,000 donation from the Thirteen Foundation, which is based in Eastland, Texas.
In 2012, Farris Wilks' foundation gave Life Dynamics $725,000, with the promise of $800,000 to come in 2013. Life Dynamics doesn't simply engage in DVD activism, either. Founder Mark Crutcher explains in this 2005 interview:
When I started Life Dynamics, one of the things I looked around for was what I perceived as holes in the (pro-life) effort. I had no interest in creating another pro-life organization to duplicate the efforts of the existing organizations. One of the things I noticed was that the pro-life movement had never developed a really sophisticated or professional counter-intelligence or intelligence-gathering mechanism. Everything we did on that front was somewhat haphazard and amateurish. That was something I knew something about …
I developed some of my own strategies for getting information … The revelations about the abortion industry being involved in the marketing of baby parts … We were the organization that brought that information out. We were undercover in an abortion clinic in Oberland, Ks. for 31 months and were able to come out with information and documentation to prove that there was this grisly trade in aborted parts of babies.
Mr. Crutcher doesn't just encourage attorneys to sue abortion doctors. He actively engages in espionage against organizations serving women. Planned Parenthood published profiles of 15 activist anti-choice organizations and their tactics. Of Life Dynamics, they note their activities in the area of "espionage - use of group 4,000 'spies for life' to research clinics and physicians. LDI paid one spy $21,000 over two and a half years to infiltrate companies and clinics that provide or obtain fetal tissue for medical research and also secretly recorded security meetings of the National Abortion Federation (NAF)." The profile also lists misinformation campaigns, frivolous lawsuits, misrepresentation, and luring clinic employees to file reports of tax evasion with the IRS as common tactics.
Crutcher is responsible for Project Choice, which was designed to mine the names of doctors who were harassed for performing abortion services in order to harass them some more.
Mr. Crutcher said that Bottom Feeder and Project Choice are part of a seven-pronged attack on physicians. Another project is the 800 Club. Anyone belonging to this group gets a list of toll-free numbers of abortion providers across the country. The club's literature states, "Obviously, some pro-life activists may choose to repeatedly call these numbers for the purpose of harassing these doctors, or creating what might be called an 'electronic rescue' of the abortion mill." The literature cautions that businesses do get an activity report that allows them to identify who called during the previous month.
In the startup days, Crutcher's organization received large donations from Chris Zomaya, a California technology entrepreneur. Those donations ended in 2005, limiting the organization's reach. With Wilks' cash infusion, Crutcher has the freedom to expand and ramp up his specified mission, which presumably includes ongoing espionage and intelligence gathering against organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Media Revolution Ministries
In 2011, Media Revolution Ministries was a small nonprofit organization with a tiny footprint and an anti-choice message which they frame as compassionate and "non-judgmental." Their statement of purpose on form 990 describes them as an organization to reach "abortion-determined women" in order to connect them with "life-affirming organizations."
Their website, OnlineForLife.com offers a smartphone app for supporters to pray for aborted babies. Anti-choice graphics are available, they have a store, and slick marketing. Founder Brian Fisher writes a blog for the site about topics ranging from legal abortion challenges to marches for life.
Media Revolution Ministries also runs AbortionMemorial.com and routinely games Google in order to misdirect women searching for abortion services. As they explain in this 2011 video, their goal is to "intercept them when they’re searching for abortion information, and instead we direct them to pro-life pregnancy centers in their area where they’re counseled for life."
Media Revolution Ministries had a budget of about $80,000 in 2011. In 2012, their budget exploded by $2.4 million, of which $2.2 million was supplied by Farris Wilks' Thirteen Foundation.
Big Christian is watching you, ladies. Beware. Farris Wilks wants you to have those babies. It's less clear what you're supposed to do to support them after they're born, however.
Yahweh's Restoration Ministries, Assembly of Yahweh
Farris Wilks takes religion seriously, but it's unclear what that religion actually is. They seem to be a blend of a little Judaism, a little fundamental Christian with maybe some New Apostolic Reformation tossed in for good measure. Farris is an elder at the Assembly of Yahweh, 7th Day, which is not to be confused with the more widely known Seventh Day Adventist religion.
The church offers this description:
Members revere all 66 books of the Bible. They seek to follow the Messiah, Yahshua of Nazareth, by walking in his footsteps. Thus they keep the Sabbath, the Passover and other festivals of Lev. 23, choose to eat clean foods, and strive to please the Author of “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25). Inherent in that goal is being good neighbors. “After all,” says one member, “the Messiah said all the law can be summed up in ‘Love Yahweh’ and ‘love your neighbor’ (Matt. 22:36-40). We're passionate about both, and we hope it shows.”
The Thirteen Foundation appears to be named for the 13 foundational principles of Judaism. Without offering a deep theological discussion in this space, it would appear from looking over the church website that they are grounded in Old Testament principles, using the New Testament as a helpful guide which doesn't overshadow the Old Testament fundamentals. The church is located in Romney, TX, which boasts a population of twelve.
Both Wilks brothers contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars not only to their own church, but other Yahweh organizations around the country and Texas churches sharing their fundamentalist views with a healthy dose of Old Testament legalism. Other local churches and Christian organizations benefitted from the brothers' largesse as well, including Gunsight Baptist Church, Solid Rock Camp and Conference Center, and River of Life Ministries. While the last church is a non-denominational entity, their website links to Duane Sheriff Ministries, a big player in the right-wing religious right network.
Wendy Davis has a plateful with these two guys operating in the state where she hopes to be elected governor. Both brothers have foundations with over $100 million each. They clearly are committed to giving to organizations which are not simply ideology-driven, but also unafraid to engage in covert techniques to move their message.
At least Mr. Wilks was transparent about funding these organizations. For that, I applaud him. Unlike the Kochs, he gave directly from his own foundation instead of disguising those gifts through puppet organizations and donor-advised funds. Clearly Mr. Wilks is unafraid to stand behind his principles in public.
Still, they have money, and they're not afraid to use it. Keep them on your radar.