Way back in early 2014, I reported on the Wilks brothers when I found their IRS filing for 2013 reporting their funding for some really sketchy anti-woman fundamentalist enterprises.
Now they're front-page news in a special Reuters report which links them to the mega-funding of Senator Ted Cruz' presidential bid and Kim Davis' antics in Kentucky. I'm sure if we dig down deeper we'll also find Matt Bevin -- running for Kentucky Governor -- in there somewhere, too.
Farris Wilks, you may recall, runs the Assembly of Yahweh, a fundamentalist church based in his home town, inherited from his father. His foundation -- The Thirteen Foundation -- also gives millions to a small non-profit dedicated to infiltrating and catching abortion clinics in activities that Wilks sees as sinful and evil, even if they are fully legal. While there are no obvious ties to the current CMP attacks on Planned Parenthood, the tactic is a time-honored one in anti-abortion circles.
From the Reuters article:
Wilks bowed his head and closed his eyes. “We lament and mourn the great sin of our nation, the many millions of babies murdered, and we pray that you turn these people away from this evil,” he said.
A slide flashed above the altar on the church’s movie screen with instructions on how to sign a petition asking Congress to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the women's health care agency that provides abortions and other medical services.
Cisco has two stoplights but 10 churches. So it isn’t unusual for residents to turn to their pastors for guidance. What is out of the ordinary is for that pastor to also be a billionaire. Farris Wilks, 63, and his younger brother Dan, 59, made a fortune in the recent oil-and-gas drilling boom.
Also setting Farris Wilks apart is a little-noticed filing with the Federal Election Commission in July that showed he and Dan, together with their wives, had given $15 million to a Super PAC backing Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz.
The Cruz donation makes the largely unknown Wilks family the biggest donors in the 2016 race for the White House. So far, they have even outspent the billionaire Koch brothers, who have vowed to use their Freedom Partners network of conservative donors to pour $1 billion into the election.
And so it should be no surprise to learn that Ted Cruz is the primary voice behind the call to shut down the government over funding of Planned Parenthood, right? It would seem so.
"We support (Cruz) because he believes in the morality of the free market, in keeping our country safe, and in the right of the unborn not to be killed in their mother’s womb," Farris Wilks said in an email to Reuters, speaking on behalf of the Wilks family.
But the brothers want everyone to know that more than Cruz' fundamentalist approach to governing and theocracy, the reason they support him is because he's a free marketeer.
The Wilkses say their support for Cruz is motivated by their political beliefs, not their religious convictions. Together with Cruz they share a passion for unbridled markets and are skeptical of the IRS and of scientific findings that climate change is man-made.
Of course. In Kevin Kruse's book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, he lays out the linkage between billionaires and the religious right going back 100 years. When Farris Wilks claims he only endorses Cruz for political sympathies, believe it. They all do.
It's why the Kochs, who really don't care one way or the other about gay marriage or abortion, are willing to spend vast sums of money to keep the Christian right angry and frothing.
In the end, it's not about religion for these billionaires. It's about free markets. Markets are the gods to which they sacrifice all.
With that in mind, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that the Farris brothers are also giving millions to the organizations propping up Kim Davis, including the Family Research Council and Liberty Counsel.
Farris' donations include $922,000 to the evangelical group the American Family Association as well as $1.5 million to Liberty Counsel. The Counsel is a conservative legal nonprofit that came to the aid of a Kentucky clerk who was jailed last week for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses.
The brothers’ political giving has also intersected with their own economic agenda as frackers.
The Reuters article is thorough, but downplays these brothers' extremism, and make no mistake: They are extremists.
Read Kruse's book. We will all be seeing the fruits of their billions in the upcoming election cycle, just as we are already, just as we have for years.