Moms for Liberty Is Coming for the Swing States

Mother Jones illustration; Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP; Al Drago/CNP/ZUMA

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Moms for Liberty is on a mission.

The conservative “parents’ rights” group will spend more than $3 million on ads in swing states ahead of the election, according to a Wednesday report in the Associated Press.

Known for stirring the panic about pronoun usage in schools and pioneering book bans across the country, Moms for Liberty plans to target voters in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. They hope to expand to Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania later this year, according to the AP.

Tina Descovich, one of the co-founders of Moms for Liberty, said that their goal is to “activate” their members who do not vote. The group doesn’t endorse specific presidential candidates, but their preferences—for electing right-wing representatives—are clear: The latest ad campaign, the AP reports, will attack President Biden for his recently-enacted Title IX rules that extend safeguards to LGBTQ students.

The group refused to divulge their funding source for the new campaign to the AP, with Descovich only saying “investors” want to see the group “grow in specific states.” (As my colleague Kiera Butler has reported, Moms for Liberty has acknowledged that they have worked with the well-funded conservative groups the Heritage Foundation and the Leadership Institute.)

A spokesperson for the group did not immediately respond to questions from Mother Jones.

The announcement comes as Moms for Liberty’s latest effort to soften their image and make inroads in blue and purple states. As Kiera has reported, the group has recently shifted its focus from book bans and pronoun panic to literacy issues, essentially alleging that schools are too “woke” to teach reading correctly. Earlier this year, I attended Moms for Liberty’s town hall in New York City, where they trotted out their new talking points about literacy issues, along with their go-to culture war screeds against alleged indoctrination of students by social justice-oriented teachers and mandatory masking in schools during the pandemic. Backlash to that event was swift, from both local politicians and protesters. Last year, they held their national conference—which Kiera attended—in Philadelphia, where several of the then-Republican candidates for president attended; a few hundred protesters were also present.

The Moms have recently attracted a swell of bad press, thanks to a disastrous 60 Minutes interview in which the co-founders struggled to defend their stances; a chapter leading quoting Hitler in a newsletter last year; some members’ close ties to the Proud Boys; and, perhaps most notably, the group’s national co-founder Bridget Ziegler becoming embroiled in a sex scandal after it came out that she and her husband, Florida GOP chair Christian Ziegler, were involved in a three-way sexual relationship with a woman—even though Bridget Ziegler played a key role in the passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which forbade discussion of LGBTQ issues in many school settings. (Christian Ziegler was accused of rape by the other woman in the encounter—an allegation he denied, and which authorities ultimately declined to prosecute—and was booted from his post within the state Republican party earlier this year.)

Descovich insisted to the AP that the negative press has not hurt the group: “No one reached out to me and said, ‘We’re not going to donate to you anymore because of these stories,’” she said. “Everybody understands that the work we’re doing is going to be under intense attacks and scrutiny.”

An unanswered question, though, remains: Who is the deep-pocketed donor, or donors, paying for their election-year ad buys in swing states?

As the group’s arch nemesis, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the AP, there’s likely a few reasons they’re not revealing that.

“Given the timing of their new push and given that they will not reveal their investors, they’re telling you two things,” Weingarten said. “One, they’re telling you it’s not grassroots. And two, they’re telling you that they’re operatives for somebody else.”