Look Who's Funding This Top Conservative Women's Group

Conservative funders have left no stone unturned over the past few decades in building a robust policy and advocacy infrastructure. Among their more clever moves has been backing organizations that challenge liberal dominance in issues of race and gender. 

The Independent Women's Forum is a premier example. The organization emerged from the 1992 fight over the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, when conservative women came out swinging for Thomas. IWF has been chugging along every since, offering counterpoints to liberal feminist viewpoints on a wide range of issues. 

Among organizations with "women" in their names, the Independent Women's Forum is unusual. For one thing, IWF defines its mandate broadly, working not just on traditional women's issues, but also economic policy, education, and healthcare. In some ways, the group's profile is that of libertarian think tank influenced by Christian moralistic teachings.

Which may help explain why the Koch brothers are among the IWF's biggest boosters. Within the past few years, the Koch-backed Donors Capital Fund gave $1.6 million to the IWF, and the Koch-backed Donors Trust granted the IWF an additional $195,000. Meanwhile, the Charles Koch Foundation donated some $9,115 to the IWF to support the organization's educational programming. The John William Pope Foundation, which is associated with Art Pope, the well-known North Carolina libertarian, is another supporter of IWF in recent years, giving smaller amounts of money. 

In past years, IWF also received funds from mainstay conservative foundations like Scaife and Bradley, but that money seems to have dried up lately. The Randolph Foundation, which supports libertarian outfits like CATO and FreedomWorks (not to mention the National Navy SEAL Museum), recently awarded $340,000 to the IWF. The IWF also received $10,000 not long ago from the Bochnowski Family Foundation, which also gives to the Heritage Foundation and the Hoover Institution.

IWF is a small operation, with fewer than a dozen staffers and slightly more fellows, but it's very active. Through newsletters, policy-themed events, media outreach, issue briefs and publications in various media fora, IWF works to achieve its stated goal of "increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty." The IWF operates with the philosophy that the market, left to its own devices, will ensure the most optimal outcome for American women, and that government safety nets and protections erode women's capacities to achieve their full potential. 

In addition to its main operation, IWF backs a national network of like-minded women and Independent Women’s Voice, an electorally oriented 501(c)(4).