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GOP US House candidate Scott Baugh bankrolled by right-wing advocate for biblical law

The California Republican has relied throughout his career on funds from far-right donor Howard F. Ahmanson Jr.

By Josh Israel - October 16, 2023
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Scott Baugh
Scott Baugh, Republican candidate for California's 47th Congressional District, is interviewed in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Saturday, October 7, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Republican former California Assembly Member Scott Baugh, who lost a 2022 congressional race to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, is running for her open House seat in 2024. Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson Jr., a right-wing megadonor and longtime advocate for strict biblical law, has been a top donor throughout Baugh’s political career.

Porter, who is now running for U.S. Senate, beat Baugh 51.7%-48.3% in California’s 47th Congressional District. The district is based in Orange County and has a Democratic lean of about 3% compared to the country overall, according to the Cook Political Report. 

Baugh served from 1995 to 2000 in the California State Assembly, after he won in a recall election. According to a Los Angeles Times report from November 1995, Ahmanson was one of his two top donors. Federal Election Commission data shows that Ahmanson has also helped bankroll Baugh’s House campaigns, giving the legal maximum donations of $2,900 for Baugh’s 2022 primary campaign, $2,900 for his 2022 general election race, and $3,300 for his 2024 primary fight.

Ahmanson is the son of savings and loan millionaire and philanthropist Howard F. Ahmanson Sr. and heir to his fortune.

Over the years, Ahmanson Jr. has used his funds to support conservative politicians and Christian organizations. He was a top donor to the group behind California’s unconstitutional Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that took away the right of same-sex couples to marry, and backed CareNet, which operates anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers infamous for misleading patients about the procedure. According to the Daily Beast, he funded a $1 million smear campaign against openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson in the early 2000s.

“We’ve been tracking Howard Ahmanson for years. He was one of the main funders of Christian reconstructionism, which calls for the imposition of Old Testament law,’” Americans United for Separation of Church and State spokesperson Rob Boston told the Guardian in 2005. “He tries to get his stuff into schools which may explain why today 45% of Americans doubt evolution.”

Ahmanson spent decades donating to and serving on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, a tax-exempt organization founded by the late Rousas John Rushdoony that asserts “all things are to be ‘reconstructed’ according to God’s revealed will in Scripture.” Rushdoony urged laws based on “faith, not reason,” including death by stoning for gay and lesbian people and others as laid out in the Book of Leviticus.

While Ahmanson told the Center for Public Integrity in 2006 that he did not personally endorse “the stoning or execution of homosexuals,” he told the Orange County Register in 1985: “My purpose is total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

Spokespeople for Ahmanson and Baugh did not immediately respond to American Independent Foundation questions for this story.

In the past, some Republican politicians have returned contributions from Ahmanson in light of his record and views. (Disclosure: in 2004, this story’s author was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club, a political group that successfully encouraged Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf to return a $1,000 donation from Ahmanson).

Baugh has not returned Ahmanson’s donations and appears to share at least some of his far-right views.

In 1998, Baugh told the Los Angeles Times, “I do not support abortion in any form.”

In his 2022 campaign, he opposed legislation to codify federal abortion rights protections and to codify federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. “I believe life begins at conception,” he told NBC News in August 2022. “Fundamentally I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I have no problem with social arrangements or social contracts and all that.”

On his 2022 campaign site, Baugh endorsed a school-voucher-type program to allow parents to take public education funds to pay for private and religious school education. 

In a June video for the tax-exempt International Christian Ambassadors Association, first published by HuffPost, Baugh argued that “wokism” is the greatest threat facing religious liberty.

“What’s the greatest threat to religious freedom? We were born in the Revolutionary War. We survived civil wars, World War II, World War I, a lot of wars, 9/11,” Baugh said. “None of those were that threatening to our country compared to the war that we’re fighting now. That war is about wokism and the lack of common sense.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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