Howard Ahmanson, Jr.

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Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, Jr. (born February 3, 1950) is an heir of the Home Savings bank fortune built by his father Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, Sr.. Ahmanson Jr. is a multi-millionaire philanthropist and financier of many Christian conservative cultural, religious and political causes.

Biography[edit]

Ahmanson is the son of Dorothy Johnston Grannis and the American financier Howard F. Ahmanson, Sr (1906–1968). His parents divorced when he was 10.[1] Despite the trappings of wealth, Howard, Jr. was a lonely child. He has said, "I resented my family background, [my father] could never be a role model, whether by habits or his lifestyle, it was never anything I wanted."[2] Howard Ahmanson, Sr. died when his son was 18, and Ahmanson Jr. inherited a vast fortune.

Ahmanson Jr. went to Occidental College, where he obtained a degree in economics.[3] He then toured Europe, but he returned because of arthritis.[3] He earned a master's degree in linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington and has fluency in several languages.[4]

In the 1970s Ahmanson became a Calvinist and joined R. J. Rushdoony's Christian Reconstructionist movement. Ahmanson served as a board member of Rushdoony's Chalcedon Foundation for approximately 15 years before resigning in 1996. In 1996, Ahmanson said he had left the Chalcedon board and "does not embrace all of Rushdoony's teachings."[5][6] He is somewhat reclusive and has Tourette syndrome;[7] his wife usually communicates with the media and others on his behalf.

TIME Magazine covered the Ahmansons in their 2005 profiles of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America, classifying them as "the financiers."[8]

Controversy[edit]

Ahmanson's ties as a young man to the Christian Reconstructionist movement and R. J. Rushdoony have been a source of controversy over the years. In an article on the Episcopal Diocese of Washington website attacking the American Anglican Council, Jim Naughton emphasized Ahmanson's ties with Rushdoony.[9] After a $3,000 contribution to Linda Lingle, a Republican running for governor of Hawaii, was returned in 2002, the Ahmansons admitted they had an image problem and let the Orange County Register do a five-part series on them in 2004 to give the public a more accurate view of their work and beliefs.[10]

Ahmanson is reported to have "never supported his mentor's calls for the death penalty for homosexuals";[7] instead, as the Orange County Register reported in 2004, he "no longer consider[s] [it] essential" to stone people who are deemed to have committed certain immoral acts. Ahmanson also told the Register, "It would still be a little hard to say that if one stumbled on a country that was doing that, that it is inherently immoral, to stone people for these things. But I don't think it's at all a necessity."[11]

In 2004, when asked by Max Blumenthal for Salon if "she and her husband would still want to install the supremacy of biblical law", Roberta Ahmanson replied: "I'm not suggesting we have an amendment to the Constitution that says we now follow all 613 of the case laws of the Old Testament ... But if by biblical law you mean the last seven of the Ten Commandments, you know, yeah."[3] After the initial publishing of the 2004 Blumenthal piece in Salon, Ahmanson wrote a response letter identifying several inaccuracies and assumptions on the part of Salon. Salon then published a response with changes made to the original text and addressing some, but not all of the concerns raised by the Ahmansons. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/letters/2004/03/12/ahmanson_911ads\

Ahmanson has supported certain organizations of the ex-gay movement in that they regard homosexuality as a condition to be dealt with similarly to alcoholism and drug addiction. In 2008 Ahmanson's company, Fieldstead and Co., contributed $1,395,000 to the "YES on 8" campaign according to the Los Angeles Times "Follow the donors" page. Proposition 8, on the California November 2008 ballot, eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry.[12]

Political, cultural and religious financing[edit]

Howard and Roberta Ahmansons' personal philanthropic organization is Fieldstead and Company, also known as the Fieldstead Institute, an unincorporated entity which has never had a telephone number.[13] Fieldstead does not disclose its finances, but in 2004 they gave the Orange County Register a list of the top 20 organizations they support. In order of the total amount they had given up to that point: Fullhart-Carnegie Museum Trust, Perry, Iowa; Drew University, Madison, N.J.; Discovery Institute, Seattle, Wash.; Claremont Institute; St. James Anglican Church, Newport Beach; Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.; American Anglican Council, Washington, D.C.; Food for the Hungry, Phoenix, Ariz.; Mariners Christian School, Costa Mesa; Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington D.C.; Biola University, La Mirada, Calif.; Orange County Rescue Mission, Santa Ana, Calif.; The Chalcedon Foundation, Vallecito, Calif.; INFEMIT USA, Washington, D.C.; Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C.; World Vision, Federal Way, Wash.; Maranatha Trust, Washington, D.C.; National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, Cincinnati, Ohio; SEN USA, Hobart, Ind.; InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Madison, Wis.[14]

Ahmanson was the chair of the California Independent Business Political Action Committee (PAC) and later Allied Business Pac. Since the 1980s, he has successfully worked with a small number of conservative businessmen and multi-millionaires, principally Rob Hurtt of Container Supply Corporation, to organize political action committees and increase conservatives' control of the California state government. Ahmanson and Hurtt created the Capitol Resources Institute, which became a major lobbying force for Christian conservatives in Sacramento. The Ahmansons made political donations to the 1993 California school voucher initiative (which failed) and a 1992 voucher initiative in Colorado. Donations from the Ahmansons, Howard's former associate Rob Hurtt and the PACs they are involved with added up to almost $3 million split between 19 conservative candidates and various causes in 1992. Hurtt himself was elected State Senator in 1994 and became chairman of the Republican campaign committee for the State Legislature.

At that time, the GOP was only four seats away from majority control in 1994. This political success has been seen as the result of planning undertaken at the Third Annual Northwest Conference for Reconstruction in 1983 by Wayne Johnson, who, according to The Public Eye,[15] helped craft California's 1990 term limits initiative and "managed the campaigns of several Ahmanson-backed candidates in 1992." The Ahmansons supported Proposition 22, a ban on same-sex marriage in California. Howard Ahmanson contributed $62,500 to the Western Center for Law and Religious Freedom, which, among other things, aided the citizens and leaders of the Kern County school district defend their choice to ban One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book by Gabriel García Márquez, for its "profanity" and "vulgarity." (Other Ahmanson political initiatives and their results are discussed in Blumenthal's 2004 Salon article.[3])

Ahmanson is a major backer of the Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture opposes the theory of evolution and promotes intelligent design.[16]

Through Fieldstead, Ahmanson's wife Roberta, a former religion reporter at the Orange County Register,[17] has funded and been directly involved with some programs of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (now known as the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities). These include the Washington Journalism Center,[18] its Summer Institute of Journalism, and its Fieldstead Journalism Lectures. Fieldstead has funded other Christian journalistic projects such as Gegrapha[19] and GetReligion. A common thread in all of these organizations is a personal friend of Roberta Ahmanson's: Terry Mattingly (www.tmatt.net) who directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, teaches journalism, and writes a weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service. Roberta Ahmanson recently coedited a book called Blind Spot.[20][21] The Ahmansons have also supported the creation of the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, published by InterVarsity Press.[22]

Ahmanson has donated $1,395,000 through Fieldstead And Co.[23][24] to support California Proposition 8 (2008), a November 2008 ballot initiative that would amend the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, which had been legalized in a California Supreme Court case earlier in the year. He had been a six-figure donor to California's previous initiative, Proposition 22.[25] In late 2008, Ahmanson, worried about the narrowing focus of the California Republican Party (lowering taxes), announced that he switched parties and is now a registered Democrat. [26]

Ahmanson was a major force opposing abuses by California redevelopment agencies, especially concerned about widespread use eminent domain and public subsidies to private businesses. He financed the publication "Redevelopment: The Unknown Government" and the formation of Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform (MORR), along with college friend and Fullerton Mayor Chris Norby, in 1995. Norby later served in the California State Assembly when--with Ahmanson's strong backing--redevelopment agencies were abolished in 2011 and MORR disbanded having succeeded in its sole purpose.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Larsen, Peter. "Burden of Wealth" Orange County Register. 8 August 2004.
  2. ^ Haas, Jane Glenn. "The Salvation of H.F. Ahmanson Jr." Orange County Register. 1985.
  3. ^ a b c d Blumenthal, Max (January 6, 2004). "Avenging angel of the religious right". Salon.com. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  4. ^ [1], Fieldstead & Co. - Who We Are.
  5. ^ Reason, Nov. 1998
  6. ^ Flank, Lenny (2007). Deception by Design: The Intelligent Design Movement in America. St. Petersburg, FL: Red and Black Publishers. p. 52. ISBN 0-9791813-0-5. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Doward, J. Anti-gay millionaire bankrolls Caravaggio spectacular. The Observer. March 6, 2005.
  8. ^ The 24 most influential Evangelicals in America. Time. February 7, 2005.
  9. ^ "Naughton, Jim, "Following the Money", part 1 from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington website
  10. ^ "Rich in Faith". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 2009-06-07. 
  11. ^ Larsen, Peter. Part 3: The strength of their conviction: The Ahmansons' clout doesn't sit well with people who disagree with them. Orange County Register. August 10, 2004.
  12. ^ "Proposition 8 Campaign Contributions". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ Doward, Jamie. Anti-gay millionaire bankrolls Caravaggio spectacular. The Observer. March 6, 2005.
  14. ^ Larsen, Peter. "Giving generously to their causes". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 2009-05-12. 
  15. ^ Clarkson, Frederick. Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence. The Public Eye. March/June 1994. Retrieved on 2007-10-16.
  16. ^ Wilgoren, Jodi (August 21, 2005). "Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  17. ^ OC register
  18. ^ Washington Journalism Center
  19. ^ Gegrapha
  20. ^ Paul A. Marshall, Lela Gilbert, & Roberta Green-Ahmanson (Eds.). (2009). Blind spot: When journalists don’t get religion. New York: Oxford University Press. ISSN 0195374371
  21. ^ Blind Spot was reviewed by Judith M. Buddenbaum (2010). Blind spot: When journalists don't get religion (book review). Journal of Media & Religion, v9 n1, pp47-51. doi:10.1080/15348420903536844
  22. ^ Levenick, Christopher (Spring 2012). "Ex Libris Philanthropy". Philanthropy. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 
  23. ^ Proposition 8 contributions San Francisco Chronicle, Nov 1, 2008, Accessed Nov 1, 2008.
  24. ^ Human Rights Campaign, 2008. List of Organizational Contributors to the Yes on 8 Campaign.
  25. ^ Dan Morainm Competing images in the fight over same-sex marriage, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2008, Accessed June 29, 2008.
  26. ^ [2] Orange County Register, March 23, 2009

External links[edit]