Gary Randall

It isn’t every day that one leading anti-gay activist accuses another of misusing cash donations.  Pastor Gary Randall, president of Faith and Freedom Network, appears to be accusing Family Policy Institute of Washington and/or its executive director Joseph Backholm of mishandling funds.

It all started with a florist who allegedly broke the law:

On April 9 of this year the Attorney General of Washington state filed a lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts in the southeastern Washington city of Richland.  Stutzman had refused to sell wedding flowers to a same-sex couple, a clear violation of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Calling the lawsuit “harassment”, Family Policy Institute of Washington sent an e-mail blast on April 10 announcing that “We will be helping to assemble Washington citizens to support this small business and communicate to our elected officials that this harassment is not being done with the consent of the governed.”

Since its inception in 2007, Family Policy Institute of Washington, an associate of Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund and Focus on the Family, has been an active participant in efforts to bar LGBT Washingtonians from realizing civil equality.  Last year, for example, FPIW donated their executive director Joseph Backholm to serve as chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, the ballot campaign that failed to repeal the state’s new marriage equality law.

By April 15, FPIW announced its interest in getting involved in the lawsuit and asked supporters to contribute to “Arlene’s Flowers Legal Defense Fund” via FPIW’s donation page (right, arrow added).

FPIW has also created a “Team Arlene’s” webpage to organize volunteers.

FPIW’s involvement in the lawsuit and related fundraising efforts has been widely reported by standard media including Seattle TimesTri-City Herald and Tacoma News Tribune and by conservative media including National Catholic Register, Christian Post, KGMI radio and Townhall.com.  FPIW’s April 10 blog post was even reprinted in Snohomish Times.  From Tri-City Herald‘s report:

A conservative family values organization, the Family Policy Institute of Washington, is asking people if they are interested in supporting a challenge by Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, to a consumer protection lawsuit filed this week by the attorney general.

“We will be helping to assemble Washington citizens to support this small business and communicate to our elected officials that this harassment is not being done with the consent of the governed,” said executive director Joseph Blackholm in a release.

On April 17, two days after FPIW announced its fundraising efforts, anti-gay pastor Gary Randall warned those in sympathy with Stutzman not to donate to her cause via “faith based organizations”:

This week I noticed that a couple of faith based organizations have begun raising funds on her behalf. While this seems, on the surface, to be commendable, time and experience tells me things are often not as they seem, particularly with certain organizations.  …

I am strongly suggesting you help her financially, but not through some other faith based organization. Here’s why. In recent events, particularly in regards to the defense of marriage, specifically R-71 and R-74, monies have been given to certain organizations intended to help with the specific issue at hand, but, I believe, have been used to help fund the organization instead. In some cases more than that for which the funds were raised.

Barronnelle told me she has not approved any other fund raising.

Randall was almost certainly referring to FPIW, based on the timing of his blog post; mention of R-71 and R-74, ballot measures that FPIW was heavily involved with; and the considerable media exposure that FPIW has received related to the lawsuit.

Only Randall can know his true motivation for warning people away from FPIW, since he has previously expressed contempt for Joseph Backholm and other colleagues in the anti-gay industry over what appear to be turf wars.

This time, however, Randall’s warning coincides with the recent report that Joseph Backholm is under investigation by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission for “failing to disclose contributions received or expenditures made in connection with staff services” while he was chair and treasurer of Preserve Marriage Washington.

Mr. Backholm is also under investigation for failing to disclose upwards of $900,000 in contributions to FPIW’s Family PAC political action committee between September, 2009 and May, 2012.  Last October, the Public Disclosure Commission referred the Family PAC case to the Washington state Attorney General for legal action.

Donor beware.