Conservative nonprofit plans to spend millions bashing ‘woke’ left in midterms

Last updated on August 16, 2022

A conservative “dark money” group is claiming that it will spend millions of dollars in the run-up to the midterm election blasting what it calls “the woke ideology of sheltered white liberals.”

Citizens for Sanity, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization working with prominent Republican consultants, has begun running a television, newspaper and billboard advertising campaign in battleground congressional districts, according to details shared first with POLITICO. This week, the organization says it will begin running a contentious six-figure TV ad blitz highlighting the issue of transgender women playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

The commercial — which was produced by John Brabender, a veteran GOP strategist who has worked for a range of high-profile Republican candidates over the years — imagines a transgender athlete competing in a women’s track meet and handily defeating the competition.

“Unfortunately, this competition was over before it even began,” the ad’s narrator says, calling out “Biden and his radical allies.” The ad continues: “Woke left-wing politicians are destroying girls’ sports.”

The blitz underscores the increasing focus on the right on gender issues, with some conservatives looking to make it a centerpiece of political campaigns. Transgender women have been allowed to compete in women’s categories in the Olympics since 2003 and the NCAA since 2010. In 2020, Idaho became the first state to enact transgender athlete restrictions. Since then, more than half a dozen states, including Mississippi, Montana, Florida, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama, have barred transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Citizens for Sanity has over the last several weeks begun running billboard advertisements with messages like “Protect Pregnant Men from Climate Discrimination” and “Open the jails. Open the borders. Close the schools. Vote progressive this November.”

Another billboard says: “Violent criminals deserve our compassion and respect. This fall, stand strong for progressive values.”

Republican operative Ian Prior is serving as a strategic consultant to the group. He is also executive director of Fight for Schools, another nonprofit that helped to make critical race theory a central issue in the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, as shorthand for a broader critique of how race and social issues are being taught in the K-12 education system. Most public school officials across the country say they do not teach the theory, even in districts where lawmakers are seeking to ban it.

“The woke ideology of sheltered white liberals is a mortal threat to American liberty, security and prosperity,” Prior said in a statement.

“Citizens for Sanity is not an ideological organization: we stand for reason, common sense, objectivity, equality, the neutral rule of law, and open scientific inquiry — everything the radical left now stands implacably against,” he added. “And we are using these messaging campaigns to alert Americans to the urgent need to defeat and repudiate woke insanity before it destroys America.”

Under campaign finance laws, the organization is not required to disclose its donors. But people familiar with the group say they expect it to invest millions of dollars in its ad campaign. It has so far focused its efforts on Hispanic-heavy congressional districts in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.