US Christian right ‘fundamentalists’ linked to the Trump administration and Steve Bannon are among a dozen American groups that have poured at least $50 million of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the last decade, openDemocracy can reveal today.
Between them, these groups have backed ‘armies’ of ultra-conservative lawyers and political activists, as well as ‘family values’ campaigns against LGBT rights, sex education and abortion – and a number appear to have increasing links with Europe’s far right.
They are spending money on a scale “not previously imagined”, according to lawmakers and human rights advocates, who have called our findings “shocking”. Reacting to openDemocracy’s findings, a cross-party group of more than 40 MEPs has called on the EU’s transparency tsar Frans Timmermans to look into the influence of “US Christian fundamentalists… with the greatest urgency” ahead of May’s European Parliament elections.
Among the biggest spenders is a group whose chief counsel is also Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow. Another organisation has collaborated with a controversial Rome-based ‘institute’ backed by Steve Bannon. And a number of the groups are connected to the World Congress of Families: a network of ultra-conservative activists which has links to far-right politicians and movements in several European countries, including Italy, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Serbia.
None of these American groups discloses who its donors are – though at least two have links to famous conservative billionaires, such as the Koch brothers (who helped bankroll the Tea Party Movement) and the family of Trump’s education secretary.
The increasing ties between some of these US Christian conservative groups and the European far right will be on display this weekend at a summit of the World Congress of Families (WCF) in Verona, Italy. Right-wing politicians and their supporters from across the continent are expected to attend – including the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, who has described the WCF as a showcase for “the Europe that we like”.
In a letter copied to the presidents of the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament, the cross-party group of MEPs has demanded action to protect European democracy “against nefarious outside influences”.