David Horowitz -- the right-wing pundit who has recently sought to defend himself against charges of racism by baselessly branding one of his critics, radio host Al Franken, a "racist" -- paid nearly $300,000 to Rotterman & Associates, a Republican media consulting firm that helped run the racially divisive campaigns of former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), a review of the tax filings of Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture shows.
The financial records tying Horowitz to the Helms political machine specify only that the payments to Rotterman were for "consultant" services to Horowitz's center. In North Carolina, Marc and Karen Rotterman, who head Rotterman & Associates, have worked for Republican campaigns using race- and gay-baiting political tactics.
Horowitz has penned a series of racially provocative attacks that have caused critics to conclude he is a bigot, including an August 16, 1999, column for Salon.com titled "Guns don't kill black people, other blacks do," a February 2001 campaign to publish an ad titled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea -- and Racist Too" in college newspapers across the country, and his 1999 book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes.
More recently, in a January 26 posting on the History News Network website about "Why I Am Not Celebrating" the 90th birthday of the African-American historian John Hope Franklin, the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University and chairman of President Clinton's Commission on Race, Horowitz referred to Franklin as "the most honored and generally revered African American historian of slavery," then attacked Franklin's response to his anti-reparations ad by characterizing his writing as that of "a racial ideologue rather than a historian" and "almost pathological." In the piece, Horowitz, who has no academic credentials as a historian, sought to defend his claim that "free blacks and the free descendants of blacks" benefited from slavery.
Through it all, Horowitz has sought to portray himself as a strong supporter of civil rights. In a November 30, 2004, column, he wrote that "there is no single cause -- except America's wars against totalitarian foes -- to which I have devoted myself more consistently that than that of racial equality. Not a shred of evidence exists to the contrary."
Horowitz is president and co-founder of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC) and the editor-in-chief of FrontPageMag.com, the CSPC's online journal. The center's agenda includes right-wing campus organizing and opposing affirmative action programs. CSPC is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) public charity. As such, the organization must file a Form 990 with the IRS every year, in which it is required to disclose, among other things, the top five independent contractors to which it has paid more than $50,000 for "professional services." CSPC's Form 990s for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 reveal that the organization paid Rotterman & Associates $167,417 in 2003 and $121,193 in 2002 for "consultant" services.
Marc and Karen Rotterman have been heavily involved in North Carolina Republican politics for many years. Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes described Marc Rotterman in an August 13, 1997, Weekly Standard article titled "The Ascendancy of Jesse Helms," as one man in a "network of talented lawyers, lobbyists, and consultants ready to assist him [Helms] at a moment's notice." On August 17, 1990, National Journal's Hotline noted that the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer reported that Helms hired Karen Rotterman as a consultant for his 1990 reelection campaign, in which Helms ran against Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. In late October and early November, when most polls showed either Gantt slightly ahead or the race in a dead heat, Helms' campaign ran a series of television and radio ads alleging that Gantt supported racial quotas in job hiring. The most infamous of these ads was a television spot titled "Hands." The ad, produced by Republican advertising consultant Alex Castellanos, featured a pair of white hands crumpling a job-rejection letter while a narrator said:
You needed that job. You were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota. Is that really fair? Harvey Gantt says it is. Gantt supports Ted Kennedy's racial quota law that makes the color of your skin more important than your qualifications. You'll vote on this issue next Tuesday. For racial quotas: Harvey Gantt. Against racial quotas: Jesse Helms.
Helms's campaign ran another racially charged ad in the weeks before the election, also produced by Castellanos, which claimed that "Mr. Gantt obtained a television license in 1985 under a program to assist minority businessmen and that he and his partners soon sold it," according to a November 2, 1990, New York Times report. Gantt denied that race had anything to do with his obtaining the license, a claim backed up by an FCC official. The Washington Post reported on November 4, 1990: "In fact, the racial preference program played no part in the FCC's final decision [to award Gantt's group the license], according to William Johnson, deputy administrator of the mass media division. Johnson said all qualified competitors to the Gantt group dropped out, and minority participation is a factor only in competitive decisions."
The New York Times reported on the effect of the ads in a November 8, 1990, article: "Analysts say that Mr. Helms's ads and campaign speeches both played on racial fears and turned around Mr. Gantt's message of a worrisome, weakening economy by saying the problems were the results of blacks taking jobs from whites." TIME magazine reported on November 25, 1991: "Many Republicans as well as Democrats denounced the ["Hands"] ad for inflaming racial animosity. But it worked: Helms came from behind to win, 52% to 48%."
Rotterman & Associates produced an attack ad that incumbent Representative David Funderburk (R-NC) ran in 1996 against his Democratic challenger, state superintendent of schools Bob Etheridge, accusing Etheridge of promoting "a radical homosexual agenda" for schoolchildren, an October 3, 1996, article in Roll Call reported. The ad was in reference to a teachers' conference on educational methods, paid for by Etheridge's department, that included two seminars titled "Working With Youths Struggling With Sexual Identity" and "Unlearning Homophobia: The School's Role in Society," Roll Call reported. Marc Rotterman served as a campaign strategist for Funderburk's campaign. Funderburk lost the election.
Marc Rotterman is also the treasurer of the American Conservative Union, of which Helms is a board member. Karen Rotterman has coordinated the annual Restoration Weekend, sponsored by Horowitz's CSPC. Billed as an event that "brings together policymakers, national figures and conservative activists from around the nation," Restoration Weekend was created as a response to Renaissance Weekend, a retreat designed to encourage "personal and national renewal" regularly attended by former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Restoration Weekends are regularly attended by prominent conservative politicians and media figures, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, former Clinton adviser turned Clinton critic and FOX News political analyst Dick Morris, and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter.
When the controversy with Franken broke out last November, Media Matters noted that Franken is not alone in criticizing Horowitz on the issue of race as well as Horowitz's "habit" of calling ideological opponents "racist."