Moms for Liberty bills itself as a “grassroots organization of Moms,” which is patently false. Since day one, the extremist group has relied on its ties to national anti-LGBTQ groups and prominent politicians to gain clout and advance its anti-LGBTQ agenda. One founder is married to the chair of the Florida Republican Party; the group also forged early and deep connections to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Additionally, M4L has received substantial funding and organizational support from anti-LGBTQ nonprofits like the Heritage Foundation, among others.
These links and deep pockets directly contradict M4L’s claims that it’s a grassroots group of concerned parents. They reveal the organization’s ties to some of the loudest and most enduring opponents of LGBTQ equality.
Below are some key examples of M4L’s connections to anti-LGBTQ politicians and funding from anti-LGBTQ groups. For more information about M4L’s anti-LGBTQ record, click here.
Moms for Liberty’s co-founders are linked to anti-LGBTQ politicians, public figures, and media outlets.
Moms for Liberty was co-founded in January 2021 by Tina Descovich, Tiffany Justice, and Bridget Ziegler, three current or former school board members in Florida. From the very beginning, the group has had a direct line to anti-LGBTQ politicians and national media outlets, a phenomenon that Media Matters has documented at length. M4L was featured on The Rush Limbaugh Show on January 27, 2021, less than a month after its formation; by February, it was covered on Breitbart. Its leaders regularly appear on right-wing media as spokespeople for the group.
Ziegler is particularly well-connected: Her husband, Christian Ziegler, chairs the Florida GOP, whose members have backed a litany of anti-LGBTQ bills and laws in the Sunshine State. Bridget has since left M4L. However, she is now serving in a state position appointed by the anti-LGBTQ DeSantis, and remains a prominent supporter of the so-called “parents’ rights” movement — a misnomer for a movement that does not include the rights of LGBTQ parents, parents of LGBTQ students, parents from communities of color, or allies who want accurate and inclusive history taught in schools.
Earlier this year, DeSantis chose Bridget to serve on a state board that oversees Disney’s theme parks in Orlando, which was established in the governor’s feud with Disney after the company spoke out against anti-LGBTQ legislation. He also appointed Descovich to serve on the state’s ethics commission, a role that empowers her to investigate and systematically remove LGBTQ state employees.
Bridget was reportedly in attendance when DeSantis signed the state’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill into law after M4L lobbied heavily in its favor. Her replacement at M4L, political consultant Marie Rogerson, has ties to Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, who backed the bill. Fine also sponsored the state’s ban on drag performance, which was tossed out by a federal judge who used Fine’s own discriminatory words to do so.
In June, DeSantis (pictured below) appeared at M4L’s 2023 national summit in Philadelphia. He was one of many anti-LGBTQ public figures who spoke at the event, including former President Donald Trump and noted conspiracy theorist James Lindsay. The summit also platformed former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who opposes trans inclusion in sports and access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. DeSantis, Trump, and Haley are all running for president in 2024.
Moms for Liberty has received robust funding from anti-LGBTQ nonprofits and political donors.
Typically, grassroots political organizations operate on minimal funding. That simply isn’t the case for Moms for Liberty. As a 501(c)(4) social-welfare nonprofit, the group isn’t required to disclose its donors, but publicly available paper trails paint a picture who’s supporting it, and just how well-funded it is.
In June 2021, M4L held a fundraiser that featured former Fox News host Megyn Kelly. Still, in a November 2021 interview with 74 Million, Descovich claimed that t-shirt sales — not political donations — were its “biggest funding source.”
As independent journalist Teddy Wilson recently reported, Moms for Liberty received significant funding in 2022 from the Heritage Foundation and the George Jenkins Foundation, two national anti-LGBTQ nonprofits. The Heritage Foundation, a self-described “conservative think-tank,” has spent years campaigning against marriage equality and other LGBTQ-inclusive policies. Last year, it awarded M4L a $25,000 prize; it also provided funds in 2021.
The George Jenkins Foundation is headed up by Publix heiress Julia Fancelli. Fancelli and its board members are political donors who’ve supported numerous anti-LGBTQ groups. It awarded M4L a $100,000 grant in 2022.
In late 2021, M4L formed its own political action committee, or PAC. Fancelli — who reportedly helped bankroll the January 2021 rally at the Capitol that preceded the insurrection — also donated $50,000 to M4L’s PAC in 2022. Per Politico, this money allowed M4L to help fund its candidates’ campaigns in local school board elections throughout the country. “Flipping” school boards is a key M4L tactic that enables members to pass anti-LGBTQ policies in schools.
Moms for Liberty has ties to other anti-LGBTQ groups, too.
Just this week, two Moms for Liberty chapter leaders in Kentucky came under fire for posing in a photo with members of the Proud Boys, an extremist group with national reach known for its white nationalist views. On Twitter, M4L said it fired the moms in question and is “in no way” affiliated with the Proud Boys. But a quick look at its members’ actions suggest otherwise.
In 2022, M4L teamed up Gays Against Groomers, a group that spreads disinformation and harmful rhetoric to target transgender people and their allies, to stage an anti-LGBTQ “Protect the Children” rally. Members of the Proud Boys were reportedly in attendance. Some even flashed “white power” signs. A Vice News investigation published in June also shed light on multiple M4L chapters’ ties to the Proud Boys.
Voters are rejecting Moms for Liberty-aligned candidates.
If the results of last week’s school board elections are any indication, voters around the country are catching on to Moms for Liberty’s dark ties. Nationwide, M4L endorsed 134 candidates in local school board elections. Most were defeated.
M4L’s camp lost particularly significant races in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio. In a high-profile election for Pennsylvania’s Central Bucks School District, the group didn’t endorse any candidates, opting instead to recommend them informally on a local voter guide. This was an ostensibly strategic move in response to national backlash against M4L.
Today, the Chair of Bucks County’s Moms for Liberty shared the M4L “Voter’s Guide.”
Aarati Martino, Stephen Mass, Tony Arjona, and Glenn Schloeffel (listed incorrectly under Centennial) of Martino’s Central Bucks Forward slate are the Moms for Liberty recommended candidates. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/3JM06JH4IW
— Diana Leygerman (@dinachka82) May 13, 2023
Per the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s analysis, Central Bucks candidates across party lines raised a staggering $600,000 to fund their campaigns. Paul Martino — a local venture capitalist connected to the Federalist Society who has a history of smear campaigns and other defamatory tactics — donated the vast majority ($239,000) of the M4L-aligned Republican candidates’ $279,000 in total funds. Candidates included Martino’s wife, Aarati Martino. They all still lost to pro-equality opponents.
Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, M4L has developed strongholds in key swing states like Pennsylvania. But outraged parents and educators are pushing back against the group’s extremism in their communities. It’s actual grassroots activism, and it seems to be working.