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Meet the Frackers: Right-Wing Billionaire Brothers’ Biblical Ambitions

Rich off their fracking business, Farris and Dan Wilks are funding conservative causes.

Photo Credit: underworld

This article originally appeared on Truthout.

A few years back, Forbes magazine called them “undercover billionaires.” Meet Farris and Dan Wilks, who, after selling their fracking business and becoming generous donors to right-wing causes, politicians, and the Republican Party, are no longer “undercover.” While claiming that Christians are under attack, the Wilks brothers’ are "using the riches that the Lord has blessed" them with and are dedicating themselves to getting the Bible back in schools.

The brothers began by working in their father’s masonry business, operating mostly in Oklahoma and Texas. In 1995, the brothers founded their own company called Wilks Masonry. However, they “really hit the big time when they got in on the ground floor with fracking, the controversial natural gas drilling technique that has boomed over the past decade,” People for the American Way’s Peter Montgomery recently pointed out in a report titled “The Wilks Brothers: Fracking Sugar Daddies For The Far Right.” 

In 2002, the Cisco, Texas-based Wilks brothers – who share the #352 spot on Forbes list of billionaires -- “entered the energy industry with the founding of hydraulic fracturing and oil field services firm Frac Tech,” Forbes magazine pointed out in a September 2011 article. In May 2011, the brothers sold Frac Tech to a “group of investors led by Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund” for $3.5 billion. According to Forbes, the brothers are worth $1.4 billion each.

In addition to purchasing massive amounts of real estate -- “extensive land holdings in Texas, Kansas, Idaho and Montana, real estate that is currently used for farming, ranching, and wildlife management” -- the brothers are, as the Christian Post headlined a story about them last month, throwing their “fortune behind getting [the] Bible back in schools and other conservative causes.”

Farris Wilks, the older brother, is pastor of his family church in Rising Star, Texas, called Assembly of Yahweh (7th Day), which believes: "That the Bible, as originally given, was true and correct in every scientific and historical detail. Every translation of the Bible is not necessarily one hundred percent correct, however." According to PfAW’s report, the church “combines biblical literalism with a heavy emphasis on the Old Testament: The church celebrates its Sabbath on Saturday, follows the dietary rules laid down in Leviticus, and celebrates Jewish holidays but not ‘the religious holidays of the Gentiles,’ which include ‘Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, White Sunday, Good Friday, and Halloween.’”

Up until recently, the Wilks brothers have been media shy and not well known. People for American Way’s Peter Montgomery learned about them shortly after a conservative gathering in Iowa that was organized by David Lane, a GOP activist described by Montgomery as “a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters.” The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody aired a short video clip of comments made by the Wilks brothers. CBN’s Brody reported, “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.” 

Dan Wilks told Brody: “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.”  Farris added: “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”

According to Montgomery, Farris Wilks’ foundation “has become a source of massive donations to Religious Right groups and to the Koch brothers’ political network. Farris also funds a network of ‘pregnancy centers’ that refuse, on principle, to talk to single women about contraception (married women need to check with their husband and pastor).”

Both Wilks brothers and their wives have established foundations through which they channel their money: Farris and his wife Joann created The Thirteen Foundation, while Dan and his wife Staci started Heavenly Father’s Foundation. “The Thirteen Foundation has become a major funder to Religious Right organizations and to right-wing political outfits that are part of the Koch brother’s network,” Montgomery reported.

“In 2011, Farris and Joann each put $50 million into The Thirteen Foundation, and they started writing huge checks. In 2011 and 2012, the last year for which giving records are publicly available, the foundation gave away more than $17 million,” with a chunk of it going to mostly longtime right-wing organizations opposed to gay rights, are anti-abortion, and are closely associated with Tea Party operations, including: Media Revolution Ministries (Online for Life), $2,242,857; American Majority Inc., $2,114,100; State Policy Networks, $1,526,125; Focus on the Family, $1,400,000; Franklin Center for Gov't and Public Integrity, $1,309,775; Life Dynamics Inc., $1,275,000; Liberty Counsel, $1,000,000; Heritage Foundation, $700,000; Family Research Council, $530,000; Texas Right to Life Committee Education Fund, $310,000; Texas Home School Coalition, $250,000; Heartbeat International, $197,000; Wallbuilders Presentations, Inc., $85,000; National Institute of Marriage, $75,000.

PFAW’s report pointed out that “American Majority, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, and the State Policy Networks are all part of the Koch brothers’ right-wing political network, promoting policy attacks on public employees and their unions, outsourcing public resources for private profit, privatization of public education, and more.”

Dan and Staci Wilks “each gave $55 million to their Heavenly Father’s Foundation, according to the group’s 2011 990 form.”

The Wilks brothers and their wives are casting a broad political net, having poured money into the Romney Victory Committee, and to Republican Party candidates in Montana and Texas. They have also contributed to the campaign of Republican Rob McCoy, who is running against Democrat Jacqui Irwin, in the 44th California Assembly District.

In November 2012, after the re-election of President Barack Obama, Farris Wilks told parishioners: “I do believe that our country died that Tuesday night, to all that’s honorable, that’s good, that’s ambitious, and that has justice. The old way of life that we will take care of ourselves, we will be self-sufficient as much as we are able, the pride in pulling your own weight, or paddling your own canoe.” 

According to Peter Montgomery, Farris “said he was ‘refreshed’ by biblical texts about the End Times, speculating that the election went the way it did ‘because maybe it’s time to wrap up some things, maybe it’s time to move on to the next one thousand years.’  And he warned of persecution against Christians.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement.

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