An article in today’s Washington Post exposes what feminists have long known – the connections between the George W. Bush administration and the far-right Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). IWF’s founding members include the wives of prominent right-wing politicians including Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney; Wendy Lee Gramm, wife of Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX); and Barbara Olson, wife of Ted Olson, Bush’s choice for Solicitor General. Its funders include the right-wing foundations Scaife, Bradley, and Olin. Its purpose was to be the counterpoint to feminist groups, providing a female face for the far-right, anti-women’s rights agenda. Many IWF members have been appointed or confirmed to the highest levels of the Bush administration, and appointees who are not IWF members are being briefed at IWF headquarters on gender issues before their confirmation hearings take place. IWF opposes Title IX (which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs), the Violence Against Women Act, comparable pay efforts, affirmative action programs, and gay and lesbian marriage and parenting.
IWF members among Bush administration appointees and nominees include Labor Secretary Elaine Chao – wife of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – Linda Chavez, Paula Dobriansky, and Eileen O’Connor. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an IWF economic adviser, is Bush’s chief staff for White House Council of Economic Advisers; she argues that the wage gap between women and men is due to women’s different “choice of occupation,” among other factors – despite strong evidence that women are segregated into low-paying occupations. Sally Satel, IWF’s science adviser, is reportedly interviewing for a position in the Department of Health and Human Services. Satel has criticized the HHS offices for civil rights and women’s health. Finally, Bush has appointed Wade Horn, head of the National Fatherhood Initiative and former IWF advisory board member, to head the HHS Department for Family Support.