The founder of an online crowdfunding site that hosts campaigns led by MPs and political groups has ties to Britain’s influential Christian right, including the notoriously secretive think tank Legatum Institute, openDemocracy is able to reveal.
Founded in 2021 by Andrew Hawkins, also co-founder and former chairman of polling firm ComRes, Democracy 3.0 offers an “online petition + crowdfunding” model that allows people to promote a campaign while raising funds to support it .
It purports to support causes that “advance the common good”, but appears to target the extreme right and the “repealed” primarily, and often runs religious-led campaigns, sex education in schools and transgender rights, locker rooms to use, to question.
Our investigation found Hawkins is linked through another entity to key figures in the Christian right, as well as a number of think tanks, most notably the pro-Brexit Legatum Institute – part of the Legatum Group network which recently funded GB News with £1 has 60m.
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GB News presenter and Daily Mail journalist Dan Wootton is currently soliciting donations on the site, as is former Tory MP and Andrew Bridgen, who appeared on the channel after being kicked out of the Conservative Party after making comments had in which he compared the introduction of the Covid vaccine to the Holocaust.
Lobbying expert and author Andy Rowell told openDemocracy he was concerned about think tanks’ connections to Democracy 3.0.
“The network of black money, free enterprise and neoliberal think tanks that do not disclose their financiers continues to undermine and undermine our democracy on a daily basis,” he said.
Democracy 3.0 advises donors that it “stands by to help you use the funds you raise to purchase the expertise needed to maximize your chances of success.” Hawkins clarified this on former Liberal Democrat Tim Farron’s podcast, saying he hopes to “democratize lobbying” by allowing donors to pay for lobbyists, lawyers, pollsters and public relations experts.
Links to Christian Conservatives
Hawkins is also a director of the Ad Omnia Renovanda Trust, which was formed in March. Other Ad Omnia directors include Tory colleague Philippa Stroud and her husband David, a pastor and community leader at Christ Church London, which says it wants to play “a significant role in cultural, social and spiritual renewal” in the capital.
There is no information as to what Ad Omnia does, and Stroud’s entry in Parliament’s interest register says only that it is a “charity that equips Christians for cultural renewal”. A freedom of information request from openDemocracy revealed that Ad Omnia is not registered with the Charity Commission.
Stroud was also CEO of the Legatum Institute until March of this year and is both co-founder and former head of the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and head of a new think tank on combating climate change, the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), which she launched this year founded together with the controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson.
Both the Legatum Institute and CSJ achieved the lowest scores for transparency in the Who Funds You? 2022” by openDemocracy. Investigation of British think tanks.
Last year, openDemocracy revealed that the Legatum Institute is among a series of think tanks with close ties to ministers who have received “dark money” donations from shady US climate deniers. According to a 2022 Byline Times report, the Charity Commission previously asked the Legatum Institute to remove a report entitled “Brexit Inflection Point” for violating political impartiality.
Ad Omnia’s other directors also have ties to these organizations: Reverend Nims Obunge is a member of the ARC Advisory Board, while Zoe Vickerman is a former director of the CSJ.
Vickers, co-author of A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain, added: “As our world burns, there is a tightly knit network of people working with the Legatum Institute and the Alliance for Response Citizenship and committed to it.” Climate denial. Any crowdfunding site associated with these organizations should be a cause for concern.”
The Christian right has been making inroads into government for a number of years – and while still a relative niche in British politics, its growing influence is hard to ignore. A number of government ministers, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, spoke at this year’s National Conservatism conference in London, which also included speeches from Christian MPs Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger and Jacob Rees-Mogg and contributions from influential Christian thinkers.
Stephen Backhouse, a historian of Christian thought and an authority on the political theology of nations and nationalism, told openDemocracy that the power of evangelical Christians in the UK is disproportionate to their representation in society at large.
Of Democracy 3.0 he said: “All I see are powerful minorities, telling themselves they are powerless, and feeling offended by the democratic majority because they no longer have ‘common sense’.” The Christian Claim to dominance runs very deep and wakes the animal from its slumber more than anything else.”
He added, “These Christians are far more concerned with the loss of their cultural power than with anything Jesus said, did, or cared about.”
Anonymous campaigns and vague policies
Many of the Democracy 3.0 campaigns have strong Christian references. That includes one on Keep Kids Off Porn, run by the Center to End All Sexual Exploitation, whose CEO spoke at last year’s Everything Conference. Another – led by the all-party parliamentary group Die Well, of which Stroud is a part – has raised over £16,000 to end medically-assisted suicide.
Our research also found that unlike fundraisers on other online platforms, several Democracy 3.0 campaigns do not specify where and how donations are being used. Of the 23 campaigns hosted on the site since its inception, five do not name a recipient of the money – including one that raised almost £3,000 to buy Bibles for Ukrainian citizens.
A “Vehicle Drive Thru” campaign also doesn’t say how the donations will be used. Led by a teenage girl who calls herself “Bea” but is actually Hawkins’ daughter, the campaign aims to “reduce litter” and “empower people to take responsibility” by promoting Fast -Encouraged food shops to print license plate numbers on their packaging.
Donations to Bea’s campaign – which has been running for nearly two years and has no end date – could be withheld indefinitely as Democracy 3.0 policies allow funds from donors to be held in a secure account “until the end of the campaign”. That’s unusual; Donations made on other crowdfunding sites, including the popular platform GoFundMe, go directly to fundraisers and are not withheld by the platforms.
The site’s policy also states that “Where monies have been raised to cover legal expenses, Democracy 3.0 reserves the right to use excess net funds for other similar cases should those monies not be spent.”
How this “similarity” is determined is not clear, and Hawkins did not respond to openDemocracy’s request for comment.
Although Democracy 3.0 claims it does not endorse or authorize “any campaigns or publicly generated content” on the platform, it is activity on Twitter (now X) seems to contradict this.
Ad Omnia, which shares an address with Christ Church London, is not the Strouds’ only Christian initiative focused on cultural renewal. They also host the annual Everything Conference (EC) in London, which aims to engage Christians in all walks of life and industries so that “if the Lord hears our prayer” they will have people willing “to help people to believe “. The EC’s website states that it is an “initiative of Christ Church London”.
Neither the Strouds nor Hawkins have responded to our questions about the purpose of Ad Omnia or the connections between Ad Omnia, EC and the Legatum Institute.
Source : www.opendemocracy.net