IFAS | Freedom Writer | March/April 1999 | coalition.html

Christian Coalition in disarray

Following a hastily-called "emergency restructuring meeting" of the Christian Coalition on March 11th, the group's founder, Pat Robertson, announced a $21 million fundraising drive to launch "the largest voter education effort in the history of the organization, and possibly in the history of grassroots politics."

Robertson said the money would be used to distribute 75 million voter guides through his network of churches, finance a tenfold expansion of the Coalition's political field staff in states throughout the country, and train 1.5 million volunteers to mobilize evangelical voters.

However, the Christian Coalition has never before accomplished such lofty goals, and observers question whether the group will even survive after the national election in 2000. Don Hodel, the group's president, recently quit to go back into retirement. Hodel abandoned the Christian Coalition on the heels of Pat Robertson's pronouncement that the Republicans should drop the impeachment trial of President Clinton. Robertson has reassumed his former position as the Coalition's president.

In addition to the loss of Hodel, Ralph Reed resigned from the Coalition board this past December. Chuck Cunningham, the director of national field operations and the designer of the Coalition's infamous voter guides, resigned in early March. And Arne Owens, the Coalition's former press secretary, left the organization after last November's elections.

The Freedom Writer learned of the emergency meeting when Paul Nagy, the Christian Coalition's northeast regional director, failed to show up for a previously confirmed speaking engagement at Queens College in New York City. He told a college representative that he had to attend an "emergency restructuring meeting" of the Christian Coalition and didn't know if he'd make back to New York in time for the scheduled engagement.

Under mounting financial pressure, the Christian Coalition recently laid off 20% of its staff, cut out funding to reach Roman Catholics and African Americans, and ceased publication of its glossy magazine, Christian American.

In an effort to influence the 2000 presidential election, on February 4th the Christian Coalition held a kick-off rally in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state. An estimated 1000 conservatives attended the Manchester, New Hampshire event.

Speakers at the rally included Pat Robertson, and presidential candidates Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, and Gary Bauer. Dan Quayle provided a pre-recorded speech, and Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) sent his wife to represent him. Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu introduced the speakers, and indicated that he favored Quayle as the Republican presidential nominee.

According to published reports, Robertson said the Coalition would hold a series of rallies across the country before deciding which GOP candidate to back.

The Christian Coalition may be forced out of business when the IRS makes the long-awaited determination of the group's provisional 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The Coalition also faces a suit from the Federal Election Commission, which maintains that the group is a partisan political organization.

© 1999 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.