IFAS | Freedom Writer | July/August 1999 | coalition.html

More woes for troubled
Christian Coalition

The recent news of the Christian Coalition's loss of its provisional tax-exempt status came in the wake of our story on the group's hastily-called "emergency restructuring meeting" in March (see story in March/April Freedom Writer). Following the March 11th meeting, Pat Robertson announced a $21 million fundraising drive. Now it's known that the Coalition's leaders knew what was coming and were preparing for the worst.

In June, the Christian Coalition lost its long battle with the Internal Revenue Service to obtain tax-exempt status. This came about as a result of the Coalition's partisan political activities. These activities have often been reported in the Freedom Writer. The Institute also provided documentation of the Coalition's partisan political activities to the IRS and the Federal Election Commission.

Now the Christian Coalition has split into two branches. One branch is called the Christian Coalition of America and has assumed the tax-exempt status of the Christian Coalition of Texas. This branch will continue its "voter education" program. The other branch, Christian Coalition International, will engage in direct political activities and will not be tax-exempt.

In an August 2, 1999 story, The New York Times reported that the Christian Coalition was never as large as its leaders stated, another fact previously reported in the Freedom Writer. For example, in April 1994, we reported on a seminar at the Christian Coalition's "Road to Victory" conference the previous September.

The seminar was conducted by Max C. Karrer, M.D. Dr. Karrer is the North Florida Coordinator for the Christian Coalition of Florida. He also serves on the executive board of the Republican Party of Duvall County, Florida.

In his presentation, "Using Computers at the Grassroots," Dr. Karrer said that "every candidate we got behind won." He said that the Coalition couldn't legally give away its mailing list to candidates they supported, so they sold their list, for five dollars.

"Politicians in our section think we have a bigger data voter base than we do. But we don't change that perception, we don't tell them. They come to us now. When someone wants to run for office, they come to Christian Coalition; they want to talk to us. It gives you - and not just for elections it gives you tremendous lobbying power with the legislator, because they think you have this huge bloc of voters that you can swing though you can't necessarily."

The Christian Coalition won a small victory on August 2 when a Federal judge rejected most of the charges in a Federal Election Commission suit against the group. Using "free speech" as a defense, the Coalition convinced Judge Joyce Hens Green of the Federal District Court in Washington, DC that its activities to help former President George Bush and Senator Jesse Helms were legal.

However, the judge ruled that the Christian Coalition violated FEC rules when it advocated the election of Rep. Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House in 1994. The Coalition also improperly shared its mailing list with Oliver North in his 1994 Senate campaign. As a result, the Coalition will pay a civil fine, to be determined by the FEC.

In the past year, most of the Christian Coalition's top leaders have left, leaving Pat Robertson in full control. Robertson donated $1 million of his own funds to keep the group afloat. Yet reports claim the group is still $2.5 million in debt.

In 1998, the Christian Coalition claimed to have distributed 40 million voter guides through its network of churches. However, the group's former national field director, Dave Welch, told the The New York Times, "We never distributed 40 million guides. State affiliates took stacks of them to recycling centers after the election."

On other fronts, the Oklahoma Christian Coalition is planning to split into two groups similar to the national organization's split. In Florida, John Dowless, the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, resigned to work as the Florida director of Steve Forbes' campaign. Dowless admitted that he quit because of the Christian Coalition's failure to legislate its agenda in Florida.

A major problem arose for the Iowa Christian Coalition at the end of July when its leader accused the Forbes campaign of seeking to hire voters for August's straw poll. Bobbie Gobel, the state chair, claimed that Steve Forbes wanted to pay people a day's wage to vote for him at the straw poll. Gobel runs a Des Moines employment agency. She said that last February a Forbes campaign representative called her office to hire 500 temporary workers to inflate the poll. She said she refused the request.

The Forbes campaign immediately denied the charges. The newly organized national group, Christian Coalition of America, tried to quiet the dispute, but Gobel insisted on pushing the issue. Finally, the national organization fired Gobel and her board, but she refused to budge.

"Bobbie Gobel's not going anywhere. I'm not going to turn my back on my board of directors or the people of Iowa," said Gobel.

The Christian Coalition of America has appointed the former director of the Iowa chapter, Ione Dilley, as head until a new leader is found. Meanwhile, the Iowa Christian Coalition board maintains that it is a separate Iowa corporation, and not subject to orders from Virginia. So, in effect, there are now two Christian Coalitions in Iowa.

Beset by a multitude of problems, the future of the Christian Coalition is in doubt. Observers point out that the Christian Coalition never represented a majority of Christians. According to Skipp Porteous, "The Christian Coalition seems to exist only to promote TV evangelist Pat Robertson's personal political agenda. It appears that he never got over his defeat in the 1988 presidential election."

© 1999 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.