Magazine article Church & State

Back-Door Politicking by Tax-Exempt Croups Roises Red Flags

Magazine article Church & State

Back-Door Politicking by Tax-Exempt Croups Roises Red Flags

Article excerpt

The Internal Revenue Service has stepped up its warnings to tax-exempt houses of worship to stay out of partisan politics. Yet it seems some people still aren't getting that message--or have chosen to ignore it.

The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) last month asked the IRS to look into the activities of a non-profit group based in Houston that appears to be a front for a church-based political machine determined to elect Republicans to office.

TFN reports that the Niemoller Foundation, created in May 2005, spent about $1.26 million that year to fund the activities of the Texas Restoration Project. Much of the money came from four major donors, three of whom were also large contributors to Gov. Rick Perry, who faced reelection in 2006.

The Texas Restoration Project used the money to host thousands of pastors and their spouses at six "Pastors' Policy Briefings" in 2005. At the time, Perry faced possible intra-party challenges from other Republicans in the state. It's TFN's belief that the events were designed to boost Perry's fortunes. He was the only candidate invited to speak at all six events. After Perry's reelection, the Texas Restoration Project held an event celebrating his inauguration, so the group was hardly neutral.

This pattern is being duplicated in other states. Organizations similar to the Texas Restoration Project were formed in Iowa and South Carolina and hosted speeches by Mike Huckabee. It does not appear that any other candidates were invited to speak. …

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