The government on Tuesday charged the Christian Coalition with
improperly aiding Republican candidates through its voter guides
and other activities.
The group spent thousands of dollars to promote the candidacies
of figures such as former President George Bush, Sen. Jesse Helms,
Senate candidate Oliver North and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the
Federal Election Commission charged in a civil suit filed in U.S.
Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed called the suit
"totally baseless" and said he was confident the courts "will
affirm that people of faith have every right to be involved as
citizens and voters."
The commission charged that the Christian Coalition distributed
voter guides, identified Republican voters and used mail and
telephone banks to get them to the polls in federal elections in
1990, 1992 and 1994 - all with partisan intentions. The commission
also said the coalition had used corporate funds on behalf of
Such activities amount to "express advocacy" for particular
candidates and legally should have been either reported as
independent political expenditures or as in-kind contributions to
the candidates, the commission argued.
The voter guides compare candidates in state, local and federal
races on a series of issues the group deems important. The
coalition plans to distribute more than 60 million copies of the
guides this year.
The suit asks the court to impose fines that could amount to
hundreds of thousands of dollars, to prevent further use of
corporate money to promote candidates and to force the coalition to
disclose the money it spends on politics.
The Christian Coalition, founded in 1989 by religious
broadcaster Pat Robertson, now claims 1.7 million members
nationwide and has grown to be one of the most formidable forces in
Part of its strength comes from its tax-free status. The
coalition is set up as what the tax code calls a "social welfare"
group, meaning its primary purpose is promoting the public good,
and not partisan politics.
The Internal Revenue Service has never ruled on whether the
group meets the test for tax-free status, however, and officials
said the elections commission case could damage the coalition's
"It is very important to their financial viability to have the
nonprofit status," said Mark Rozell, a political scientist at
American University and author of "Second Coming," a book about
Christian conservatives in Virginia politics. …