The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Election season is law-breakin' season down at the megachurch

Sure, pastors are people, too. And asking someone to completely divorce (or annul) their politics in front of the congregation is probably too much to ask. But using your tax-exempt status to create a national network of election-year activists is just plain wrong. Oh, and illegal.

Today the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a religious right watchdog group, asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate a non-profit organization behind funding the Texas Restoration Project, which sponsored "Pastors' Policy Briefings" featuring Texas Governor Rick Perry (when he was running for office), and which are being replicated in other states, where they have featured Mike Huckabee as a speaker.

The TFN revelations are a major development in uncovering the money behind the Texas Restoration Project; until today, the funding behind the group remained cloaked in secrecy, despite its efforts to influence the election in Texas.

TFN charges that a 501(c)(3) organization set up in 2005, the Niemoller Foundation, provided the funding for the Texas Restoration Project. The Niemoller Foundation's 2005 tax return shows that it received funding from James Leininger, a major financial backer of the religious right who hosted a fundraiser for Huckabee last month; Bo Pilgrim, founder of the Pilgrims' Pride poultry processor whose nephew Buddy Pilgrim hosted a fundraiser for Huckabee in November; and Bob J. Perry, a big funder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. TFN asked the IRS to investigate whether the organization violated its tax-exempt status by engaging in partisan electioneering.

As I've reported in The FundamentaList, Huckabee has spoken at at least two "Pastors' Policy Briefings," sponsored by the Iowa Renewal Project and the South Carolina Renewal Project. These briefings, which have also taken place in other states, have featured Newt Gingrich riffing on his book, Rediscovering God in America; David Barton, a former Texas GOP co-chair and Republican National Committee consultant who fancies himself a historian but is better described as a historical revisionist anxious to peddle the "Christian nation" mythology; Huckabee backer Tim LaHaye; and Laurence White, a Texas minister who organized the Texas Restoration Project and served on the board of the Niemoller Foundation.

A call to the Niemoller Foundation phone number turned out to be the number for an insurance firm in Houston, whose general counsel, Andrew Adams, is on the Niemoller board. Adams did not immediately return the call. According to the insurance firm's Web site, Adams is a member of White's church.

One other note: a man who publicly professes to believe that men and dinosaurs hung out together is probably not your best bet for leader of a global superpower.