A Nonpartisan Educational Organization?

Clifford R. Goldstein March/April 1997 In a 1991 recruitment video, America at a Crossroads, Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Coalition, hardly sounded like the leader of a mere "nonpartisan education organization" that doesn't advocate the election or defeat of candidates.

"I believe," Robertson said, "that the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political force in America by the end of this decade. What is the mission of this organization? It is simply this. To restore Godly principles and Godly men and women to the government of the United States and every one of the 50 states. To do this, we will achieve each of the following goals: We will develop the ability to elect majorities in the U.S. Congress and the legislatures of at least 30 states, as well as the city councils, the city school boards and other local bodies. We will become the decisive voice in at least one of the two major political parties. We will build strong organizations in every state and congressional district in America. We will recruit at least 10 trained political activists in every one of America's approximately 175,000 precincts. We will have more trained grassroots activists than both political parties combined and more than any other organization on the left or the right of the political spectrum. We will reach 30 million voters for pro-family and conservative causes and candidates." (Italics supplied.)

At the 1991 Road to Victory Conference Robertson expressed the goals of his organization: "Now what's the program? I have big goals. . . . There are 175,000 precincts in America. The precincts are where politics gets done. . . . I want to see, by the end of this decade, 10 keen, active members of the Christian Coalition in every single precinct of America; that's 1,750,000 activists. Now, the next thing we're looking at in the Christian Coalition is money. . . . You don't win elections if you don't have some money.

"This year we will finish out with $5 million. . . . The goal in 1994 is $48 million. And the goal by the year 2000 is to have four times the current budget of the Republican National Committee, which is $250 million. . . . This money has to go for candidates, not for administration. The next goal is to elect conservative, pro-family majorities in the legislatures of at least 35 of the states of the United States of America. And then when we get that we'll go on to 50. We want to clean house on those. The next thing we're looking forward to in 1992 is a conservative majority in the United States Senate. We want to strive for the election of a conservative pro-family majority in the United States House of Representatives by 1996. We might see it sooner, but 1996 is attainable. "Next, of course, we want to see the White House in pro-family Christian hands at least by the year 2000, if the Lord permits." (Italics supplied.)

In the same speech Robertson also talked about strategy to increase the Coalition's political influence and the electability of the candidates it supported: "What would happen if we had trained people in the precincts who would take the trouble to ask their neighbors and friends and people in the block of their precinct what their interests are? Not to go to them and say 'We are the pro-life people' or 'We are the church people.' But to say 'What are your interests, what is it that concerns you?' And then to have the candidate address those issues and write back and to say 'My worker in your precinct told me that you are concerned about potholes'! And I want you to know that I am the pothole candidate. I guarantee you that if I am elected I'll take care of potholes for you."

Robertson continued, "By the end of this decade I want the Christian Coalition - it's a doable thing - to have a data bank of 50 million voters according to their interests. And we can send letters. You've probably seen this already. In this senatorial race that we won [a state senate race in Virginia], we did this to 15,000 voters, and Ralph personalized 40 different paragraphs - to the gun owners, the hunters, this group, the other group, the senior citizens, he had something, and the candidate spoke to them on all those issues." (Italics supplied.)

Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed's book Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Face of American Politics also seems to deny claims about the nonpartisan purpose of the CC: "In 1991 the Christian Coalition understood one of its first major education efforts in the Virginia state legislative elections. . . . The results were astonishing. In Virginia Beach a state senator who had built an entire campaign around opposition to Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition lost in a landslide defeat that rippled across the region and gave seats to other pro-family Republicans." (Italics supplied.)

Ralph Reed, at the 1991 Road to Victory Conference, reiterated the organization's emphasis on electing specific candidates to public office: "Folks, I really need your attention for this panel, because there probably isn't an opportunity in this country that exceeds our opportunity this year to elect more people like Jesse Helms and Bill Dannemeyer to the United States Senate." (Italics supplied.)

Speaking before the Montana Christian Coalition in January 1992, Reed openly advocated the defeat of U.S. Representative Pat Williams: "If we will move forward in unity and if we will be persistent, victory will be ours. It will be ours in Montana and it will be ours all across America
. . . . We're going to see Pat Williams sent bags packing back to Montana in November of this year, and I'm going to be here to help you do it." (Italics supplied.)

That's an interesting statement, as are the others, in light of the CC claims that it is not out to "advocate the election or defeat of any candidate."

Regarding the Senate race of Jesse Helms in 1990, Ralph Reed is quoted at the 1991 Road to Victory Conference as having stated: "I had access to internal tracking, and I knew Senator Helms was down by eight points. So Pat called me up and said, quote, 'We have got to kick into action.' Bottom line is, five days later we put three quarters of a million voter guides in churches across the state of North Carolina, and Jesse Helms was reelected by 100,000 votes out of 2.2 million cast."

The Christian Coalition's Training Seminar Manual explains: "Politics is a game of numbers. If you get more votes than your opponent, you win. One of the reasons Christian efforts often fall short at the ballot box is that we fail to recognize that there is more to politics than just being on the right side of an issue. Being right is important, but to influence public policy in a democratic system, we not only have to be right, we have to be capable of ensuring that our candidates and issues will be victorious." (Italics supplied.)

The FEC suit against the CC also gave some examples of CC activity that it claims violates the law: "During 1994 Christian Coalition made expenditures in excess of $250 during a calendar year for the preparation and distri-bution of a direct-mail package entitled 'Reclaim America,' which included, inter alia, a cover letter and a scorecard.

"The cover letter, signed by Pat Robertson, read: 'This SCORECARD will give America's Christian voters the facts they will need to distinguish between GOOD and MISGUIDED Congressmen.' The scorecard listed and characterized multiple issues upon which votes had been taken in the United States Senate in 1992, 1993 and 1994, and in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993 and 1994. It stated the corporation's position on each bill or amendment involved. Each senator's and representative's votes were listed as a '+' or a '-' following percentages. The scorecard stated: 'A score of 100 percent means the congressman supported Christian Coalition position on every vote. A score of 0 percent means the congressman never supported a Christian Coalition position.'

"The title 'Reclaim America,' the format and content of the scorecard, and the content of the cover letter together constituted express advocacy of the election or defeat of clearly identified candidates for federal office," said the FEC suit. "The corporation's expenditures for this mailing constituted independent expenditures on behalf of the candidates who received high scores on the scorecard and against the candidates who received low scores, which violated 2 U.S.C.... The corporation also violated 2 U.S.C. and 434 copyright by failing to report the costs of this program as independent expenditures."

The suit also talked about another election violation, this time in Georgia: "Prior to the July 9, 1994, primary election in Georgia, the Christian Coalition through its subordinate state affiliate in Georgia made expenditures in excess of $250 during a calendar year for the preparation and distribution of a combination Congressional Scorecard and cover letter that stated in part: 'The only incumbent Congressman who has a primary election is Congressman Newt Gingrich - a Christian Coalition, Inc., 100 percenter.' The cover letter encouraged the reader to take the scorecard to the voting booth. The combination of the cover letter and scorecard constituted express advocacy of the reelection of United States Representative Newt Gingrich."

Relying on the book The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, a philosopher and warrior of ancient China, Ralph Reed once described the Christian Coalition's political campaign strategy for winning elections: "The first strategy and in many ways the most important strategy for evangelicals is secrecy. Sun Tzu says that what you have to do to be effective at war, and that's essentially what we're involved in, we're involved in a war. It's not a war fought with bullets, it's a war fought with ballots. But he essentially says that what you've got to do is move secretively, move quietly, move at night and don't telegraph your position. . . . What I'm suggesting to you is that to be effective you must be secretive, you must paint your face and travel at night. You must move underground and don't stick your head out of the foxhole until the sun is beyond the horizon. . . . It's a little bit like what was talked about today with respect to infiltrating the party, maybe infiltrate is the wrong word, but in any event, influence the party, is that you don't necessarily want to show up and be identified as such, because then you're an easy target to everybody else who's there who doesn't share your values." (Italics supplied.)

At the coalition's 1992 Road to Victory Conference, Robertson reiterated his goals: "Before the end of this decade the Christian Coalition is going to be the most powerful political organization in the entire United States of America. And with that in mind our goal is not too immodest. Before the end of this decade I want to see us with pro-family legislators holding a majority of the legislatures and the governors' offices in at least 35 of our states. I want to see a clear-cut majority of the members of the House of Representatives that are going to be like Tom DeLay and Dick Armey and those like him. And the same with the United States Senate. And obviously I would like to see a conservative, pro-family president elected in 1992, 1996, 2000, and beyond. We don't ever want to give up the White House anymore." (Italics supplied.)

Rather grandiose goals for a "nonpartisan education organization" that doesn't "advocate the election or defeat of any candidate."

No wonder they're being sued....

Clifford Goldstein is editor of Liberty.
Article Author: Clifford R. Goldstein

Clifford Goldstein writes from Ooltewah, Tennessee. A previous editor of Liberty, he now edits Bible study lessons for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.