Skip to comments.Hypocritical Allies Helped Landrieu Win
Posted on 12/10/2002 9:50:37 AM PST by victim soul
Here in Louisiana Saturday, the Democrats won another important and hotly contested race, mainly because African-American churches supported the Democratic candidate.
The well-funded conservative campaign waged by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Suzie Terrell could not overcome the illegal use of black churches by the incumbent Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu learned how to use these ministers and their church assets just as nearly every Democrat has done when running for office over the last 40 years.
Landrieu won 52% to 48%, an impressive showing, given the fact that a very popular Republican President and his party pulled out all the stops in their effort to obtain another 2002 victory.
I spent most of the Senate runoff period in Louisiana warning Democrat-leaning church ministers and the media about IRS rules that don't allow a church to support candidates.
Church political activity has been illegal since 1954 when Senator Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) added a unanimous consent amendment to bar tax-deductible non-profit groups from engaging in political campaigns. Two anti-communist non-profits opposed Senator Johnson for re-election in 1948, so he put them out of business before his re-election effort of 1954. Since churches fall under the non-profit status of charitable organizations, they were also prohibited from engaging in political communication.
From the beginning of our country until 1954, churches had been active on a wide variety of issues, ranging from tariff debates to slavery abolition to the need for civil rights. Ministers could not only talk about the issues before Congress (which they can still do today), but church members could even be told the positions of officeholders and candidates (which is illegal today).
Since the 1970's, conservative groups have tried to compete with the liberal groups in organizing churches for Republican candidates, but this is mainly focused on begging ministers to hand out, or at least place at the entrance, voter guides that list all the candidates on the ballot for a particular office as well as their positions on the issues. This is allowed by current IRS regulations.
However, most ministers are reluctant to allow even this legal action, because liberal groups like the Interfaith Alliance and Americans United for Separation of Church and State send out threatening letters to ministers. The liberals claim that conservative voter guides are biased, which is illegal.
But most conservative guides are a "neutral, unbiased and complete compilation of all candidates' positions," which are entirely legal, according to the IRS regulations. The real problem is most liberals are for abortion and gay marriage, but they do not want religious voters to know where they stand on those issues.
According to press reports, the Congressional Black Caucus had at least a dozen members in Louisiana working to turn out the African-American vote through churches. But the liberals are not doing voter-guide handouts; they are using the full facilities of the church, which is illegal.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), one of Sen. Landrieu's most active supporters, was told by me in 2001 that campaigning in churches was illegal. She responded, "I did not know that was illegal since we have always used churches with no complaints by anyone."
Churches are subject to losing their charitable tax status and/or being subject to hefty fines for political actions.
In order to address this problem, Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) forced a vote in October 2002 in the House of Representatives to allow churches to talk about candidates and the issues. He worked hard to get the Republican leadership behind his legislation and gathered an impressive 178 votes.
The legislation was defeated by false allegations made by the Congressional Black Caucus, which said the legislation was not about free speech, but really expanding campaign finance loopholes. This smokescreen helped solidify the Democrats and a few Republicans against the bill.
The same Black Caucus members were in Louisiana helping Senator Mary Landrieu turn out the African American vote working primarily through churches. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in a front-page story on the day before the election (December 6, 2002) that "Landrieu has been getting help from a coalition that claims 300 historically black churches in New Orleans." Other papers reported black church campaign activity all over Louisiana.
I communicated with over a dozen reporters in Louisiana about the illegal activity, explaining the current law and the irony that Democrats opposed Congressman Jones' legislation just a few weeks ago. This is where that liberal bias against conservative candidates comes into play. The Baton Rouge Advocate wrote a story about a few Catholic churches handing out legal voter guides implying that it was improper, but the same reporters did not report on the widespread illegal use of African American churches.
The press reported that Congressional Black Caucus leader Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) - on the Sunday before the election - spoke in support of Sen. Landrieu from the pulpit of the Baton Rouge Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. The Senator herself also talked to the 800 church attendees. Clearly this is illegal activity, but the media reported on another dozen church speeches by Senator Landrieu, never mentioning their illegal nature.
The IRS this year released an updated list of guidelines citing examples of illegal church activity. The Shiloh Baptist Church scenario is listed as improper, since according to the guidelines, the minister did not also invite the Republican Senate candidate Suzie Terrell to address the congregation during official services (IRS Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations, page 9, example 6). Congressman Clyburn even brags about illegal use of church vans for campaign efforts in columnist George Will's December 5, 2002 Washington Post column.
Nearly every close race in America depends on high voter turnout by African-Americans and/or other minorities for Democratic victory. That turnout depends on church illegal campaign activity. Hispanics, Asians, and other so-called minorities are also effectively organized by church focus. Republicans must aggressively address this issue in 2003 for their own survival.
The 2002 elections clearly showed that conservatives can win by running on conservative campaign themes of peace through strength, pro-life, low taxes, and good character. Republicans cannot win in the long term if they allow minority church leaders to dominate the message that Republicans are racist.
A possible solution to this problem: What if 1,000 African American churches lose their charitable tax status going back 30 years, and are heavily fined for their illegal campaign activity? Then let us see how the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic leadership votes on Congressman Walter Jones new church political communication freedom bill in 2003.
(Rick Sellers is an Alabama businessman and conservative activist.)
Copyright 2002, Free Congress Foundation
There isn't a prayer of that happening. The IRS wouldn't even take on $cientology because it might have offended a few highly placed Hollywood liberals - do you think they would risk a Jesse Jackson-led round of protests?
No, it is not the GOP that is racist, it is the Democrats.
If they are going to use race as an issue (as they tried in Texas), then they must be rejected on that basis.
They can't talk to 'white' voters about a 'color blind society' and then run to the Blacks who vote 90% for them because they are told the GOP is the Party of racists.