To: All From: Christopher Baker Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996

from: ......

Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 30, 1996 Special Bulletin


Late this afternoon, the Federal Elections Commission voted to file a civil complaint against the nation's most powerful religious political organization, the Christian Coalition. Reports indicate that four Commissioners -- two of them Republicans, two of them Democrats -- agreed to charge the religious right Coalition with improper conduct in the 1990, 1992 and 1994 elections. Charges include-

* In 1990, the Coalition specifically aided in the election victory of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms by distributing "voters guides" and targeting specific election data on Helms' behalf.

* The Christian Coalition engaged in partisan political activity in the 1992 Presidential campaign of George Bush by helping to identify voter blocks, and by distributing some 28,000,000 "voters guides."

* In 1994, the group worked on behalf of House Speaker Newt Gingrich by distributing so-called "scorecards" helpful specifically to the Gingrich campaign. The Coalition engaged in similar partisan activity on behalf of the senatorial effort by Iran-Contra figure Oliver North during the same year.

It is not known at the present time how this may affect plans by the Christian Coalition to distribute a record 65,000,000 voter guides in time for the November election, through a network of some 100,000 churches and religious groups throughout the country.

But the FEC complaint charges that the Coalition has engaged in behavior not in accordance with its special status as a non-partisan, and presumably non-political educational organization. One Washington pundit charged Coalition Director Ralph Reed of simply being a "head of a political movement."

According to the book Dirty Little Secrets: The Persistence of Corruption in American Politics, University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato and reporter Glenn Simpson charge that, in effect, Christian Coalition "voters guides" are a form of campaign literature.

"Taken as a whole, the effect (of the guides) was to make the guides seem like campaign fliers." The authors note that the guides were instrumental in "turn-about" races. In some cases, candidates have alleged that the guides actually misrepresented their stands on issues. The guides may have also made a crucial difference in tight races, such as the recent election contest between Jesse Helms and challenger Harvey Gantt.

The guides are reportedly shipped to target churches, with specific instructions as to when they are to be released. Candidates charge that they often do not have time to respond to how they rated or described in the disingenuous "voters guides," and that complex legislation is often presented in simplistic categories such as "Voluntary Prayer in Public School" or "Capital Punishment for Murder."

Today's decision may not do much to stop the Coalition from distributing its guides in time for the November election. "They've already pushed the envelope on this issue," noted one Washington observer talking on the latest CNN reports.

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