The Christian Coalition And George Bush
New documents obtained by CNN suggest coordination between religious group, Bush campaign
By Brooks Jackson/CNN
WASHINGTON (Aug. 19) -- It was no secret that Pat Robertson supported President George Bush in his re-election race in 1992. But the full story of just how the Christian Coalition worked behind the scenes is only now coming to light.
CNN has obtained previously confidential documents that tell the story how Robertson hand-picked more than 30 Bush campaign leaders, of how the Bush campaign got advance information on the printing and distribution of 40 million Christian Coalition voter guides favorable to Bush, and of how Bush even raised money for the Christian Coalition itself.
In April 1992, Robertson sent the Bush campaign chairman a 10-page list of "persons I would like to see as Bush campaign co-chairmen."
Bush strategist Mary Matalin got right on it. By convention time, Robertson's hand-picked people were nearly all in place.
A memo to Matalin: "39 names were submitted by the Christian Coalition ... 31 have been included. ... it should be completed by the end of next week."
In June, Ross Perot's wild-card campaign emerged as a threat to Bush. On his "700 Club" television program, Robertson conducted an informal poll, which spelled trouble for Bush.
Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed wrote to Bush campaign chairman Bob Teeter warning that 40 percent of Robertson's viewers favored Perot, and that Bush needed to get 80 percent of them. "If he gets only 50-60% in 1992, he is gone," wrote Reed. "We are ready and willing to help shore up this base." The next month, Robertson interviewed Bush on the "700 Club."
Questions were not tough. Robertson: "Have you found recourse to God and prayer often in your presidency?" "Yes, yes," replied Bush. "You have to."
Answers to tougher questions -- which Robertson never asked -- had been scripted for Bush ahead of time. "We recommend the following Q and A," said a memo from Reed to Matalin. "Pat looks forward to a great interview." Reed used that interview later, distributing printed excerpts by the millions to Christian Coalition members.
The Christian Coalition's main political weapon is the voter guide -- 40 million distributed in 1992 on the Sunday before election day.
The Christian Coalition claims tax-exempt status, and says its guides are nonpartisan. But the '92 guide clearly favored Bush, showing Bush agreeing with coalition stands on 12 out of 12 issues, and Bill Clinton on only two.
And documents show Matalin and other top Bush officials were scheduled to discuss those voter guides with Reed months ahead of time.
One document in particular could be a "smoking gun." It's an agenda Ralph Reed prepared for Mary Matalin and other top Bush officials before they flew to Virginia Beach to meet with Reed and Robertson in July 1992.
Near the top of the agenda: "Voter guide printing and distribution." Discussing distribution of voter guides with Bush campaign officials could make money spent on the guides illegal campaign spending. That's the central allegation the Federal Election Commission is currently making against the Christian Coalition in a lawsuit now in federal court.
Reed, in a telephone interview with CNN, said, "We did not discuss voter guides at that meeting" -- contrary to the agenda he himself drew up. The documents suggest that somebody discussed voter guides.
A handwritten note from Republican files refers to 40 million guides and 100,000 churches. Another document from Republican party files puts the cost of the coalition's voter guides at $500,000. It also describes $1 million worth of telephone calls by the coalition to "ID" -- identify favorable voters -- and "GOTV" -- Get Out The Vote. Somebody gave Republicans some very specific information.
Bush appeared before Robertson's group just weeks before the election, and he was after more than just votes.
Notes on one Republican document refer to that Virginia Beach trip as "FR" -- a fund-raiser -- by "POTUS" -- the president of the United States -- that "could raise 500,000 ... [Money] would go to #1" -- Number one being those voter guides and calls.
Ralph Reed confirms that Bush did take part in a fund-raiser at Pat Robertson's home that day. Reed says it raised only $100,000, not $500,000. And he says the money went "into the general budget" of the Christian Coalition, and was not specifically earmarked to finance voter guides.
The Christian Coalition says they were just exercising free speech. The Federal Election Commission calls it a violation of campaign finance laws. And this fall, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee also takes a look. They've subpoenaed records of the Christian Coalition and 32 other groups, looking for evidence of illegal or improper political spending in the 1996 elections.
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