# FEC Complaint

Ralph Reed planning GOTV operation in Iowa

Republican operative Ralph Reed, who once headed the Christian Coalition, is building an Iowa branch for his latest venture, the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Reed spoke at an Iowa Christian Alliance event on Tuesday and promised the crowd that the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition will get “people who share our values” elected “from governor all the way down to the statehouse and school boards all across the state of Iowa.” He said he needed to raise half a million dollars to execute the GOTV plans, reminding the audience that they could donate an unlimited amount, because “we’re not a PAC and we’re not a candidate.”

Reed announced yesterday that he is passing on a chance to run for Congress in order to focus on his new organization:

I believe I can best advance conservative principles by continuing to serve as CEO of Century Strategies, LLC, and founding chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Century’s voter contact subsidiary and grassroots team will be involved in a number of races in 2010. FFC is growing rapidly, with over 150,000 members and supporters already, currently adding one new state chapter a week and 1,000 new members a day.

In 2010 and 2012, FFC will register an estimated one million new faith-based voters and make tens of millions of voter contacts in what may be the largest conservative get-out-the-vote effort in modern political history. These nationwide efforts offer a much better prospect for changing the direction of the country than winning a Congressional race myself.

Speaking of GOTV, Reed made a bizarre analogy during his speech to the Iowa Christian Alliance audience. According to Kathie Obradovich, Reed said that Barack Obama’s 2008 win in Iowa was like a Harlem Globetrotters game in which the GOP were the team that showed up to get beaten. Makes you wonder why the Republican Party of Iowa hired Jim Anderson as its executive director late last year. Anderson’s main political experience in this state was with John McCain’s “Victory” GOTV operation.

Iowa Christian Alliance head Steve Scheffler said his group won’t be “directly involved” in Iowa elections this year, but will “encourage activists to get involved with a candidate, especially in competitive legislative districts.” Scheffler is also one of Iowa’s representatives on the Republican National Committee.

Former Senator Rick Santorum headlined the Iowa Christian Alliance event. You can read about his speech at Iowa Independent and the Des Moines Register’s blog. I find it amazing that anyone can be considered presidential material after losing re-election in a purple state by 18 points.

All three Republican candidates for governor also spoke Tuesday evening. William Petroski covered highlights at the Des Moines Register’s blog, and Kathie Obradovich covered the event on Twitter. Bob Vander Plaats talked about economic issues and education as well as repeating his promises to halt same-sex marriages and choose a running mate who shares his values. Vander Plaats also mentioned polls showing him leading Governor Chet Culver. Terry Branstad criticized “arrogant” Democratic leaders who are blocking a vote on the definition of marriage. He also took credit for helping make home-schooling legal and passing a ban on late-term abortions while governor. My favorite Branstad line was, I know we made our share of mistakes but I think it’s important to ask Jesus Christ for forgiveness.. Rod Roberts said he can beat Chet Culver and “emphasized his background as development director for Christian Churches/Churches of Christ in Iowa.”

Final note: the Federal Election Commission appears not to have ruled yet on a complaint filed against the Iowa Christian Alliance last year. The complaint alleged that the group had run donations through a Burlington church, a 501(c)3 organization, so that donors could benefit from a tax deduction they wouldn’t receive from giving directly to the Iowa Christian Alliance, a 501(c)4.

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Iowa Christian Alliance faces FEC complaint

The Iowa Christian Alliance, headed by Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, is facing a Federal Election Commission complaint over contributions allegedly run through West Hill United Methodist Church of Burlington. Morris Hurd is pastor of that church and also serves as board president and treasurer of the Iowa Christian Alliance.

The Iowa Christian Alliance is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, meaning that it can engage in political advocacy on issues, but donations to the group are not tax-deductible. Many houses of worship, including West Hill United Methodist Church, are 501(c)3 non-profits, to which donations are tax-deductible. However, 501(c)3 groups may not engage in political advocacy.

The AP’s Mike Glover summarized the FEC complaint filed last week by Stacey Cargill of West Des Moines:

The complaint charges that Iowa Christian Alliance officials solicited money from potential donors, instructing them to send the money to Hurd’s church, making it tax-deductible. Donations were made with the understanding they would be forwarded to the alliance, the complaint said. […]

In a phone interview, Des Moines lawyer and GOP activist Ted Sporer described a similar process to The Associated Press. He said he wrote two checks to the church.

“The facts are, I was told that if I were to write a check to this church, I would get credit for being a sponsor at Christian Alliance events,” said Sporer. “I was advised that if I wrote the check to the church I would be credited.”

Hurd did not dispute that churches offered financial support to Iowa Christian Alliance.

“There are churches and ministries in Iowa that have supported the ICA and have occasionally contributed to our nonpartisan voter education effort, including voter registration and nonpartisan voter guides,” said Hurd. “They are fully within their right to do so under both the Internal Revenue code and the First Amendment.”

Scheffler told Glover that Cargill “is not dealing with a full deck of cards […] The woman is a troublemaker. She attacks everybody and anybody.”

Cargill filed a previous FEC complaint against the Iowa Christian Alliance, alleging the group allowed a woman to use its office space and database to support presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The FEC rejected that charge in February of this year.

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