Christian Coalition of America
Christian Coalition of America Logo
|Type||non-profit 501(c)4 organization|
|Founder(s)||Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson|
The Christian Coalition of America (CCA), a 501(c)(4) organization, is the successor to the original Christian Coalition created in 1989 by religious broadcaster and former presidential candidate Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, and is a US Christian advocacy group, which includes Christian fundamentalists, neo-evangelicals and conservative charismatics.
In 1988, following a well-funded but failed bid for the U.S. presidency, religious broadcaster and political commentator Pat Robertson used the remainder of his campaign resources to jump-start the creation of a voter mobilization effort dubbed the Christian Coalition. Americans for Robertson accumulated a mailing list of several million conservative Christians interested in politics. This mailing list formed the foundation for the new organization.
The coalition had four original directors, including Robertson himself, Robertson's son, Gordon Robertson, Dick Weinhold, head of the Texas organization, and Billy McCormack, pastor of the University Worship Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. McCormack had headed the Louisiana division of Americans for Robertson in 1988 and was also the vice president of the coalition.
After its founding, the Christian Coalition applied to be a tax-exempt charitable organization with the Internal Revenue Service. Forty-nine state chapters were also created as independent corporations within their states, including the Christian Coalition of Texas. A handful, including the Christian Coalition of Texas, successfully obtained tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations. After ten years, the Internal Revenue Service declined the Christian Coalition's application for charitable status because it engaged in political activities. In response, the Christian Coalition of Texas was renamed the Christian Coalition of America, and the organization was relocated in order to work nationwide.
In 1990, the national Christian Coalition, Inc., headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia, began producing non-partisan voter guides which it distributed to conservative Christian churches. Complaints that the voter guides were actually partisan led to the denial of the Christian Coalition, Inc.'s tax-exempt status in 1999. Later that same year, the Coalition prevailed in its five-year defense of lawsuit brought by the Federal Election Commission.
Ralph Reed, an Emory University Ph.D. candidate and hotel waiter whom Robertson had met at an inaugural dinner for George H. W. Bush in January 1989, took control of day-to-day operations of the coalition in 1989 as its founding executive director. He remained in the post until August 1997 when he left to enter partisan political consulting, founding his new firm Century Strategies, based near Atlanta, Georgia.
Robertson served as the organization's president from its founding until June 1997, when President Reagan's Cabinet Secretary Donald P. Hodel was named president of the CCA, and former U. S. Representative Randy Tate (R-WA) was named executive director. Upon announcement of Hodel becoming president of the CCA, he expressed a desire to serve the grassroots activists that made up the Coalition: "...I am here. Not only because I felt God's call on me but that I knew of God's call on you."
Washington insider and president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, an old Reed ally, said of the appointments: "What you've got is Reagan and Gingrich. Hodel is a Reagan Republican and Tate is a Gingrich Republican."
After a disagreement with Robertson, Hodel left in January 1999 and Tate soon followed. Robertson re-assumed the presidency, and later turned it and the chairmanship over to the group's Executive Vice President and former State Chairman of South Carolina, Roberta Combs, when he officially left the Coalition in late 2001.
In 2000, the Coalition moved from its long-standing base of operations in Chesapeake, Virginia, to a large office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.. Combs is the current president and CEO of the Christian Coalition of America. She is a founding state director and has been the only woman on the board of directors for the Christian Coalition of America in its history. Since then, Combs installed members of her family as high-ranking officials in the group, including her own daughter Michele Ammons and her son-in-law Tracy Ammons. Michele Ammons and Tracy Ammons would later divorce through court proceedings. This led to Tracy Ammons' firing by Combs, just after Michele Ammons received a judgement against her ex-husband for alimony and child support, an action Combs helped to obtain by filing an affidavit with Coalition letterhead.
Roberta Combs canceled a direct-mail fund-raising campaign run by fund-raiser Bill Sidebottom of Interact Response Communications aimed at fighting child pornography after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The cancellation of the campaign in the middle of its run led to nearly a dozen lawsuits by creditors and the bankruptcy of its fund-raising company. Without a fund-raising company supporting it, the Christian Coalition went into sharp decline financially.
In March 2001, the Christian Coalition of America was sued by its African-American employees, alleging racial discrimination. The District Court issued an injunction against the Christian Coalition and the case was later settled with money paid to the African-American plaintiffs.
In November 2002, Roberta Combs down-sized the staff and moved the organization's offices from Washington, D.C., to a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina. The Christian Coalition reduced its number of lobbyists in Washington from a dozen to a single employee. The Christian Coalition was later sued for $1,890 by the moving company it used to transport itself to South Carolina, Reese & Sons Enterprises of Maryland, because the wrapping and packing fee had not been paid. The Christian Coalition lost in court in Richmond, Virginia, and finally paid the movers.
In addition, the Christian Coalition's longtime law firm, Huff, Poole & Mahoney PC of Virginia Beach, said it was owed $69,729. Global Direct, a fundraising firm in Oklahoma, sued for $87,000 in expenses.
In the years since Robertson and Reed left the group, the Coalition's influence has greatly declined. The Coalition saw a loss in revenue from a high of $26.5 million in 1996 to $1.3 million in 2004. The organization's 2004 income tax return showed the Christian Coalition to be technically bankrupt, with debts exceeding income and a negative net worth. The group now owes more than $2 million in debt and is struggling to hold on to state chapters.
In 2005, the Coalition finally concluded a settlement agreement with the Internal Revenue Service, ending its long-running battle with that agency regarding its tax exempt status. As a result, the IRS has now recognized the Coalition as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, the first time in the agency's history that it has granted a letter of exemption to a group that stated in its application that it would distribute voter guides directly in churches. The consent decree enforces limitations on the terminology that may be used in the Coalition's voter guides.
In late 2005, the Washington Post reported that the Christian Coalition was unable to pay its office postage bill to Pitney Bowes, and that the Christian Coalition had not paid its new lawyers in Virginia Beach and that the law firm had also sued the Christian Coalition for its legal bills. Attempts to collect the law firm's fees in Virginia and South Carolina returned no funds of the Christian Coalition at various banks.
In March 2006, the Christian Coalition of Iowa renamed itself the Iowa Christian Alliance. In splitting from the national group, the Iowa Christian Alliance cited "the current problems facing the Christian Coalition of America". In August 2006, the Christian Coalition of Alabama split from the national group. It later renamed itself Christian Action Alabama.
In November 2006, the president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America resigned his post, citing a difference in philosophy over which issues the conservative Christian organization should embrace. Reverend Joel Hunter, currently the senior pastor of the Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, was to assume the presidency in January. But Hunter said the Coalition's leaders resisted his calls to expand their issue base, saying the organization wouldn't allow him to expand its agenda beyond opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. Hunter also said he wanted to focus on rebuilding the Coalition's once powerful grassroots, an appeal he says board members rejected. "After initial willingness to consider these changes, the board of the CCA decided, 'that is fine, but that is not who we are,'" Hunter said. Combs still remains as the Coalition's president.
- Joel D. Vaughan, "The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition," Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009.
- "Pulpits and Politics: The Role of Religion in Elections, September 27, 2004". justicetalking.org. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
- "We've Come a Long Way, Baby, in Race Relations, March 16, 2008". demo.openlogicsys.com. Retrieved June 6, 2012.
- Edsall, Thomas B.; Rosin, Hanna (June 11, 1999). "Christian Coalition, Denied Tax-Exempt Status, Will Reorganize". The Washington Post. p. A4.
- "IRS Denies Christian Coalition Tax-Exempt Status". The Washington Post. June 12, 1999.
- Vaughan, p. 177.
- E. J. Dionne, "The Religious Right Loses Its Most Skilled Tactician," (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot, April 24, 1997.
- Vaughan, p. 125.
- Peter Baker and Laurie Goodstein, "Christian Coalition Rearranges Top Posts," Washington Post, June 12, 1997.
- Baker and Goodstein.
- Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "Washington's Power 25," FORTUNE, December 8, 1997, pp. 144-158.
- Ralph Z. Hallow, "Christian Coalition President Resigns," Washington Times, February 10, 1999.
- Vaughan, pp. 151 - 163.
- "Christian Coalition fights bitter lawsuit after divorce". The Washington Times. December 2, 2004. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
- Cooperman, Alan; Edsall, Thomas B. (April 10, 2006). "Christian Coalition Shrinks as Debt Grows". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
- Sizemore, Bill (October 8, 2005). "Once-powerful group teeters on insolvency". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
- See Washington Post, "10 Blacks Allege Bias at Christian Coalition," March 31, 2001.
- Cooperman, Alan; Thomas B. Edsall (2006-04-10). "Christian Coalition Shrinks as Debt Grows". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- Cooperman, Alan; Edsall, Thomas B. (April 10, 2006). "Christian Coalition Shrinks as Debt Grows". The Washington Post.
- Banerjee, Neela (November 28, 2006). "Pastor Chosen to Lead Christian Coalition Steps Down in Dispute Over Agenda". The New York Times.