Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Episcopal Lobbyists

(h/t Northern Plains Anglicans)

If you had 6.6 million dollars and wanted to do something good, what would you do?

If your answer is "hire lobbyists to get the government to solve problems for you," then you might be an Episcopalian.

What in the world does the Episcopal church want to communicate to our elected officials? Those silly resolutions passed by General Conventions of course, and it takes money to get these important messages across. How much money?
A stroll through the 2010-2012 Budget for the Episcopal church is always fun. The budget provides numbers but no details on what you are actually getting. If you go through the budget, you will find the following line items (202-231):

Advocacy Center
Direction & Administration
Staff Cost 1,090,074
Other Costs 45,045

Direction & Administration Total 1,135,119

Social & Eco. Justice, Jubilee
Total Staff Cost 1,270,810
Total Field Office: Washington 699,846
Total Domestic Poverty & Jubilee Ministries 1,019,450
Total Economic Justice 40,950
Total Environmental Justice 111,930

Social & Eco. Justice, Jubilee Total 3,142,986

Anti-Racism, Racial Just. & Gender Equality
Total Staff Cost 593,910
Total Native American Ministries 595,200
Anti-Racism, Racial Just. & Gender Equality Total 1,189,110
Peace, Int'l Affairs, and Migration
Total Staff Cost 853,764
Total Int'l Justice & Peace Making 245,180
Total Episcopal Migration Advocacy 68,250

Peace, Int'l Affairs and Migration Total 1,167,194

Advocacy Center Total 6,634,410

I was intrigued by these numbers, but I would like to be able to better follow the money. For example, why do we have a $699,846 Washington "Field Office?" Who are these staffers and what good have they done? I had to hunt around, and I was able to locate a web site for the Episcopal Public Policy Network which I assume gets some of this money.

What is the EPPN and why do we pay for it? Maureen Shea at the Episcopal Cafe had this to say,
"The EPPN is the national grassroots network of Episcopalians who call and write their members of Congress and the Administration to advocate for the public policy positions of the Church. Recent alerts have asked EPPN members to write to Congress on Israeli/Palestinian peace, opening our doors to more Iraqi refugees, the Farm Bill and its importance to hunger issues at home and abroad, empowering women, helping orphans world wide, and stopping new nuclear weapons.

With the help of the EPPN, lay and clergy leaders, bishops, and yes, the Presiding Bishop, Office of Government Relations staff bring the positions of the Episcopal Church to our nation’s lawmakers. We were very pleased when the Presiding Bishop testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on climate change on June 7. The policy positions are established by the General Convention and Executive Council, and include the full range of social justice issues - Millennium Development Goals, international peace and justice, human rights, immigration, welfare, poverty, hunger, health care, violence, civil rights, the environment, racism, and issues involving women and children both at home and abroad."

She forgot to mention the Episcopal church's support for abortion.

Looking through the "Blue Book" for a report from EPPN on their effectiveness was unrewarding (although it might be buried in there somewhere), so I went a-Googling.

The staff of EPPN includes Alex Baumgarten:

"Alex Baumgarten... worked as a strategist on federal and state campaigns..."

That must have been before he travelled to Cuba with Bishop Griswold.

Hmm..., I wish I could figure out what campaigns he worked on as a strategist.

Also on the DC staff is Mary Getz who,

worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee assisting priority campaigns across the country with fundraising, organizing and communications.

And David Benson-Staebler who,

Interned with U.S. Representative James Louis "Jim" Oberstar a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member, representing Minnesota's 8th congressional district.

and worked for a couple of months for Rep. Betty McCollum (D. Minn)

And DeWayne Davis,

Prior to joining the Episcopal Church, DeWayne was Director of Federal Relations at Sallie Mae, Inc. DeWayne previously served as Senior Legislative Assistant to then-Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer. He also served as a legislative aid to Reps. Chet Edwards (D-TX) and Peter Visclosky (D-IN) and an economic and health policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Democratic Leadership Council...

Do we see a pattern here? An "inclusive" church that supports non-discrimination appears to need some work when it comes to political discrimination.

And I was wondering why these people have been pushing for Obama's health care plan. DOH!
And they are doing it with my money!

Why should the church bother with politics? Are they trying to convert those senators and congressmen who do not espouse the wacko views of the Episcopal General Convention into believers of biblical revisionism and supporters of the liberal cause du jour? Does anyone think the Episcopal church would refuse communion to a politician that did not support abortion? Maybe this is all part of some vast radical hospitality conspiracy: The modern equivalent of Jesus' dining with tax collectors and prostitutes is to schmooze with politicians, and since I am a good Episcopalian, I will pay someone else to do the dirty work. I will hire a lobbyist! And since I am a good Episcopalian, I will hire Democrats to be my advocates.
This social activism stuff gets really creepy when it means getting involved with politicians doesn't it?

Unfortunately, since Jesus' day, the price for a seat at the table has gone up. $6,634,410 spread out over 3 years works out to $6058.82 a day, or roughly $2000 a meal (I know, I know, not all that money is for lobbying). Should we be dining with sinners? Yes. Should the meal cost 2000 bucks? Heck no! Did Jesus have to pay people to dine with Him? No, (they did not know that He would pay with His life). In fact when we sinners come to Him today, He still gives everything freely. The only price for the meal ticket is what we have to give up. The price of giving up our sins and accepting His transformational power.

The radicals of yesterday have become the powers of today, hoping to transform the world to their liking, and they are living off my dime. I don't think any real good is being done with our money through this "Advocacy Center." Their message does not sell. General Convention resolutions lack real transformational power. If today's radicals would just step back and focus on Jesus' transformational power, they would find real change, and that this can be spread the old fashioned way, one soul at a time.

I think we ought to chelate these Episcopal free radicals before they do any more damage to our budget.


  1. Anonymous9:07 AM

    Waiting for the predictable outrage regarding a religious organization involving itself in secular affairs, together with calls for IRS audits and revoking of Charity status from the regular frothing suspects to commence in 3...2....1....

    I said, "ONE!"

    And somewhere, a cricket chirps.


  2. Sherman, the issue here isn't that these folks are lobbying. Religion does have something to say in public life, and the Episcopal Church should be able to give a social witness. The problem is that the viewpoint they promote is radically out of line with their constituency in the pews. As a cradle Episcopalian, the views of my congregation and fellow parishioners were never solicited by these folks. Similarly, scripture seems to be a buffet line for these church lobbyists -- they decide on a political position, then selectively seek out scripture to support the view they've already arrived at. This process is backwards! Some of the scriptural support cited in these church lobbying letters is laughable in how it is applied.

  3. Pewster, I don't deserve a(n) h/t... any fool can read budget lines, but the work you did to out these parasites as what they are: lobbyists for a political party, subsidized with diverted church donations, is some fine investigative work.

  4. Anonymous8:23 AM

    @Jeff. I certainly have no problem with any group becoming involved in politics and/or the political process. That's what democracy means. We all get to play.

    My point is that there are always breathless denunciations of political activities by only certain groups, i.e. those on the socially conservative end of the spectrum, and the MSM is right on board with that. Yet, when it comes to the socially liberal groups, there's nary a peep.

    BTW, I'm not an Anglican, but I've experienced similar frustration with the ABA using my dues to lobby for positions with which I completely disagree.


  5. Randall,

    I have experienced similar frustrations with a certain professional association of which I am no longer a member. The age old problem is to stay or to go. Are you still a member of the ABA or do you have a choice?

  6. Anonymous3:26 PM

    UP, I left some time ago, as it stopped being an organization with appeal and resources to smaller practices and practitioners and became a political action group. Further, any attempt by the hoi polloi to get involved was stymied, leaving only lawyers from big New York, D.C. and L.A. firms in charge, spending my money to espouse a set of beliefs over half the membership didn't subscribe to.


  7. It appears to me that "staff costs" are close to $3000,000.00. I'm a lifelong Episcopalian who has been unemployed for over a year and my question is: Where do I apply for one of those "staff positions"? Of course I'm probably too conservative to be hired.