Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed said Saturday that a massive grassroots effort by his organization this weekend will help Republicans retain control of Congress and make the race for the White House close.
Critics, meanwhile, charged that the effort will be based on false and misleading guides distributed to voters.
Today the group will mount the greatest political effort in its history, distributing 45 million voter guides in 125,000 churches and contacting three million to five million voters in person or by telephone.
“Believe me, when you’ve got 100,000 volunteers and 125,000 churches and 45 million copies of anything, you’ve got a lot of activity going on,” Reed said before meeting with about 100 Christian Coalition volunteers at a downtown Cincinnati hotel. “There are meetings just like this happening in all 50 states today.”
The Christian Coalition’s mightiest lobbying effort ever comes amid renewed criticism that the group’s voter guides are deceptive and biased in favor of conservative candidates.
“The bottom line is that the Coalition’s guides distort the issues, misrepresent the candidates’ positions and even deceive voters about whether candidates replied to the Coalition’s questionnaire,” said People For The American Way President Carole Freeman, whose group conducted a survey of the voter guides. “All told, the guides are a fraud, perpetuated by a plainly partisan group.”
As an example, the People For The American Way study noted that while candidates were asked whether they favored repealing the semi-automatic weapons ban, the voter guide response substituted “firearms” for “semi-automatic weapons.”
“I know of not a single candidate running for any federal office who would advocate legislation to take Americans’ deer rifles away,” said Matthew Freeman, the group’s research director. “But the Christian Coalition reports just that.”
“These voter guides are not the nonpartisan, educational materials the Christian Coalition claims them to be,” added the Rev. David Key, chairman of the Georgia Interfaith Alliance.
Key made his warnings clear in a letter mailed to 10,000 religious leaders across his state; the Christian Coalition intends to distribute 1.7 million voter guides in Georgia alone.
Standing next to an Ohio map covered with colored pins and flags showing Christian Coalition locations, Reed said today’s get-out-the-vote drive will be unparalleled in political history.
“We are covering every single congressional district, every county,” he said. “This is … part of an effort that we believe is the largest get-out the-vote and voter education effort in the history of the Christian community.”
The coalition was born of religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s 1988 presidential campaign.
The coalition claims 1.7 million members, but its primary publication, the Christian American magazine, was sent to 310,296 people in September of last year, the most recent figures reported. That was down from a September 1994 circulation of 353,703.