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Letter Shows Donation Was Partisan In Nature Late Publisher Sent $60,000 To Coalition

Washington Post

A wealthy Ohio businessman sent the Christian Coalition a $60,000 contribution in 1992, telling the supposedly non-partisan group that he wanted to help fund a “massive distribution of literature” to help re-elect President Bush.

The businessman, John W. Wolfe, said in a July 23, 1992, letter to Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson that “a very good friend of mine,” Lyn Nofziger, “tells me your group is very supportive of President Bush and that you will be doing a massive distribution of literature on his behalf.”

Wolfe said he had been told “you could use some financial help with that project for the President and therefore, on the recommendation of Lyn, I am pleased to sent you a contribution of $60,000.”

The revelation of the Wolfe letter comes as the Christian Coalition is being challenged by the Federal Election Commission over its alleged involvement in partisan politics.

The FEC filed suit against the group last week, claiming the coalition worked hand-in-hand with Republican candidates, including the 1992 Bush campaign, in distributing voter guides and mobilizing voters to go to the polls.

FEC documents released last week showed that agency lawyers concluded the group provided nearly $1 million in such improper assistance to the Bush campaign in 1992.

The Christian Coalition did distribute millions of voter guides during the 1992 election, but the group’s officials say the FEC is wrong about its consultation with GOP candidates and that, in any case, such coordination would not be improper because its voter guides and other statements did not expressly back any candidate.

The coalition says it is a non-partisan group that wants to educate voters and mobilize religious and social Christian conservatives to become active politically.

Wolfe, the head of a prominent Ohio family that owned the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, died in 1994.

Nofziger, a longtime Republican political consultant who served as President Reagan’s political director in the White House, said in an interview Saturday that he had known Wolfe for 30 years and recalls discussing the issue with him.

He said he did not work for either the Bush campaign or the Christian coalition, but if Wolfe asked him about the coalition, “I would have said, ‘It is generally supportive of Republicans. If you can give, go ahead and give.”’ He said he did not know the size of Wolfe’s donation.

Christian Coalition spokesman Mike Russell said a coalition official would have contacted a contributor who gave a donation of that size to thank him and to correct the mistaken impression that the group was involved in partisan electoral politics.

He said the contact would probably have been by telephone and therefore there would be no written record.

Judy Liebert, the Christian Coalition’s chief financial officer who has been on paid leave from the group since June, said in an interview that she recalled Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed instructing her to record the Wolfe donation as an anonymous gift. Liebert said she followed Reed’s instructions.

Coalition spokesman Russell said the organization’s tax forms show the contribution listed by Wolfe’s name and therefore Reed could not have told Liebert to put it down as an anonymous gift.

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