'Faith-based' office pushed GOP candidates, former staffer says.


A new book by a highly placed former staffer in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives details a series of stunning revelations of how the much-ballyhooed "faith-based" initiative was cynically manipulated by Republican operatives to help GOP candidates locked in close races.

David Kuo's Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction also asserts that applications for federal faith-based funds were sometimes rejected by reviewers because they came from non-Christian applicants and that conservative Christian allies of the Bush administration were derided behind their backs and bought off with White House cuff links and other trinkets.

Kuo's allegations first made a big splash when the book was discussed on MSNBC's "Countdown" Oct. 11, but many of his claims were familiar to Americans United. In 2002, Church & State reported on efforts by James Towey, then running the faith-based office, to boost Republican candidates facing close races.

Still, the range of Kuo's revelations is shocking. He writes that 20 events were held, and Republican candidates subsequently won 19 of those races. "We laid out a plan whereby we would hold 'roundtable events' for threatened incumbents with faith and community leaders," Kuo writes. "Our office would do the work, using the aura of our White House power to get a diverse group of faith and community leaders to a 'nonpartisan' event discussing how best to help poor people in their area," Kuo writes.

But while the White House was happy to take evangelicals' votes, it had nothing but contempt for their leaders, Kuo asserts. He alleges that staffers in Karl Rove's office referred to Religious Right activists as "the nuts" and writes, "National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control' and just plain 'goofy.'"

To placate them, the evangelical leaders...

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