A Tall Order

Republicans are calling on President Bush to pardon two Border Patrol agents sentenced to prison for shooting an illegal immigrant as he fled towards the border, saying failure to do so will be "the worst black mark” on his presidency: "'We are calling on President Bush to take this opportunity to show this Christian charity that he always talks about,' said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) during a news conference in his Washington, D.C., office. Rohrabacher joined Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) in decrying a federal appeals court decision Monday that uphold the prison terms for former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean."

Hatch Joins Phony "Stop the War on the Poor" Effort

For the past few weeks, we’ve been reporting on the “Stop the War on the Poor” campaign, an effort to label “extreme environmentalists” who oppose increased domestic oil drilling as enemies of the poor.  The campaign counts among its leaders a group called Americans for American Energy, which describes itself as “a non-profit, grassroots-based organization dedicated to educating the public about the importance of greater energy independence for America and promoting public policies that support that goal.” 

As we wrote last week, Americans for American Energy was created by Pac/West Communications, a firm with considerable Republican ties, and shares a location with the consulting firm of Jim Sims, communications director for Vice President Cheney’s energy task force.  In 2007, fresh off helping to defeat attempts “to ban bear baiting in Alaska and impose new taxes on cruise ships,” Pac/West received a $3 million grant from the state of Alaska to “educate” the American public about ANWR drilling, that was later stopped by Gov. Sarah Palin because the PAC/West-Americans for American Energy efforts were “not part of an open and transparent process.”  But that was not the end for Americans for American Energy. 

Although its profile has risen along with the “Stop the War on the Poor” campaign, Americans for American Energy has been engaging in suspicious activities in western states for the last several years.  In Colorado, it released a report claiming $1.2 billion in first-year profits for natural gas drilling on the Roan Plateau, an estimate that critics, such as the Wilderness Society, claimed were based on “junk science”

Credible economic studies need to stand up to independent review, list data sources and methods, and at the very least include the names of economists who authored the report. Unbelievably, this industry-backed study does none of this.

In Wyoming, its leaders falsely claimed that Gov. Dave Freudenthal was a supporter of their “powerful new oil and gas campaign,” leading the governor to write a letter disavowing the group.  In Utah, they launched an email attack on Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) that compared him to Hugo Chavez and Osama Bin Laden:

Last week, over 160,000 Utah residents received an e-mail letter indirectly comparing a New York congressman to some of the most infamous men in the world.

Along with mug shots of Osama bin Laden, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared a photo of Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.).

Hinchey's crime? Sponsoring the Red Rock Wilderness Act, a bill that would set aside 9.4 million acres of public land in Utah as wilderness.

The letter was attributed to Utah state GOP Reps. Aaron Tilton and Mike Noel, but it was the brainchild of Americans for American Energy, a Colorado-based industry group that has accepted money from, among others, the state of Alaska.

The Red Rock Wilderness Act will "WEAKEN America," the letter states. "How? Because it will hamstring our ability to produce American energy right here in Utah. That leads America to become more dependent on energy from hostile foreign nations -- some of whom fund terrorist organizations that are right now targeting our American men and women in uniform."

An online version of the letter and corresponding Web site go further, for instance with a picture of bin Laden, Chavez and Ahmadinejad. "These terror leaders also want America to continue its foreign oil dependence," reads the caption underneath the graphic.

Now, Americans for American Energy has turned from accusing its opponents of being in league with terrorists to accusing them of fighting a “war on the poor,” and this message seems to have resonated with Republicans on Capitol Hill.  A number of rank and file Congressional Republicans showed up on-message at the kick-off press conference, including Rep. Bill Sali of Idaho, co-sponsor of a bill suspiciously entitled the “Americans for American Energy Act,” which “would open ANWR and the OCS to increase production of American crude oil and give the right incentives to boost conservation, improved efficiency and bring alternative energy online sooner.”

But they’ve gained a much higher-profile ally in Senator Orrin Hatch, who mentioned the campaign, quoted one of its leaders, Bishop Harry Jackson, and plugged its website, all on the Senate floor:

Unfortunately for the Democrat party, the poor are beginning to wake up that the liberals they have always looked to are behind the War on the Poor. By War on the Poor, I refer to the movement by the anti-oil extremists to close off every good domestic oil resource, which is a direct cause of the high energy prices Americans face.

Democrats in Congress have been forced to choose between the very well funded extreme anti-oil interests and the poor, because on energy prices there is no compromise between the two. The Democrats have begun to recognize the position they are in, and are trying to have it both ways with today’s vote.

Earlier this month, a group of protesters came to Capitol Hill calling on Congress to Stop the War on the Poor by groups and congressmen who are closing off America's energy resources.

Included in the group were pastors and civil rights leaders calling on this body to unlock America's oil resources for the benefit of Americans, and especially for the benefit of lower income Americans.

One of the Participants was Bishop Harry Jackson. I would like to quote some of his remarks for the record. These are his words:

"I am a registered Democrat, but this has nothing to do with partisan politics. Unless the public understands that there are specific people and organizations that are fueling this war against the poor, nothing will change and the poor will continue to suffer. We will unmask those behind this war regardless of their political party or ideology. Party labels and partisan ideologies are meaningless when it comes to protecting the lives of America's most vulnerable citizens,"

By the way, Mr. President, you can see more about the stop the war on the poor movement on the web at

Ironically, Niger Innis, co-chair of the Stop the War on the Poor effort, says that U. S. politicians are "being cowered by a very powerful, well-funded environmental extremist lobby that has a great deal of influence over them, and a great deal of influence over policy” and that their primary mission is "’outing’ the extremist groups and the politicians it says are doing their bidding.”

Bold words for a man heading an effort that is itself a phony Astroturf campaign on behalf of energy interests. 

Donnelly Complains She Didn't Get a Fair Hearing

Elaine Donnelly blames everyone but herself for her embarrassing performance: "'The follow-up media describing this hearing just continued a very abusive atmosphere. It was not by any means the kind of fair hearing that we had been led to expect,' she contends. 'But that was for two reasons -- the Democrats were determined to shape the hearing into the image that they had in mind. And secondly, the Republicans did not show up.' According to a statement released by Donnelly Monday afternoon, she and Brian Jones -- a retired sergeant of the Army's Delta Force -- had difficulty being heard 'because liberal members of the committee attacked our motives, asked absurd questions, and tried to bully us in the presence of hostile media.'"

FRC Rests to Better "Fight Rising Tide of Evil"

OneNewsNow reports that FRC's Tony Perkins gave the staff the day off to "take part in a day of prayer and fasting for the nation": "'Literally before us, we're seeing God's institution of marriage being redefined – 5,000 years of human history disregarded. I think that the church needs to be awakened, and that begins with each of us as believers. And as we work alongside of pastors and churches, our hope is that, as a church, that we will repent, that we will take our rightful role in society ... But first we must get right with God, and that begins with our personal relationships.' According to Perkins, the nation is witnessing a rising tide of evil that threatens the very foundations of the Republic"

Scarborough’s Crusade Comes to Kansas

Back when Vision America’s Rick Scarborough first announced his bold “70 Weeks to Save America” tour, the goal was to with the goal of sign up “100,000 Values Voters, 10,000 key leaders, 5,000 Patriot Pastors and 5,000 women” to “vote their Christian values on Election Day 2008.”  Since then, its messaging has been, at best, confusing and its efforts to rally supporters have repeatedly run into problems, especially once his partner in the endeavor, Alan Keyes, decided to run for president.  

But Scarborough has forged ahead, apparently opening new chapters of Vision America in New Mexico and Kansas and planning scaled-down “One Day Crusades” in both states.  In fact, Scarborough was just in Kansas yesterday for one of his events where Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline was the featured speaker.  In fact, helping Kline in his primary re-election bid next week seems to have been the primary reason for the event

Scarborough said the first thing the Kansas City media has been asking him is, Why is he here?

“The reason I am here is because of Phill Kline,” Scarborough told the audience. “It’s the only reason I’m here.”

Kline is seeking a four-year term as district attorney. On Aug. 5, he faces former Johnson County prosecutor Steve Howe in the GOP primary.

Of course, even though the event was held explicitly for Klein and just one week before his primary election, Scarborough insists that the event was entirely nonpartisan:

Scarborough wasn’t here to endorse Kline, however.  As a non-profit, Vision America would run afoul of IRS rules if he did so.

He was here as part of the group’s mission to encourage pastors to be pro-active in restoring Judeo-Christian values in communities across the nation.

But apparently, local pastors weren’t buying Scarborough’s assurances and wisely stayed away in droves:

Scarborough said he checked with his lawyers in advance and was told that there would be no problem with Kline “sharing his faith” at those meetings.

However, the idea of it “apparently scared the pants” off the pastors, Scarborough said. The attendance rate of the pastors was the lowest the group has seen, he said.

The Huckabee Fan Club Says “It’s Us or Them”

Just last week we were noting that the recent surge of support among Religious Right leaders for John McCain seemed to hinge largely on his willingness to follow their advice and name Mike Huckabee as his running mate.  But as decision-time nears and the campaign begins airing lists of candidates which don’t include Huckabee, these right-wing leaders sprung into action to, once again, make their opposition known to Mitt Romney, the presumed front-runner:   

Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.

They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.

"McCain and Romney would be like oil and water," said evangelical novelist Tim LaHaye, who supported Mr. Huckabee. "We aren't against Mormonism, but Romney is not a thoroughgoing evangelical and his flip-flopping on issues is understandable in a liberal state like Massachusetts, but our people won't understand that."

David Barton, a former vice president of the Republican Party of Texas, said, "The key for Mr. McCain is to pick someone who opposes abortion but doesn't alienate any part of the general Republican voting coalition" as Mr. Romney does.

Longtime social-conservative leaders such as Phyllis Schlafly, Phil Burress, Donald P. Hodel and Mathew Staver said earlier this month that they can rally their voters around Mr. McCain largely on the issues of abortion and the judiciary, as long as they are confident that the vice-presidential candidate is pro-life. They are skeptical about Mr. Romney's views.

Mr. Barton, founder of the national pro-life group WallBuilders, said the downside for picking either Mr. Romney or Mr. Huckabee is that evangelicals still would vote for Mr. McCain on Nov. 4 - given the alternative of Mr. Obama - but not work as hard organizing and getting out the vote.

"Romney would bring to the ticket as much enthusiasm from supporters as Huckabee would bring, but Romney's would be from fiscal conservatives and Huckabee's would be evangelicals," he said.

Of course, Barton and just about every other person mentioned in this article just so happened to sign on to the Colorado letter that essentially warned McCain that he’d better pick Huckabee or else, so it is not as if they are disinterested observers. 

Barton’s suggestion that Romney would generate a lot of excitement among fiscal conservatives is a little suspect given that the best that organizations like Club for Growth could say about him was that they were “reasonably optimistic that [he] would generally advocate a pro-growth agenda."  It’s laughable to think that Romney would match among fiscal conservatives the rabid enthusiasm that Huckabee has had throughout the process from Religious Right leaders.    

Even so, what Barton and the other Religious Right leaders quoted in the article seem to be doing is daring McCain to pick a side:  us or them; bringing to a head a clash between social and fiscal conservatives that has been brewing ever since Republicans lost control of Congress back in 2006.

For The Right, Obama’s Religious Test Now Includes Denouncing Unrelated Billboards

Throughout the summer, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has been placing billboards around the country reading "Imagine No Religion"


As the FFRF explains it

The Foundation is taking its irreverent message to what it calls the "unmassed masses" state-by-state. The billboard carries the Freedom From Religion Foundation's name and its website,

"Wherever you go, our roadsides of full of religion and religious symbols," said Foundation copresident Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We think it's time to advertise an alternative." The Foundation has placed a second billboard message, with the same stained-glass motif, warning: "Beware of Dogma," in several states.

The Foundation's goal is to place billboards in every state. Currently, its "Imagine No Religion" message appears near the State Capitol in Denver. Billboards have appeared in Madison, Wis., Atlanta, Ga., Columbus, Ohio, and rural Pennsylvania and will be going up in Harrisburg, Pa., in September.

The ad has now gone up in Denver, though The Denver Post reports that “it will come down before the Democratic National Convention because the rate for that period was prohibitively high.”  But that hasn’t stopped a Virginia group called In God We Trust from trying to capitalize on it by sending a letter to Barack Obama telling him that he has an obligation to publicly denounce it and that failure to do so “will permanently damage your message of hope and inclusion with the American people”:

By placing their billboard in Denver, the FFRF hopes to ride your coattails to the Democratic National Convention and claim your success somehow validates their anti-religious views. The presence of this hate-filled message in a prominent location in the city where you will be nominated in just a few weeks has already garnered much media attention. Its message damages the Democratic Party's image with the 92% of Americans who believe in God. I urge you to publicly reject the stance of the FFRF. Failing to publicly denounce this attack on religion will permanently damage your message of hope and inclusion with the American people. Your silence will only show Americans that attacks on their beliefs will go unchallenged in an Obama administration.

Got (Problems With) Milk?

Religious Right groups are voicing their opposition to efforts to honor gay rights activist Harvey Milk: "'What significant contribution did Harvey Milk bring to the state of California – other than encouraging gay people to come out of the closet?' asked Benjamin Lopez of the Traditional Values Coalition. 'This is yet another example of them trying to normalize and force acceptance of the gay lifestyle upon people,' he said ... Randy Thomasson, of Campaign for California Children and Families, which opposes AB 2567, said the bill is a new tactic in a long push to portray homosexuality in a positive light to kids. 'Harvey Milk Day is the equivalent of having Gay Day at every school in the state,' he said."

Better Early Than Never

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the American Family Association of Michigan has begun running ads against Allegan County Circuit Judge William Baillargeon saying he has a "long history of involvement with homosexual activist groups that promote so-called homosexual 'marriage' and other radical elements of the homosexual agenda." The ads are scheduled to run through the Aug. 5 primary - which isn't particularly effective considering that Baillargeon's Circuit Court race isn't until November.

"Justice Sunday" Preacher Steps Down Amid Lawsuit

Jerry Sutton's Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee had hosted the Family Research Council's Justice Sunday II rally and was scheduled to host one of Rick Scarborough's upcoming crusades, but now Sutton has agreed to retire amid an lawsuit over alleged financial improprieties: "By a more than 3-to-1 margin, members of Two Rivers Baptist Church approved a $314,000 retirement package for the Rev. Jerry Sutton on Sunday, clearing the way for the embattled minister to leave the congregation he has led for more than 22 years ... Sutton and church leaders hope his retirement will bring an end to a 14-month conflict. In the summer of 2007, a group of dissident church members sued Two Rivers, seeking Sutton's ouster and access to church financial records."