Christian Coalition in Deepening Trouble

Tax-Exempt Status Officially Denied by IRS; Massive Reorganization Announced Today

June 10, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The premiere anti-gay political organization in the country – the Virginia-based Christian Coalition – announced a massive reorganization today after a series of humiliating setbacks and major high-level resignations have hit the once-formidable organization and its founder and chairman, televangelist Pat Robertson.

On the heels of an international public relations fiasco that severed lucrative business ties for Robertson this week, the Christian Coalition confirmed today that the Internal Revenue Service has denied its long-pending application for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The move has forced the group to reorganize as a business entity and rename itself Christian Coalition International, making it potentially liable for millions of dollars in back taxes and threatening its ability to have any political coordinating connection to churches.

The announcement noted that the new corporation will "have the freedom to endorse political candidates on a state and local level, make financial contributions to candidates or engage in such other activities as are permissible to all businesses" through the creating of a corporate political action committee. But such activities will be subject to strict regulation and limits by the Federal Elections Commission, unlike those activities by tax-exempt organizations. It will also limit Robertson's ability to pump unlimited amounts of money into political activities – limiting his own personal contributions to $5,000 per year.

The announcement pointed out that the Texas chapter of the Christian Coalition, which currently "enjoys" 501(c)(4) tax exempt status on its own, would be renamed Christian Coalition of America under a reorganized board of directors and become the "principal vehicle" for the organization's activities in the United States. It was unclear what role Robertson would play in the Texas organization, whether it would continue to be Texas-based, or how it would operate as an arm of the reorganized Christian Coalition International business entity. It was also unclear how the business entity would generate revenue for itself, and what, if any, non-PAC political activities it could legally conduct.

"Clearly the Christian Coalition, as we knew it, is no more," said Kevin Ivers, director of public affairs for Log Cabin Republicans. "In order to survive and remain a viable entity under the law, all of these actions were necessary. But the resignations, firings and demotions of all its top talent, and the impact of these changes on its ability to raise money and campaign in churches make you wonder what could be left of the organization today, other than Pat Robertson sitting alone at the top. We shouldn't underestimate their ability to rebuild in some way, but it's hard to imagine how."