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Bad news for Washington Catholic hierarchy

Timothy Kincaid

August 30th, 2012

The electioneering laws in Washington are fairly strict. No anonymous donations, no secret deals, no hidden signatories, and no bundling.

“Bundling” is where a special interest group will get around donation limitations by collecting checks from individual people and present them together so the recipient knows that they really are all related to a single cause. But bundling also has another purpose, to let special interest groups know just who is a loyal participant and who needs to cough up or lose influence.

And the latest effort by Catholic hierarchy to fund opposition to Washington’s Referendum 74 (which validates the state’s equal marriage law) has been deemed to be bundling. The Church had planned on passing the plate next weekend to collect parishioner dollars to oppose equality. (News Tribune)

The diocese’s chief of staff, Monsignor Robert Siler, said Tuesday that the expected collection was set for Sept. 8-9.

But Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, said no organization can be an intermediary for a contribution. The church can hand out envelopes at Mass, but a member of Preserve Washington has to be on hand to collect them, or parishioners must send them in individually.

Now I know a thing or two about contributions. And one of the things I know is that when Father Dogma passes the plate and everyone is watching, there’s a lot of social pressure to give, and give generously. But when you take home an envelope, find your checkbook, hunt up that pack of stamps you bought in 2009, address and mail the whole thing off to the campaign office – all out of the sight of Father Dogma and that annoying Thelma who thinks she so holy and always watches to see what you give – the impetus to contribute is significantly lower.

Now it is likely that the campaign will have volunteers at most of the Catholic churches next weekend. But even that isn’t quite the same as presenting your envelope to Father Dogma at the end of services.

And the campaign is counting on this cash. Donations have been sparse.

Comments

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tristram
August 30th, 2012 | LINK

I suspect that your title sells “Washington Catholics” short. This may be “bad news” for the Bishops and most of the clergy, but there are probably plenty of lay Catholics and a number of priests and nuns in Washington who support all families.

Timothy Kincaid
August 30th, 2012 | LINK

Tristram

You are absolutely right. I’ll change it.

revchicoucc
August 31st, 2012 | LINK

While you’re being upset with Father Dogma, are you equally upset with Reverend Openmind at the progressive, liberal church who is urging her members to support marriage equality? The prohibition on bundling applies to her church, too.

You’re always urging the pro-equality churches to speak up, be more vocal, more visible, more active. The pro-equality group in Washington includes a fairly good number of religious organizations on their website.

Will the Public Disclosure Commission investigate all contributions sent by religious organizations to determine whether or not the prohbition was violated, regardless of which side they support? That seems appropriate to me.

jerry
August 31st, 2012 | LINK

revchicoucc, unless the information in the article is incorrect the state commission said ALL organizations are prohibited from bundling contributions so yes that would include churches with liberal or progressive bents. The question I have is do you have any verifiable data that shows liberal or progressive churches have been bundling contributions in the manner proscribed?

revchicoucc
September 1st, 2012 | LINK

@Jerry. It is clear to me from Mr. Kincaid’s article the prohibition on bundling applies to all religious organizations. In a Washington Post article on this matter, Ms. Anderson is quoted as saying the prohibition applies to ALL organizations, religious or not, and her statement is preemptory. I do not see any evidence in any source that any religious organization has bundled. The offering mentioned in this article had not been collected.

My comment is directed at Mr. Kincaid’s suggestion that intimidation and social pressure is somehow confined to Catholic clergy and parishes and to opponents of equality.

Supporters of marriage equality can also use intimidation or social pressure to extract generous giving. Even a gentle collection of gifts that are passed through the church’s books, that cannot be linked to individuals, appears to not be allowed.

Washington United for Marriage has a pretty long list of religious organizations who are pro-equality. I bet some pastor on that list has thought about taking a collection in a worship service to pass on as a gift from the church. I would (I’m not in Washington). Now they know better.

It is possible that a violation of the bundling prohibition occurred before organizations knew better. So, will the Commission investigate all organizational contributions to both sides? Unless someone challenges a specific contribution, probably not.

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