One of the more appalling aspects of the “faith-based” initiative under President George W. Bush was the way the White House faith-based office was politicized.
Church & State broke this story back in 2002. We noticed that James Towey, then head of the faith-based office, kept popping up alongside GOP incumbents or challengers in several states, often before African-American audiences. The clear implication was that federal “faith-based” money might dry up if Republicans were not put in office.
This pattern of partisanship was later confirmed by David Kuo, a staffer in the faith-based office. In his book Tempting Faith, Kuo wrote about how the White House sought to use the faith-based initiative to win votes for the GOP in 2002 and 2004.
“We laid out a plan whereby we would hold ‘roundtable events’ for threatened incumbents with faith and community leaders,” Kuo wrote. “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. Though the Republican candidate would host the roundtable, it wouldn’t be a campaign event. The member of Congress was just taking time away from his or her campaign to serve the community. It would be the perfect event.”
Sounds pretty partisan, right? Incredibly, Towey recently had the unmitigated gall to pen an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal attacking President Barack Obama for using several faith-based offices in federal agencies to let Americans know about the new health-care law.
AU has been critical of the president’s approach to the faith-based initiative, but we would be remiss to point out that in this case, what Obama did was certainly not partisan; it was nowhere near Towey’s stunts.
Instead of using the initiative to shill for Democrats, Obama merely asked religious leaders to help spread the word about some new provisions of the health-care law that are kicking in. The White House faith-based office, which had those contacts, set up a conference call. End of story.
Towey’s Journal piece is a rather sad attempt at rewriting history. It is a cheap shot, and it won’t work. The track record here is simply too clear. For example, The Washington Post, using some of AU’s research, reported about the “faith-based” political push on Sept. 15, 2002.
If Towey wants to see the person who’s really responsible for politicizing the faith-based initiative, he needn’t do much. He can simply look in the mirror.