The Washington Post had an article today about the shrinking influence, membership and budget of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson’s political wing that at one point controlled more than half of the state Republican party committees in the nation.
The once-mighty Christian Coalition, founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Pat Robertson as the political fundraising and lobbying engine of the Christian right, is more than $2 million in debt, beset by creditors’ lawsuits and struggling to hold on to some of its state chapters.
In March, one of its most effective chapters, the Christian Coalition of Iowa, cut ties with the national organization and reincorporated itself as the Iowa Christian Alliance, saying it “found it impossible to continue to carry a name that in any way associated us with this national organization.”
“The credibility is just not there like it once was,” said Stephen L. Scheffler, president of the Iowa affiliate since 2000. “The budget has shrunk from $26 million to $1 million. There’s a trail of debt. . . . We believe, our board believes, any Christian organization has an obligation to pay its debts in a timely fashion.”
The article does note, however, that they are still included in frequent policy meetings with the White House and with conservative leaders. The decline began to happen when Ralph Reed left to form his own political consulting firm. He’s now running for assistant governor in Georgia and floundering badly due to his close ties to Jack Abramoff. It’s easy to cackle with glee at the death throes of this group, but let’s not kid ourselves: their decline in influence has been matched by the increased market share (and yes, that is exactly what it is, a share of the market for the financial donations of millions of followers) of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and other religious right groups.
In light of a string of embarrassing statements by Pat Robertson, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever regain the political power he once had. I guess he’ll have to sell a few more age-defying pancakes to keep the money flowing in.