Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he did nothing improper by holding a political fundraiser in a Texas televangelist’s church sanctuary last week.
The event, which coincided with Kenneth Copeland’s annual Ministers’ Conference, was held at Eagle Mountain International Church in the Fort Worth suburb of Newark. Preachers from around the country who had gathered in the sanctuary for the religious event stayed for Huckabee fundraiser.
“I made a phone call in and just said hello to them, called in on a speaker phone, said hi and encouraged them, you know. And that was it,” the former Arkansas governor said Tuesday during an interview outside a Tampa polling place. “They told me there was over a thousand of them there. I’m not sure how many because I couldn’t see them. I could only hear them on the phone.” The Trinity Foundation, a Dallas nonprofit that monitors televangelists, says the fundraiser produced $ 111, 000 in donations and about $ 1 million in pledges, but Huckabee said he doesn’t know how much was raised.
The foundation has criticized Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, for turning a house of worship into a place of political fundraising. But Huckabee contended Tuesday that it’s appropriate to raise campaign money in a house of prayer.
“If it’s done where it’s a separate entity, sure. I mean you can do anything you want as long as you handle it according to very specific guidelines. And I’m sure they did that,” Huckabee said.
A Copeland spokesman said that the Huckabee campaign had paid $ 2, 500 to rent space at the ministry for three hours.
Organizations that are exempt from federal income tax, such as charities, schools and churches, cannot endorse a candidate, make contributions or engage in fundraising.
Known as 501 (c )(3 ) organizations, after the section of the Internal Revenue Service code that describes them, they may not participate or intervene in any political campaign in behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.
Huckabee isn’t the first politician to raise money in a house of worship. In 1996, then-Vice President Al Gore attended a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at a Buddhist temple in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
That event eventually led to criminal convictions, after it was determined that fundraisers had been untruthful about the source of donations.
The Newark event comes two months after the Senate Finance Committee launched an investigation into the financial practices of Copeland and other prominent television preachers. The committee’s ranking Republican, Charles Grassley of Iowa, has asked specifically about a $ 2 million personal gift that Copeland and his wife, Gloria, received from fellow preachers at the 2007 Ministers Conference.
Copeland, who lives in a 18, 280-square-foot parsonage and flies a $ 17. 5 million ministry jet, has declined to turn over key financial data. At last week’s conference, he vowed to go to jail, if necessary, rather than supply lawmakers with information about his benefactors.
Copeland told those in attendance that Huckabee is an ally who has vowed to side with him as he battles Congress.
“He [Huckabee ] said, ‘ I will stand with you anytime, anywhere, on any issue, ’” Copeland said, relaying a conversation he had with Huckabee shortly after the investigation was launched.
Huckabee suggested he is merely being loyal to a friend.
“Just because somebody’s under siege doesn’t mean I go abandon them,” Huckabee said Tuesday. “I hate to think that all my friends would abandon me because somebody dislikes me. I wouldn’t have any friends left.
“ All I know about him is that he’s a delightful human being, gracious, kind, thoughtful, generous.” Asked about the Huckabee fundraiser, a spokesman for Grassley suggested lawmakers will not widen their investigation. “Sen. Grassley is focusing on getting answers to his questions on ministry finances as they relate to tax-exempt policy,” Jill Gerber said. “The issue of the appropriate role of churches in politics is a separate issue of taxexempt policy and is not the focus of his review.” The Rev. Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church in Little Rock, was one of the speakers at last week’s conference. His ministry’s jet flew to Copeland’s private airport and returned Thursday afternoon.
Caldwell did not return phone calls Monday and Tuesday. An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter who asked to speak to Caldwell was ordered to leave church property by a uniformed guard.