Commentary: Theocrats Running Scared Over FOIA Request

Here's a development that should inspire industry leaders to buy a round of drinks: At least two religious right organizations are clearly worried about Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) finding out just how much access they and their buds have had to the White House.

CREW, you may recall, is the group that's been busy outing congresscritters who are too deeply in the pockets of lobbyists like Jack Abramoff, and more recently was one of the first groups to receive the e-mails and IMs that ex-Rep. Mark Foley had been sending to House pages.

Now, the group has filed what should be a simple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Secret Service, looking for the dates and times of visits by various religious leaders – James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Jerry Falwell (Liberty University), etc. – to the White House, whether to visit President Bush himself, Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove or any of the other staffers that closely attend the President.

CREW's rationale for the request is that the records are "likely to contribute to the public's understanding of the influence that conservative Christian leaders have, or attempt to have, on the president in the exercise of his authority."

D'ya think?

Under the law, the Secret Service will have 20 business days from the date of filing to respond to the request for records pertaining to Dobson, Perkins and Falwell, as well as Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America) (CWfA), Paul Weyrich (Free Congress Foundation), Louis Sheldon and Andrea Lafferty (Traditional Values Coalition), and Gary Bauer (Americans United to Preserve Marriage & American Values). Sadly, CREW left out a couple of semi-important ones: Jan LaRue, also of CWfA, Phil Burress (Citizens for Community Values) and Tom Minnery (Focus on the Family). Perhaps another request is in order.

(Of course, why the log of who visits anyone in the White House isn't already a matter of open public record is a worthy topic of discussion. After all, those White House people are our employees!)

And of course, the theocrats are responding to news of the FOIA request with their usual openness and candor.

"Aside from my family and staff," wrote Perkins in FRC's daily e-"news"letter, "few people take much interest in my itinerary. A group misleadingly called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), however, has taken a sudden interest in my visits to the White House. The George Soros-funded interest group sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the White House asking for records of all visits I've made there since the inauguration of President Bush."

For those who don't know, mention of the name of George Soros, the billionaire who backs several progressive causes, and his link to CREW, is theocrat-talk for "It's just another left-wing plot to take away YOUR religious liberties." And sure enough, within a couple more sentences, Perkins states that outright:

"In a democracy, the government is expected to hear the views of various groups and individuals, However, CREW is implying that Christians should be locked out of the White House."

Actually, CREW just wants to know how locked-IN the theocrats are to the Bush administration, and a good place to start is by finding out how welcomed they've been for the past five-plus years.

"While we have nothing to hide," Perkins prevaricates, "CREW may have its own hidden agenda. CREW claims that on July 21 they sent the FBI copies of emails from Mark Foley to a 16-year-old former House page. Yet they waited until September 29 — just over a month before the elections — to request a House Ethics Committee investigation into Rep. Foley. Such suspect timing is one of the reasons we have called for an investigation that includes the role of outside groups and why they withheld this information from the Ethics Committee and the public until now."

That's right, Tony; try the old bait-and-switch. By turning over the Foley e-mails to the FBI, CREW was just doing its job – and if the FBI had been doing its job, the current scandal would have broken two months earlier – but that's hardly CREW's fault. And in case you hadn't noticed, several prominent Republicans have asked the House Ethics Committee to look into the matter as well – and none of them receive a dime from George Soros!

The Christian, er, Cybercast News Service, run by reactionary media "critic" L. Brent Bozell, III – Keith Olbermann refers to him as "Bozo the Clown" – also did an article on the FOIA request, getting quotes from several theocrat lowlights. Wendy Wright, for instance, "questioned CREW's motives in not seeking information about other religious groups who visit the White House, calling it 'an act of Christianophobia.'"

Well, Wendy, considering the administration's policies towards Iraq, Iran and the so-called "war on terror," it seems unlikely that too many Muslim groups are having much influence on administration policies. Likewise, the Mormon, Ba'hai, Buddhist, Hindu and Santerian visitors don't appear to have much influenced policy. And why ask about Jewish visitors, when all you apocalyptic Christians are so gung-ho these days on Israel? I'm sure you and your buds do all the pro-Israel lobbying that country needs!

Andrea Lafferty is quoted in the CNS article as claiming that CREW is "targeting people who represent millions and millions of Christians, and this is clearly an attempt to harass and to intimidate."

Well, gee, Andrea: If, as Tony Perkins claims, you folks have "nothing to hide," surely, you shouldn't have any problem letting the public in on how cozy you are with Bush and his underlings/cronies? Think of it as a corollary to what you've been saying to the millions of Americans concerned about the administration's warrantless NSA wiretaps: "If you've got nothing to hide, why should you care?"

"Clearly, the White House communicates with a number of us on a weekly basis on a variety of issues," Lafferty told CNS "reporter" Monisha Bansal.

Then clearly, the questions are, How many of you, and How many times each week? It's sort of like the old joke about the guy and the hooker: "We've established what you are. Now we're just haggling about the price."

Describing herself and the other objects of the FOIA request as "a constituency that put the president in the White House," Lafferty added, "The president has a lot of people that he listens to - he cares about every citizen - but our folks are the heart and soul of the Republican Party right now."

No doubt about that! But statistics are often revealing, and if it turns out that you and/or one (or several) of your buds have been visiting high administration officials on anything approaching a daily basis, the American people might like to know that – especially the ones who pooh-pooh the idea that your and your cohorts are trying to turn the Republic into a Theocracy.

"They don't want Christians to turn out and vote," Lafferty said. "What they really want us to do is turn in our voter ID cards and just say, 'Hey, we're not going to show up at the polls.'"

No, it's pretty clear that what CREW is after is to publicize how you folks use the Christians that do vote as bargaining chips to get what you want – money and power, usually – from the American taxpayer by way of the Bush administration ... and maybe they're hoping to motivate some of those Christians who don't yet know how faithlessly you use them to think about the agendas they're supporting with their votes ... and maybe stop supporting those agendas.

"Obviously, everyone on the list is considered a threat," Lafferty told CNS. "Anyone who is a threat, Soros and his people go after."

If only! But not even Soros has that much time and money! But considering that the "threat" you pose is to the U.S. Constitution, maybe that's time and money well spent...

CREW's FOIA request was filed on Oct. 4, which gives the Secret Service until Nov. 1 – about one week before the election – to respond. And it seems pretty clear that whether they give up the information without a fight, or they attempt to stonewall, either outcome isn't going to help the theocrats much on Nov. 7.