Thursday, October 19, 2006
Romney's quasi-official Mormon outreach initiative.
The front page of today's Boston Globe carefully lays out the sequence of events that led the dean and associate dean of the business school at the Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University to send an official invitation to alumni soliciting their support for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. A Mormon apostle and former president of BYU, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, had encouraged using the business school alumni organization to recruit LDS supporters, although a church spokesman says Holland met with Romney campaign representatives to remind them of the church's political neutrality.
Did the business school email, sent to 50 members of the alumni association and 100 members of the school's National Advisory Council, violate that pesky IRS limitation on political endorsements or electioneering by nonprofit organizations? The associate dean, W. Steve Albrecht, when asked about the email by Globe reporters, said, "It wasn't something BYU did, it wasn't something I probably should have done, and it was bad judgment," (Translation: Whoops! I wish I'd taken the alumni email list home and sent it from my AOL account!)
Also intriguing: Don Stirling, Romney's Utah-based campaign consultant, says the Mutual Values and Priorities (MVP) initiative is intended to engage religious leaders from diverse traditions — but he acknowledged that the campaign has only met with LDS leaders. (Among the recruits so far: the chief executive of the church's book publishing division and the president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.) More intriguing, Stephen Zwick, the head of Romney's PAC, told the Globe that MVP had been abandoned and distanced the PAC from the effort — even though the MVP leaders were actively recruiting people earlier this week.
Final thought: Like any politician, Romney is going to work every set of contacts he has — and the Mormon community is his obvious personal base. But the media does its job well when it monitors how well campaigns are abiding by the law. The Globe headline may imply misbehavior by Mormon Church leaders, an implication that the story doesn't firmly establish, but the email from BYU officials does look like a violation of IRS regulations.
("Romney camp consulted with Mormon leaders: Eyes nationwide network to aid White House bid," Scott Helman and Michael Levenson, Boston Globe 10.19.06, reg req'd; "IRS officials stepping up enforcement," Michael Levenson and Scott Helman, Boston Globe 10.19.06, reg req'd)
Update 10.23.06: See the Salt Lake Tribune's coverage of the response by the LDS Church and by Kem Gardner, the Utah businessman who says, "I'm to blame for this whole mess." ("Romney pal takes blame for dust-up: LDS Church denies claim it backs Romney," Thomas Burr, Joe Baird, and Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune 10.23.06)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 19 October 2006 at 8:42 AM