WASHINGTON — The Christian Coalition will distribute 33 million election guides to voters this weekend, but Democrats are accusing the group of distorting the party's views in an effort to help Republicans.
A sampling of guides shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is the Republican candidate whose views are most in line with those espoused by the coalition, the offspring of religious broadcaster Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign.
But coalition leaders vehemently deny picking sides--which would violate the organization's tax-exempt status--and say records are meticulously researched and the choices left to voters.
"We know the rules, and we play by them," coalition spokesman Mike Russell said.
The voting guides are usually shipped to state chapters in mid-October, but the national headquarters has ordered that they not be distributed to churches and Christian bookstores until the Sunday before Election Day. One reason is that the guides are viewed as a timely reminder to vote. But another is that Christian Coalition leaders worry about candidate complaints.
"You want to hold it until that last Sunday because, if they start raising doubts about the voter guide, you're going to have a real skittish pastor that is just going to pull them," Christian Coalition voter education director Chuck Cunningham told a September coalition strategy session with state affiliates.
Where the guides have been seen by candidates in advance, there already are complaints.
In Oklahoma, for example, Democratic House candidate Stuart Price says the guide is full of "mistruths" about his views on abortion, school prayer and homosexuality, and he has urged Tulsa churches not to distribute it.
The Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in South Carolina, one of the Christian Coalition's strongest states, have complained that their views on abortion are distorted. School board candidates in New Hampshire have criticized the guides as inaccurate.
But Russell said: "What we routinely see is, candidates who refuse to answer our survey start complaining that we are putting their record out there for people to judge."