A nationwide effort to oppose abortion legislation that doesn’t exist has conjured a controversial anti-abortion fund-raising letter that shouldn’t exist — at least according to a spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who purportedly wrote and signed the letter.
The Brownback letter, mailed by a Washington-based anti-abortion group called Catholic Advocate, questions the religious credentials of some of Brownback’s fellow Catholics in Congress:
“Real Catholics need a new voice — not the likes of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi who have campaigned as Catholics while voting to undermine the values that we hold most dear. The same can be said for the five ‘Catholic’ senators sponsoring the Freedom of Choice Act, namely: Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).”
“Real Catholics” must be Catholics who live in the parts of the country Sarah Palin called “Real America.”
Anyway, the letter goes on to call the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) an “imminent threat,” urges readers to sign and send an enclosed “Stop the Freedom of Choice Act” petition to Congress, and, oh by the way, “consider sending your most generous gift to Catholic Advocate.”
Regardless of Brownback’s actual involvement, the letter clearly is part of the Catholic Church’s campaign against the Freedom of Choice Act, which as Time magazine reporter Amy Sullivan recently explained, “doesn’t exist and wouldn’t have much chance of becoming law even if it did.”
Why campaign against a bill that isn’t? “They’re using this as a fundraising tool, as a way to gin up their relevancy. And unfortunately, some of these groups have the ear of certain bishops,” James Salt, director of organizing for the progressive organization Catholics United, told Sullivan.
Does Catholic Advocate really have the ear of certain Republican senators? A spokeswoman for Catholic Advocate told National Catholic Reporter that the letter was sanctioned by Brownback’s office. But Brownback spokesman Brian Hart said “Our chief of staff … had never seen, heard of, or approved it . . . We are not pleased with the content of the letter.”
Meanwhile, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (there’s a mission) has asked the Senate Ethics Committee Wednesday to look into it. Other groups such as Faithful America and Catholics United are calling on Brownback to “set the record straight” and that funds raised by the letter be returned or donated to Catholic Charities.
I suspect that Brownback, a Catholic convert, will disavow the letter and apologize to his fellow Catholics in Congress. But what he can’t or won’t say is that this happens all of the time. Advocacy groups (and politicians) rely on fear tactics to raise awareness, support and funds. And it doesn’t seem to matter if those fears are real or imagined.