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Santorum’s religious-right spending could spell trouble with tea party

With austerity measures and gay rights emerging as seminal campaign issues in the run up to the GOP nomination for president, former U.S. senator Rick

Jul 31, 2020495 Shares494.5K Views
With austerity measures and gay rights emerging as seminal campaign issues in the run up to the GOP nomination for president, former U.S. senator Rick Santorum’s record on both is coming under scrutiny. Santorum helped secure federal earmarks for an anti-gay group that later campaigned for him in 2006, yet as recently as last week, he criticized GOP lawmakers for not cutting enough from the federal budget.
“We needed to balance the budget — we need to limit the size and scale of government — what they did with this proposal was kick the can down the road,” Santorum told Fox’s Greta Van Susteran last week.“They did get some cuts, but everyone knows those cuts in the first two years are small — those are the only ones that really can be controlled.”
Rhetoric aside, Santorum’s quest for earmarks landed him in hot water in 2006, when an anti-gay organization that he secured earmarks for supported his political campaign for Senate.
The Urban Family Council has received $1,016,169 in federal funds for abstinence education and other programming since 2003 chiefly through earmarks secured by Santorum. The money is part of $3.1 million that Santorum earmarked, along with fellow former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, for social conservative causes in Pennsylvania.
The UFC is not your typical social-services organization. The Philadelphia-based group took shape in 1987 when William Devlin took over the Philadelphia Family Policy Council and renamed it the Urban Family Council.
According to the Presbyterian News, Devlin sees the “predilection toward alternative life-styles in American cities as reflective of the same trend in Berlin and Amsterdam before the rise of the Third Reich.”
Those “alternative lifestyles” are Philadelphia’s LGBT communities.
Devlin’s group supports laws criminalizing gays and lesbians. He told the Advocate in 2003, that he is “one of those folk who believes the government should be in our bedrooms.” He also filed suit to prevent domestic partner benefits from taking effect in Philadelphia and has vociferously supported a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution barring same-sex marriage.
Financial connections
In addition to securing earmarks for the UFC, Santorum’s foundation, Operation Good Neighbor, gave the group $10,000 in 2002. That foundation came under fire because it paid officersin Santorum’s campaign and was run out of his campaign office.
Santorum’s support for the UFC and Devlin was reciprocated in 2006.
UFC was part of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network which held a get-out-the-vote drive in Pennsylvania churches and featured a spring 2006 address by Santorum. No other candidates were given the same courtesy.
In fact, his opponent, now-Sen. Bob Casey, sent a letter requesting that he also be allowed to address the PPN. He was rebuffed and Devlin threw his full support behind Santorum.
“I am sure you are interested in clearly showing that the Pennsylvania Pastors Network does not endorse candidates,” Casey wrote. “I would greatly appreciate being allowed a few minutes to share my values and priorities.”
Santorum said in his video message to 125 clergy that March, “I encourage you to let your voices be heard from the pulpit” the New York Times reported. “You are the leaders of the flock. You have a responsibility to be informed and to inform” and “to help guide those who seek your counsel,” especially in regard to banning same-sex marriage. The pastors were each given a copy of Santorum’s book, “It Takes a Family.”
The appearance of a quid pro quo relationship between the UFC and Santorum sparked criticism from many quarters.
UFC and the PPN were subject to a complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in 2006 because of the perceived focus on reelecting Santorum. The group held an election day prayer and fasting for the senator.
“Do you understand the Christian concept of forgiveness? Let’s move on and let’s work together for Rick Santorum’s re-election.” Devlin saidat the time regarding hard feelings between conservative voters and Santorum after the senator endorsed moderate Republican Arlen Specter for re-election over more conservative challenger Pat Toomey in 2004.
“[I]t appears that rather than engaging in legal, non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts, the real mission of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network is to assist Senator Santorum in his re-election campaign. This is exactly the sort of political activity prohibited by IRS law.” Sloan continued, “the IRS has already taken action against a liberal church in Pasadena, California for much less egregious activities. If the IRS is serious about enforcing the law equally, it will take action against those involved in creating the Pennsylvania Pastors Network.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the relationship“creates a gigantic conflict of interest – an inappropriate meshing of the interests of the Urban [Family Council] and the interests of Senator Santorum.”
Santorum and groups fighting equality
Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network, which UFC used to support Santorum’s 2006 campaign, is a group that describes itself as a “network of Biblically-faithful clergy and church liaisons whose objective is to build a permanent infrastructure of like-minded clergy.”
Also in the group: the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, Let Freedom Ring and the Pennsylvania Family Institute. The latter is a part of Focus on the Family’s network of family policy councils that work to block and dismantle LGBT equality efforts.
Santorum has riled LGBT rights advocates for years because of his comparisons of LGBT relationships to bestiality, polygamy and incest. Activist and advice columnist Dan Savage even launched an effort to have the word “Santorum” redefined as a product of anal sex. But Santorum hasn’t backed off.
In an interview on Friday with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “hate group,” Santorum said the idea of LGBT equality is “absurd.”
“They want to force their worldview on us and they’re using this idea of ‘equality,’ which is absurd,” he said. “This has nothing to do with how two people want to live their lives. It has everything to do with an agenda that is ultimately going to destroy the family, weaken the family and weaken our religious liberties in this country.”
Santorum’s fading credibility with fiscal conservatives
Santorum’s earmarks have given him a mixed record during his time in the U.S. Senate with groups like the Club for Growth. “His record is plagued by the big-spending habits that Republicans adopted during the Bush years of 2001-2006,” the group says.
Fiscal conservatives and tea partiers have begun to call it the Santorum Scam.
He’s claimed that he was “Tea Party before there was a Tea Party,” but’s Ben Domenech begged to differ.
Does Rick Santorum have any clue what the Tea Party movement stands for? … Doesn’t he realize that the big government solutions he advocated for in his book are exactly the reason so many Tea Partiers today don’t call themselves Republicans any more? … (H)e was never categorized as someone with robust views on the size or scope of government. As Jonathan Rauch wrote in his book review of the Senator’s It Takes a Family, “[Santorum's] first priority is to make government pro-family, not to make it small.”
Hajra Shannon

Hajra Shannon

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