Religious Lobbyists in DC Spending Spending Spending on Beltway Advocacy

Print Share on LinkedIn More

November 21, 2011; Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public LifeThe Pew Forum has just issued a new report on religious lobbying and religion-related advocacy in DC. There are more than 200 such groups today employing 1,000 people and spending $390 million a year on national public policy advocacy. The organizational geography of these groups is little understood by the American public, for example, the religious affiliations of these advocates:

Roman Catholic                             19 percent

Evangelical Protestant                  18 percent

Jewish                                             12 percent

Mainline Protestant                          8 percent

Muslim                                               8 percent

Interreligious or nondenom.          25 percent

Above 80 percent of the 212 groups in the Pew study were 501(c)(3)s, 5 percent were 501(c)(4)s, and 12 percent were (c)(3)s with affiliated (c)(4)s.

When one thinks of religious public policy advocacy in the Beltway, the image is sometimes anti-abortion/right-to-life positioning by the Roman Catholic hierarchy or conservative family values lobbying by the religious right. But the largest advocacy expenditures were from pro-Israel groups, topped by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which spent just short of $88 million on advocacy in 2008—the largest expenditure by far, well above the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (which ranked second in the Pew study at $27 million, in 2009). The top advocacy spenders were as follows:

American Israel Public Affairs Committee                         $87.9 million

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops                                 $26.7 million

Family Research Council                                                     $14.3 million

American Jewish Committee                                              $13.4 million

Concerned Women for America                                         $12.6 million

Bread for the World                                                              $11.4 million

National Right to Life Committee                                       $11.4 million

Home School Legal Defense Association                        $11.3 million

Citizen Link (affiliated w/Focus on the Family)                 $10.8 million

Although AIPAC and AJC are big spenders in the pro-Israel arena, there’s no question that conservative religious groups are well represented in the Pew list and, in many cases, growing more active in their advocacy spending. The Pew study figures, however, are a couple of years old. Wonder what trajectory these expenditures will take as the nation heads into the 2012 national elections?—Rick Cohen

  • R. Ruth Linden

    While the American Jewish Committee does belong on Pew’s list, AIPAC is not a Jewish organization in the religious sense. It is a Zionist organization supported by many fundamentalist Christian groups. Apparently the Pew Forum does not recognize the distinction between Zionism, a nationalist movement, and Judaism. Given the lobbying and foreign-aid dollars at stake, I view this as a serious flaw in the Pew taxonomy.

  • rick cohen

    Dear Ruth: I was actually surprised by that myself. That immediately jumped out to me as a problem with the Pew Forum’s definitions. Given the short space accorded to newswires, I didn’t go into a pruning of the 212 organizations on the list to see which really fit the public’s impression of a group doing “religious” advocacy. Glad you did!

  • R. Ruth Linden

    Dear Rick: One or both of us needs to take the Pew Forum to task on this issue. The conflation of Zionism and Judaism has world historic consequences, as I know you understand.