(This article, taken from The Washington Spectator, a semi-monthly, politically-independent, non-profit newsletter published by The Public Concerns Foundation. They encourage reprinting of their material if credit is given.)

In 1988 the Rev. Pat Robertson, the right-wing founder of the Christian Coalition, who has made himself a television millionaire with his tax-exempt Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), may have heard a holy voice telling him to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

But in violation of heathen law, CBN money - an estimated $8.5 million of it - was used to promote his futile candidacy. Now, after more than 10 years of haggling with the Internal Revenue Service, Robertson has agreed to a "settlement" that pays the United States an undisclosed sum and retroactively cancels his tax exemption for the years 1986 and 1987. His current tax exemption survives, but only if the four-member CBN board of directors adds five OUTSIDE members.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington group that has strenuously challenged Robertson's empire, said, "I have a one-word reaction: Hallelujah!"

Robertson's tax troubles may not be over. The Federal Election Commission has charged the Christian Coalition, whose tax exemption is based on the claim that the group "promotes public welfare", with illegally spending $1.4 million to help Republican candidates, including President George Bush in 1992. A decision is pending.

Most of the press pays very little attention to this kind of tax-exempt piety, but in this case we can credit the government's belated investigation of Robertson's tax evasion chiefly to Thomas Edsall, a Washington Post reporter who started writing about it in 1985.


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