by Steven Ertelt
July 25, 2006
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — A Missouri Catholic group is coming under fire for sending a letter to lawmakers urging them to return donations from a group that backs embryonic stem cell research. The pro-life organization wanted to make sure lawmakers knew who was giving their campaigns the funds, but at least one lawmaker has filed a complaint about the letters with the IRS.
The Missouri Catholic Conference sent out letters urging them to reject campaign contributions from a Missouri group calling itself Supporters of Health Research and Treatments.
Lawmakers received $300 donations from the group at the end of 2005 and during this year.
According to a Kansas City Star report, the letter said the MCC is "committed to informing Missouri voters about campaign contributions promoting human cloning and embryonic stem-cell research."
“Please contact MCC by May 1 in order that we can report campaign finance activities of opponents of a human cloning ban and supporters of embryonic stem-cell research to Catholic voters,” the letter said.
Now, Washington lawyer Marcus Owens has filed a complaint with the IRS claiming the Missouri Catholic Conference the pro-life group wanted to intimidate lawmakers into returning the check or face articles blasting them in Catholic newspapers.
“We believe that this letter, as well as numerous others like it that the MCC has sent, is a crude effort at intimidation, designed to threaten political candidates into submission by using church resources,” Owens told IRS Commissioner Mark Everson in a letter, according to the Star.
He urged the IRS to investigate MCC’s non-profit tax status.
But MCC director Larry Weber, says Owens is wrong and that the group did nothing wrong.
"I didn’t make any threatening comments,” Weber told the Kansas City newspaper. “We disagree with their allegations that we in any way violated any provision of the Internal Revenue code.”
Weber told the Star the letters were designed to find out where lawmakers stood on the embryonic stem cell research debate and he said several told him they got no donations and other legislators indicated they would return the money because they didn’t know the group that sent the contribution.
Missouri voters are expected to vote in November on a ballot proposal that would have the state endorsing embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.
The human cloning initiative has not yet been certified for the ballot, but the secretary of state’s office has until August 8 to determine that enough signatures were turned in for it to qualify.
The Missouri Coalition of Lifesaving Cures has already raised and spent $10 million for its campaign.