The pro-Obama group Catholics United has announced it is trying to raise $500,000 to support Democratic Congressional candidates who backed the health care legislation passed earlier this year. It aims to fund the monitoring of the activities of “the religious right” and to defend the candidates from campaigns by “Republican-affiliated” pro-life groups.
The group will support Democratic Reps. John Boccieri of Ohio, Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania, Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Tom Perriello of Virginia. Perriello was a co-founder of the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which has shared connections and personnel with Catholics United.
Catholics United executive director Chris Korzen announced the group’s “Set the Record Straight” campaign in a Wednesday statement. He accused “many political operatives” of “dishonesty” in attacks on candidates.
"These groups are engaging in scare tactics and misusing the language of faith to score cheap political points and lead voters astray," he charged.
Catholics United reported that paid organizers and volunteers will work in each targeted congressional district to “monitor the religious right's activities, educate faith leaders, and provide the media with local voices to speak on behalf of social justice issues.” The campaign is reportedly a direct response to advertising campaigns by “Republican-affiliated” groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List, the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, and the Republican National Campaign Committee.
In announcing its “Set the Record Straight” campaign, Catholics United criticized an “abortion funding myth” and claimed that expert analysis shows that abortion funding is prohibited by both the health care legislation and a subsequent executive order signed by President Barack Obama.
However, following recent media reports that some states were planning on using federal funds to pay for abortion, the U.S. bishops' pro-life chairman Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said, “ the U.S. bishops were “gravely concerned” because a correction “was not issued until after some states had announced that pro-abortion health plans were approved and had begun to enroll patients.”
The health care legislation was opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and many pro-life groups who objected that its statutory limits on abortion funding were insufficient. The USCCB backed the Stupak Amendment to supply these restrictions and has also argued that the executive order is similarly insufficient.
For Catholic United’s part, Korzen said his organization opposed both the Stupak Amendment and the Senate’s Nelson-Hatch Amendment. In a March 2010 interview with Catholic News Agency, he claimed these provisions changed existing policies in federal health care legislation.
He granted that the proposed amendments might be “the only acceptable solution” from a Catholic moral perspective, but said the political agreement on abortion was supposed to be formed “in a way that upholds existing precedent.”
Most of the candidates backed by Catholics United’s “Set the Record Straight” campaign have an inconsistent record on abortion.
NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly known as the National Abortion Rights Action League, gave Perriello a 50 percent rating for his year 2009 votes, which included a vote against banning the use of local taxpayer funds for abortion in Washington, D.C.
Reps. Boccieri and Driehaus received a 25 percent rating from NARAL, while only Dahlkemper consistently did not vote according to the pro-abortion group’s 2009 recommendations. However, all four voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment to the health care legislation.
Catholics United says it will expand its activities to other Congressional districts throughout the summer and fall.