“It is a private organization, it is not a public non-profit.”
An archived version of the Francis Project website makes requests for donations, and opportunities to sign up for various mailing lists, including those mentioned by Hale.
Hale ran for Congress in the same Congressional district in 2018, but lost in the Democratic primary. He has been projected by some political observers to win the 2020 primary, but is generally not projected to unseat the district's incumbent Republican congressman. The district is heavily Republican, and has been represented by physician Scott DesJarlais since 2011. DesJarlais won nearly 64% of the vote in the district’s 2018 election.
Hale has in the past identified himself as a “pro-life Democrat,” and told CNA Monday night he considers himself to be pro-life, but his campaign website notes his support for Roe vs. Wade and his intention to “increase the reproductive freedom of women.”
While Hale on his website says he wants to “pursue policies that reduce the need for abortion,” he affirms his intention to support legal protection for abortion, pledging that “as a Member of Congress, I will always protect a women's constitutional right to reproductive choice.”
Bivens, Hale's primary opponent, said Monday night that she does not know if he will remain in the race. While she acknowledged that some in the district have voted already by mail, “going into a general with Chris Hale as the nominee would be a nightmare.”
Hale told CNA he has no plans to leave the race.
“With over 3,300 donors, 300 volunteers, 900 signs in voters’ yards, and top supporters in every precinct in this community, we are running the strongest grassroots campaign rural Tennessee has ever seen. We didn’t just outraise Congressman DesJarlais by a record-breaking 5:1 margin, we out-organized him 100:1. The voters of Tennessee are hungry for a new Congressman who’ll bring hospitals, health care, good jobs, living wages, and generational change to Tennessee.”
“I’m going to win this this election on Thursday and then on November 3.”
Hale said that he believes Salt's motivations for making allegations against him are purely political.
“I have become a pinball in a battle. But also, James Salt is a Bernie Sanders supporter. He’s a good man, he is a far-out Bernie Sanders supporter. My opponent is also a Bernie Sanders supporter,” Hale said, noting that allegations against him came just days before his primary election against Bivens.
“We’re three days out from an election. If this was such a contentious and bombshell legal issue, why is James waiting until three days before the election and then doing so in the context of a press conference with my opponent?”
Hale also told CNA Salt's denunciation of him is ”intensely personal” and said that Salt was jealous of the work he had done with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He also said he had faced challenges with Salt because they differed on policy, and that there was division within the organization over worldview and strategy.
The candidate is cofounder of the Millennial Journal, and worked in 2012 as part of the Catholic outreach team in the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama.
Salt himself has been involved in controversy surrounding Catholics United.
Ahead of the 2012 election, Salt, then-executive director of Catholics United, said in a letter to pastors of Florida Catholic churches the group had recruited a network of volunteers to monitor election-related speech in churches for reputed illegal political activity. Local Catholic leaders said this appeared to be “an attempt to silence pastors on issues that are of concern to the Church this election season.”
Eventually Florida’s bishops urged pastors not to sign a pledge circulated by the group to “keep politics out of the pulpits.”
Salt previously served in faith outreach for the Kansas Democratic Party and did messaging work under then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a staunch pro-abortion rights advocate. Salt served on the 2012 Democratic Party Platform Committee.
Catholics in Alliance and Catholics United, which effectively merged in 2015, were both founded in the wake of then-Sen. John Kerry’s defeat in the 2004 presidential election campaigns. This loss was in part attributed to the failure of Democrats to sway religious voters.
In 2008 then-Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput charged that Catholics United had “confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”
Catholics in Alliance itself received at least $450,000 in funding from the Open Society Foundations, then known as the Open Society Institute, from 2006 to 2010. An internal foundations document from 2009 cited the group’s key role in influencing Barack Obama’s controversial 2009 Notre Dame speech, and praised its campaigns that “broadened the agenda” of Catholic voters to see abortion as just one of several election issues.
Catholics United also received funding from the Gill Foundation, founded by savvy LGBT strategist and millionaire Tim Gill. The group was listed as a partner on the website of the Arcus Foundation, which has funded dissenting Catholic groups and other religious organizations to advocate on LGBT issues as well as for stricter limits on religious freedom.
Ahead of the 2016 elections, Wikileaks posted 2012 emails apparently involving Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, at a time of significant Catholic controversy over mandatory health plan coverage of contraception.
Podesta’s email responded to Sandy Newman’s suggestion of a “Catholic Spring” revolution within the Church which, in Newman’s vivid words, “Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church.”
Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, replied: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”
According to Open Society Foundations internal documents from 2009, the departure of Catholics in Alliance co-founder Alexia Kelley to join the Obama White House left the group “without strong leadership.” Kelley eventually became president and CEO of the influential philanthropy consortium Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities.
This report was edited at 8:55 Mountain Time to include comments from Christopher Hale, and subsequently updated at 9:00 am on Aug. 4.