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'I'm not supposed to electioneer': Did NOM's Ruth Institute head just violate her IRS constraints?

by Jeremy Hooper

The National Organization For Marriage is a 501c4. NOM's Ruth Institute (a project of the NOM Education Fund) is a 501c3.

In her role as leader of the Ruth Institute, Jennifer Roback Morse is not really allowed to campaign for/against candidates. NOM must keep the two components separate. NOM/Morse/Ruth enjoy their tax breaks because they follow the rules.

Roback Morse understands this reality. On May 8, during one of her weekly appearances on the "Issues Etc." (Catholic) radio show, the NOM employee acknowledged her constraints (right after pretty much violating them):

FULL Audio: 5/8/12 [Issues Etc.]

But apparently Roback Morse didn't take her own self-realiztion to heart, since she did virtually the same thing on last week's appearance on this very same radio show. This time, Morse came as close as one can to endorsing the Ryan/Romney ticket ("how any Catholic could vote for that ticket when they have the choice of voting for a ticket that includes Paul Ryan, I just don’t see how you can do it") while also besmirching the name and faith of one Joe Biden ("felony stupid"; "embarrassing"). Here's the transcript of the key grafs (and link to full audio):

HOST TODD WILKEN: On a scale of zero to ten, zero being stupid and ten being brilliant, where would you put this pick of Paul Ryan?

JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE: Oh a ten for sure, Todd. For sure. This is a brilliant pick by Mitt Romney. It’s bold because Paul Ryan actually stands for something and the big problem with Mitt Romney is people aren’t sure what he stands for. And it’s brilliant because Ryan himself is brilliant and he’s got something of substance to say about the biggest fiscal issues of our time. And in addition to that, he’s an absolutely solid pro-life pro-marriage social conservative Catholic man. And so, therefore, all of the things people were afraid of about Romney, all of the things that the social conservative base and other conservatives, in fact fiscal conservatives, everything people were worried about, all the things people worried about, Paul Ryan shores up Romney in those areas and so honestly I think it’s a brilliant pick.


WILKEN: How would you respond to a Catholic voter, and many of them will do this knowing full well what it is the church teaches, they’re going to say something like “well, okay, Biden is wrong on abortion and marriage, but Ryan, he doesn’t understand the obligation to the poor and the vulnerable.” And so they’re going to say, “well, you know, I could really pick either one because both of them are wrong on some key issues. “ How would you respond?


MORSE: Within the whole general position of “gee, we’ve got to do something to help the poor,” there are all kinds of ways that are morally acceptable. The life issues, however, the marriage issues, however, euthanasia, stem cell research, those issues are absolutely not negotiable. There’s no right way to do abortion. There’s no right way to redefine marriage and declare gender to be irrelevant to marriage. There’s no right way to do that. There’s no morally acceptable way to do that. So that claim that people are making and saying “well, one is wrong on one subject, one’s wrong on the other subject, therefore I get to toss a coin and any Catholic may do so,” that is simply not true. That statement in itself is not consistent with Catholic teaching. And so the liberal Catholics of this country are going to have to wake up and make a decision. They can no longer hide behind “well, I’m going to vote for the Catholic guy because he’s a Catholic guy.” No, that’s just not going to fly in this election.


MORSE: Even if Ryan’s wrong about some part of his budget, it’s not the same order of wrongness as being wrong on the abortion issue in the way that, in the just repulsively dramatic way that Obama and Biden are. Besides, besides, if I could say this on the radio, poor old Joe Biden is just felony stupid, and Ryan’s got two brain cells to rub together. Actually more than two brain cells to rub together. He’s a very smart guy. So I think it’s going to be embarrassing to vote for Biden.


WILKEN: I wonder how excited you are… this is the first time since Roe v. Wade that the Republican party will have a pro-life Catholic on a national ticket. And I went back through my mental files and I thought “that’s right!” How excited are you?

MORSE: I think that’s pretty exciting, actually. He’s got a hundred percent rating from the pro-life groups and he’s got a zero rating from NARAL. And , you know, it’s not just that he’s Catholic, it’s that he’s pro-life. He’s that solidly pro-life. So I think that is a very exciting thing. And you know, when the Democratic party is tripping over itself to see how much it can pander to Planned Parenthood, when the Democratic party has put forth the HHS mandate which is a clear attack on not only Catholic teaching but on the whole Catholic social service infrastructure in this country, how any Catholic could vote for that ticket when they have the choice of voting for a ticket that includes Paul Ryan, I just don’t see how you can do it. I just can’t even imagine how someone’s going to talk themselves into that.
8/17/12 [Issues Etc.]

The IRS makes it all pretty clear:

Political campaign intervention includes any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
What is Political Campaign Intervention? [IRS.gov]

And just to be equally clear about Roback Morse's capacity on this show—she is always identified by her Ruth (aka NOM Education Fund) credentials. The Issues Etc site even links back to Ruth Institute's site. This is not something Roback Morse does on her own time as a lay Catholic. This is a professional appearance meant to promote her (aka NOM's) brand.

NOM is enjoying a 501c3 subsidy. It is in every taxpayer's interest to see that NOM and its actors play by the rules!

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