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dirty money

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy [link] put in an appearance on Issues Etc. [mp3] back in August pushing his article at The Weekly Standard [link] titled “George Soros’s Evangelicals,” an expose on how money from atheist Soros ended up in the pockets of left-leaning Evangelicals Richard Cizik (former National Association of Evangelicals head) and Jim Wallis (of Sojourners fame):

[Cizik] has created a left-leaning New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Initially after his NAE departure Cizik was affiliated with Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation. Then he became a fellow at George Soros’s Open Society Institute, concurrent to his creating the new liberal evangelical group.

Tooley doesn’t say how much money Cizik got from these affiliations. He gives more detail about Wallis:

Until recently, the Open Society Institute’s website openly listed its grants to [Sojourners]: $200,000 grant in 2004, $25,000 in 2006, and $100,000 in 2007.

This would be about $108,000 on average against an annual budget that in 2009 was $5.5 million [link], so we can call this 2-3% of primary revenue. It’s a substantial amount of money (roughly half the size of their 2009 budget shortfall), but small enough that I have to wonder why a billionaire like Soros would bother.

The Wallis section of the article is just a summary of an article by Marvin Olasky [link]. Olasky, because of his Dominionist leanings and his history with the Fieldstead Institute [link], is someone I look out for as being a sign of trouble. His appearance in this little discussion makes it seem like not much more than partisans doing what partisans do.

Regardless, it brings up the unpleasant question of dirty money: money that comes from an unpleasant or even evil source, but that if it comes with no strings attached spends just as well as any other money and is hard to turn down. I’ve already mentioned the taint of Moon money in the Falwell camp; it’s left Falwell open to charges that Moon bought influence in the ministry, or being in league with a cultist, or something-I’m-not-sure-what. Christopher Hitchens made a big deal of Mother Teresa taking money from the Duvaliers and Charles Keating [link]; I really have no idea who cares about that. But people who turn down dirty money are rare, so far as we know. I can only find one church on record that turned down lottery winnings: First Baptist Orange Park, 2008 [link].

I don’t know where the line is here; it’s clearly the influence the money may buy we worry about rather than the money, most of the time. After all, we can see what the money does, but it’s harder to see the strings, unless the recipient makes some gesture or gives a quid pro quo, like a board membership or a building name. And frankly sometimes it’s hard to tell dirty money from clean; not every legitimate businessman gets rich by giving his customers the best deal.

  1. Dave
    September 27, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Good question.
    I think the line lies with yourself and your own moral compass. Many people might wonder about the morality of accepting dirty money, but in turn may have no problem ‘buying dirty’ products from Wal-Mart. Its a personal dilema which depends on the situation and circiumstances the individual faces. There is no easy answer to this one.

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