One of the many ways that Glenn Beck is raising money to pay for his upcoming rally at the Lincoln Memorial is an online auction. People are bidding big bucks on items such as breakfast with Beck and Sarah Palin on the morning of the rally, and a helicopter ride to visit Beck at his home. But one auction item that hasn't gotten any attention at all is the private tour of the Capitol Building with Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton and everyone's favorite tea party congresswoman, Michele Bachmann. As the bidding on this item came to a close on Monday, the high bid was at $27,500.
Beck's 8/28 "Restoring Honor" rally is being promoted as a benefit for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), a legitimate charity that provides scholarships to the children of special operations military personnel who are killed in action or training missions, and financial assistance to the families of those who are severely wounded. But, as Bill Press explained a few weeks ago on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, in addition to the outrage of Beck holding his rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, the donations being solicited by Beck for this benefit aren't all actually going to the SOWF. This organization that Beck's rally is supposedly a benefit for is only getting whatever is left over after all of the expenses for the rally itself are paid for. This scheme to pay for Beck's rally under the guise of a benefit to support military families includes both direct donations and the proceeds of the online auction.
While the auction page for each item says "Proceeds benefit Special Operations Warrior Foundation!" in big, bold type at the top of the page, if you go down to the bottom of the scroll down window containing the details about the item, you find the following disclaimer.
"PLEASE NOTE: All contributions made to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF), either directly or through the auction proceeds, will first be applied to the costs of the Restoring Honor Rally taking place on August 28, 2010. All contributions in excess of these costs will then be retained by the SOWF."
What I want to know is how Beck is getting away with making donations that are actually going to fund his rally legally tax-deductible. Is he funneling this donation money to himself and his event by somehow claiming that these tax-deductible donations are going to pay some kind of ridiculously high "overhead" expenses for a fundraiser for a legitimate non-profit organization?
Now, getting back to Michele Bachmann's involvement in Beck's fundraising scheme, this was the description of her item for Beck's online auction:
"Bid now for an unforgettable tour of the US Capitol specially designed for your tea party or 9-12 group! Guided by both renowned historian David Barton and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, this tour will give you a greater understanding of the foundational role God has played throughout American history."
In order for Barton to give one of his revisionist history packed private tours of the Capitol, he has to get a member of Congress to host it. So, here's my question about this auction item: Is Michele Bachmann's use of her access to the Capitol Building as a member of Congress to host an event to raise money for Glenn Beck an ethics issue? In looking at the House rules on the involvement of members of Congress in "Events With Outside Entities," it certainly seems like this one, for several reasons, might cross the line.
Bachmann's relationship with Glenn Beck's favorite pseudo-historian David Barton goes way back to her days in the Minnesota legislature, so, for those who want a little background in addition to their current antics, here's an excerpt from a post I wrote back in October 2008:
Like many members of Randy Forbes's Congressional Prayer Caucus, Michele Bachmann has strong ties to David Barton, and recently [September 1, 2008] appeared on his WallBuilders LIVE! radio show. Barton, who, in addition to his work in creating an alternate Christian history of the United States, is a former co-chair of the Republican Party of Texas, and was named one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America by Time Magazine, endorsed and campaigned for Bachmann in her 2006 House race. In his introduction of Bachmann on his radio show, Barton said that "she's really good for our side," and explained that his association with her goes back to her days in the Minnesota Senate.
"I have known this lady for a number of years. She was a state senator up there and matter of fact I worked with her on history standards up there in Minnesota and doing some history legislation and making sure that they could not censor religious references from history books, so, she's a great lady and just a real class act and just a solid, committed -- not just Christian -- but a biblical Christian..."
By his work with Bachmann on Minnesota's "history standards," Barton was referring to Bachmann's 2005 introduction of legislation to allow the use of historical documents containing religious references in the state's public schools -- legislation that was completely unnecessary given that Minnesota already had a law on the books stating that, "Districts may not censor or restrain instruction in American or Minnesota state history or heritage based on religious references in documents, writing, speeches, proclamations, or records." That law, passed in 2001, was also considered by many legislators to be unnecessary, because nothing prohibited the use of these documents at that time either. Barton had testified before Minnesota's House Education Policy Committee on the 2001 bill, and was brought in as "an historian and consultant" in 2005 when Bachmann introduced her bill.
Bachmann, defending the need for her clearly unnecessary legislation, actually cited a story spread by Fox News and religious right organizations and websites that the Declaration of Independence had been banned in a California school because it contained references to a creator, a story that, of course, was not true. The real story turned out to be that there had been a complaint against one teacher who was deliberately singling out only the religious references in historical documents in supplemental materials he was handing out to his students in order to promote religion and the notion that American was founded a Christian nation, so the school principal began reviewing his lesson plans. Needless to say, no school would ever ban the Declaration of Independence, and it's simply mind boggling how many people, apparently including Bachmann, actually believed this story.
Here's some of what Bachmann had to say during her September 1, 2008 WallBuilders LIVE! interview, conducted by Barton's co-host Rick Green.
"It's important for your listeners to know that there are strong, believing members of Congress who get it about our nations heritage and we love and appreciate David Barton. I've probably been on four of his Spiritual Heritage tours at the Capitol, and the staff knows, whenever David's going to be in town doing one, if I can get over there, I want to go because I learn something new every time I'm going through one of his tours. He's a treasure for our nation."
"We didn't get and gain this prosperity that we have in this nation -- this level of freedom -- by our own hands. This has been God's gift, and only when we submit ourselves to him -- his will -- and act in accordance with his plans will we continue to be blessed as a nation. That's why I'm so honored to be able to be there and work hand in glove with you -- with WallBuilders ministry -- to make sure that we can maintain America's freedoms, because they will evaporate very, very quickly -- it will make our heads spin how quickly these freedoms will evaporate if we don't continue to be ever ready to make sure that we preserve them."