Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

EDITORIAL>>Don’t defy laws

No, the framers meant what they wrote when they said “all.” Holding down the cost of government was in fashion in those days. Now it’s an inconvenience. The good old days sometimes really were. Maybe the Arkansas Supreme Court, which will get this case, will see it our way, too.

Until we hear it from Mike Huckabee’s own lips, maybe we should be philosophical about the report that he encourages a Texas televangelist in his determination to “fight dirty” and defy the laws of the United States. But the former governor’s staff does not put our mind at ease.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and many other outlets carried the news yesterday that Kenneth Copeland, the multimillionaire charismatic preacher, was raising large amounts of cash for Huckabee’s presidential campaign, at Huckabee’s beseeching, and also that Huckabee backed him in his defiance of the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, is trying to get the financial records of Copeland’s ministry to see if he is using its tax-exempt status to shield lavish profiteering off the love offerings of his television disciples. Copeland preaches that God wants people to be wealthy and that he will help them get rich if they will first invest in the Lord, such as by giving to Copeland’s ministry.

In a closed-circuit broadcast last week, Copeland pledged “a holy war” against Sen. Grassley and the Finance Committee. His financial records, he said, belong to God.

“You can go get a subpoena, and I won’t give it to you,” Copeland bellowed. “It’s not yours, it’s God’s and you’re not going to get it and that’s something I’ll go to prison over. . . . You wanna get in a faith fight with me? Why, just come on. But I’m gonna warn you, I fight dirty.”

Huckabee and Copeland are good friends, and our man calls him a spiritual adviser. After receiving the request for his records from Grassley, Copeland called Huckabee and offered him a chance to break their association. According to Copeland, Huckabee “hollered at me on the phone. He said ‘Are you kidding me? Why should I stand with them and not with you?’”

Then Huckabee called Copeland after his defeat in the South Carolina Republican primary last week and asked for help because his campaign was about broke. Copeland then held a fund-raiser at his headquarters in Newark, Texas, that reportedly raised $111,000 and collected pledges of almost $1 million. Huckabee’s press spokesman, Alice Stewart, said she could not confirm the amount of donations and pledges.

It raises questions about the legality of the gifts at a church program. But Copeland said it did not amount to an endorsement by his church, which would be illegal because of its tax-exempt status, and that Huckabee’s campaign had paid rent on the facility to make it lawful. He directed ministers who were attending a conference to leave the building and re-enter it for the purpose of giving to Huckabee. Stewart said the campaign was confident the activity complied with federal election laws.

Maybe so, but what bothers us is a prospective president of the United States encouraging a man to defy the laws of the country by stiffing a subpoena. Say it ain’t so, Rev. Huckabee.

— Ernie Dumas