"We're trying to create people that are going to change the world.
In the last few installments in my series on the Catholic Right we've looked at Thomas Monaghan, his background, how he made his money and how he uses it to shape society to reflect his subjective brand of ultra-orthodox Catholicism. In this final installment, his political contributions will be examined.
As we know, Tom Monaghan has a plan, and he uses his wealth, in alliance with similarly-mind ultra-orthodox Catholic CEOs to lay the foundation for a more theocratic society. Their primary method is to underwrite educational systems steeped in pre-Vatican II notions of Catholicism. The mission of both the Ave Maria University, and Law School, is to churn out future corporate executives, lawyers, judges and political leaders who would increasingly graft his version of natural law principles unto American jurisprudence.
But education and community are only parts of his plan. Equally as important is his desire to influence American federal elections. And to that end, Monaghan has financed pols with simpatico views on natural law theocracy and anti-labor, laissez-faire economics. Until 2005, Monaghan used two political actions committees to feed the campaigns of candidates in close races who reflected his twin visions of laissez-faire economics and ultra-orthodox Catholicism. And although both PACs are now defunct, the mechanism that the Pizza-man started has simply evolved into another organization, fronted by close associates.
A review of Monaghan's political donations since 1984 shows that of a total of $238,031 disbursed, only $6,000 went to Democrats, another $68,500 to special interests while (as of June 2006) a hefty $161, 531 went to Republicans. And of late, those GOP is a who's who list of the darlings of the Religious Right. These include US Senators Rick Santorum (R-Pa.); fellow Opus Dei embryonic stem cell research opponent Sam Brownback (R-Ks.); Mel Martinez (R-Fl.)(i) and 2006 US Senate candidate Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fl.) of Election 2000 Recount fame.
Monaghan's other vehicle for political donations was The Ave Maria PAC, a 527 committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. It is a "hard" money PAC. A review of its contributors for 2003-2004 shows that it was funded by wealthy executives and business owners. Among the PAC's more interesting contributions was a $3,000 donation to Family PAC. Family PAC's list of recipients similarly reads as a list a who's who on the Religious Right (including GOP Senators Santorum, Mel Martinez and Jim Talent) as well the more radically Right group Club for Growth's PAC.
Monaghan's second vehicle was a "soft" money PAC called the Ave Maria List. Its list of contributors include theocon Michael Novak, Amway magnate and current GOP Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, Cablevision and Madison Square Garden owner Charles Dolan as well as the late New York Giants owner Wellington Mara. The Ave Maria List was particularly active supporting John Thune's 2004 U.S. Senate victory over South Dakota's Tom Daschle.
As Jeff Huber and Jerry Soucy both reported in their ongoing coverage of Monaghan at E Pluribasmedia.com:
According to The Center for Public Integrity, the Ave Maria List 527 reported $175,000 in revenue in 2004, of which Monaghan personally contributed $125,000. Another $15,000 came from the Ave Maria List Membership Organization. Ave Maria List expenditures included more than $173,098 for production and distribution of newspaper ads, mail and e-mail, as well as $25,000 to Monaghan as repayment on a loan.
The Federal Election Commission reports that the Ave Maria PAC's receipts for the 2003-2004 election cycle totaled $259,263. Monaghan and his wife, Marjorie, together contributed a total of $20,000 to the PAC during that cycle, the maximum allowed to two individuals as contributions to political action committees over two years.
In 2004 the Ave Maria PAC distributed $15,000 to the successful campaign of Republican Mel Martinez, George W. Bush's former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who became a U.S. Senator from Florida.
The Ave Maria PAC also gave nearly $69,000 to the 2004 campaign of John Thune, the South Dakota Republican challenger who unseated Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. During the campaign Thune criticized Daschle -- who is a Roman Catholic -- for being ambiguous on the abortion issue. "He wants to be pro-choice for the people who are pro-choice," Thune said, "then he describes himself to the voters as anti-abortion. That's the disturbing pattern with Daschle."
Although Monaghan's PACs are now defunct, their political influence is not. In fact, the mission of Ave Maria's political action arms has been taken up by a new political action committee, Fidelis. It is being run by Monaghan alumnae Joseph Cella and Brian Burch. Cella was the Executive Director for the Ave Maria List PAC while Burch directed fundraising and public relations the Thomas More Law Center. The PAC's current financial situation is at best, underwhelming. But this lack of activity may due more to calculation than disillusionment by the Catholic Right.
One hallmark of Monaghan's PACs was to only inject campaign contributions and independent expenditures in close races. 2006 is currently shaping up to be a bad year for the Religious Right. Between disillusionment with the GOP as well as revelations by David Kuo, injecting money into U.S. Senate races such as the one in Pennsylvania where Democrat Bob Casey Jr. appears to have a double-digit lead would simply be a waste of assets that would be best put aside for 2008. It is conceivable that in a more agreeable political climate, Cella and Burch will crack open their Roledexes from the Ave Maria days and ask past contributors to give for the same cause. Fidelis as well as Cell and Burch are worth watching.
Now that traditionalist, orthodox Catholics such as Monaghan seem to be asserting their power and influence within the Vatican, many of them like to say, "the cafeteria is closed." Such a statement is a deliberate pejorative description of progressive Catholics who don't just blindly obey every papal utterance. Instead such Catholics see the Gospels as a journey where one must constantly have an open mind, constantly trying to rediscover their true meaning. And while claiming that non-Catholics should "mind their own business," they arrogantly meddle in the affairs of other denominations.
But while the cafeteria may be closed, the smorgasbord for wealthier, ultra-orthodox Catholics is wide open. Hypocrites such as Tom Monaghan have been dishing out pizza-dough to advance the cause of Catholics who pick and choose what they choose to believe on a scale much grander than any mainstream American Monaghan and many of his fellow Ave Maria List speak of Catholic virtue while helping to elect men such as George W, Bush, Rick Santorum and George Allen who, in turn, gut the rights of less wealthy Catholics who often need the strength of a labor union to balance their bargaining power with a corporate employer. In doing so, a man such as Thomas Monaghan selectively ignores to his own unrestrained self-interest the lessons of both distributive justice as well as the pro-labor intent of the Bishops' Program for Social Reconstruction.
In the final analysis, Thomas Monaghan believes in dependence, not freedom. His choice of political candidates share a common theme: authority comes from above, not from within. Those less powerful employee must work at the whim of whatever compensation the more powerful employer wishes to grant. Similarly, morality is dispensed from above, with no room for alternate ideas or different understandings of "the truth." In either case, there is little opportunity for self-development.
But worst of all, self-appointed moralists such as Tom Monaghan rail at those of us who respect value pluralism, deriding those of us who just want to practice our respective beliefs without forcing others to abide by what we may see as "the truth." And to that end, those of us who do not share his ultra-orthodox, dependent vision for society don't want the government to act as the enforcer of any particular religious faith--including our own.
(i) Senator Martinez is also the President of the Orlando chapter of Legatus."
Note: Content reposted with the permission of the author.