Last November, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced an investigation of six major evangelical ministries. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, wanted to probe the finances of several churches to see if they were misusing donations to pay for their leaders’ opulent lifestyles. Even back then, the whole operation seemed a little sketchy, but now it’s really starting to stink.
Apparently, one of the lead investigators on Grassley’s staff (hired last May) is a man by the name of Paul Thacker. Why is the relevant? Well, Mr. Thacker seems to have both a liberal record and a grudge against Evangelicalism. A source familiar with the investigation tells me that Thacker is a “left wing pit bull” and was overheard at a cocktail party "bragging about how much he hates evangelicals and what a great job he has now.”
Mr. Thacker, an investigative reporter, does have a record of publicly criticizing the Bush Administration on environmental issues. He has also written for liberal publications such as The New Republic and contributed left-leaning articles to Environmental Science and Technology. So, while I don’t want to leap to too many conclusions, I do think it is a little weird that this guy is being paid tens of thousands of dollars by a Republican Senator. Perhaps it has something to do with a shared distaste for certain denominations of Christianity?
This type of zealous investigation being pushed by Sen. Grassley against … his own team so to speak … is just one reason why conservative leaders are now discussing his removal as ranking GOP member of the Senate Finance committee.
Update: As I noted above, a reliable source confirms that Paul Thacker was overheard recently at a cocktail party bragging about his job and his dislike of Evangelicals. It should also be noted that Sen. Grassley's office contacted me today to dispute the notion that Thacker was involved in this particular investigation.
Here is their statement -- you decide who's right:
"... the tax-exempt oversight and investigations are handled at the staff level by Senator Grassley’s tax counsel Theresa Pattara. Before her it was Dean Zerbe, another tax counsel. Paul Thacker has never been involved in the investigations of the ministries or other tax-exempt organizations.
In addition, there is no basis for labeling Paul Thacker as “a left-winger.” In fact, his current work for Senator Grassley is focused on the National Institutes of Health failing to safeguard $24 billion in federal research dollars it grants each year, which is pretty important work, as you can tell by the news over the weekend."
- Jill Kozeny, spokeswoman for Senator Grassley