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Report: Religious Groups Spend Millions on Advocacy

Religious organizations spend more than $390 million a year on lobbying and advocacy, according to a report released today that identifies pro-Israel groups as the No. 1 spenders.

Also among the top spenders are organizations fighting for or against abortion rights and groups that endorse traditional cultural values, according to the report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The report examined direct lobbying to influence legislation and issue-oriented public policy work, offering the first detailed analysis of religious advocacy in two decades.

The number of religious lobbies inside the Beltway has grown steadily in recent years, jumping from 158 in 2000 to 211 in 2010, according to the report “Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C.” While the economic downturn has depressed spending by such groups overall, religious lobbying has spiked in some areas while tapering off in others.

The National Organization for Marriage, for example, more than doubled its advocacy expenditures from $3.3 million in 2008 to $8.6 million in 2009, the most recent data available, the group found. Four other groups also doubled their advocacy expenditures: the World Organization for Resource Development & Education; Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign; the PICO National Network, an alliance of groups doing community organizing; and the International Uyghur Human Rights & Democracy Foundation, which promotes freedom for Muslims in China’s Uyghur region.

By contrast, several groups slashed their advocacy by more than 50 percent, including the Dalit Freedom Network, an India-based evangelical Christian group; the Evangelical Environmental Network; and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Religious organizations are increasingly diverse, the study found, with the number of Muslim groups (17) now essentially the same as the number of mainline Protestant advocacy groups (16). Roman Catholic groups dominate, representing 19 percent of the total, followed by evangelical Protestant groups, which make up 18 percent, and Jewish organizations at 12 percent.

Pro-Israel groups invest, by far, the most in advocacy, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which far outstripped any other group in the study with $88 million in lobbying and advocacy spending in 2008.

The other top spenders in 2008 and 2009, based on the most recently available data, included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which spent $26.7 million on advocacy in 2009; the conservative Family Research Council, which spent $14.3 million in 2008; the American Jewish Committee, which spent $13.4 million in 2008, and Concerned Women for America, which doled out $12.6 million in 2008.

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