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Social Conservatives: Taxes Are a Family Matter

Christian family groups are finalizing their midterm battle plans this week, prepping lobbying and advertising salvos that will focus on extending George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

“We believe that the American family can decide much better than some bureaucrats in Washington” how to spend their money, said Tom McClusky, a lobbyist for the Family Research Council. “They’re better at deciding who it goes to, at deciding do they want to send their kids to private schools, more money for health care?”

By Jan. 1, the Family Research Council might spend as much as $2 million on televised issue advertisements and other political messaging that attacks the expiring tax cuts and other Democratic-led initiatives, according to McClusky. The Chinatown-based organization, which is run by former Louisiana state legislator Tony Perkins (R), also had roughly $400,000 in its political action committee as of July 1, fundraising reports show.

McClusky said he’s already busy writing scripts for television ads that are expected to air before Election Day. The spots are likely to advocate a permanent extension of the Bush-era revenue measures, including tax credits for children.

The current administration has not released specific proposals, although aides this week continued to say publicly that President Barack Obama supports keeping rates the same for all except the top 2 percent or 3 percent of wage earners.

Echoing the small-business community, Christian groups are now arguing that reinstating levies on even high-wage earners may disproportionately hit small and family-owned enterprises.

Christian Coalition of America President Roberta Combs called the possible tax hikes “a family values issue.”

The Family Research Council has also started a website,, which the group says has collected 40,000 signatures. Visitors to the site are encouraged to sign a petition to “Tell President Obama and Congressional Leaders to make permanent & increase the child tax credit — let parents decide how to spend their money!”

The petition continues: “We would then ask that you go even further and increase the credit to $5,000 per child for all households, thus letting more families decide how to spend the money they have earned.”

The Christian Coalition is expected to make the tax-cut extensions for individuals and small-business owners a major issue this fall.

The organization, started by evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson more than 20 years ago, is also attempting to preserve the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay service members. And the coalition is fighting Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s all-but-certain Supreme Court confirmation.

“We’re going to be working on extending the Bush tax cuts — that definitely affects the family in so many ways,” Combs said. “We need to make those permanent because it will affect the marriage tax, child tax and the estate tax.”

The Christian Coalition also recently hired its first outside lobbyist, according to Senate records. In late July, former in-house lobbyist James Backlin registered to lobby Members on health care issues and the Democratic-backed DISCLOSE Act campaign finance bill.

The advocacy wing of Focus on the Family, CitizenLink, is prepping for a tax fight ahead of this year’s midterm elections — although it’s unclear how much cash it will have to spend. The organization, started by evangelical author James Dobson, laid off more than 100 employees on Tuesday after announcing $27 million in budget cuts.

According to Senate records, Focus on the Family does not register to lobby, and the group’s PAC has not filed records with the Federal Election Commission since 2009.

In an interview Monday, spokeswoman Jenny Tyree declined to provide specifics about a possible advertising campaign on the tax extensions, other than to say that “American families need a break” and “This Congress could go a long way towards giving them some real help by extending the Bush-era tax relief.”

“Whether rich or poor, stable families are really good for America,” she said. “They deserve the tax break extensions, especially considering these breaks most help the poor and middle-class families.”

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