Pew on Religious 'Lobbying' Revisited

At the risk of beating a dead horse (or a hornet's nest), I embark on another adventure in modern statistics with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Loyal In All Things readers may recall that back in December 2011 Pew published a report, "Lobbying for the Faithful," that garnered national attention (I wrote about it here and here). One of the main eyebrow-raisers was the advocacy/lobbying expenses Pew researchers tallied for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. At $27 million for 2009, it was second only to the jaw-dropping $88 million spent by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Another noteworthy sum was $4.7 million attributed to Catholic Relief Services, placing the relief and development agency 19th among U.S. big spenders on political outreaching in America.

Those numbers provoked some head-scratching, outraged phone calls and Pew offers to review numbers and methodology. In the middle of May, with, I must note, not quite as much fanfare, in fact none at all, Pew revised their report. C.R.S. is now listed far down (sort by $) in the pack of religious lobbyists with an annual outlay of about $1.1 million, a difference of a mere $3.6 million or so, and the U.S.C.C.B. has not only lost its second place status to AIPAC, it has vanished from the list entirely. Pew drops the conference into an addendum which explains that its advocacy expenditures are not available.

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In a different part of the revised report it replicates the $27 million figure with an asterisk that explains: "The USCCB questioned the advocacy expenditure figures used in the November 2011 report, which came from the 'Policy Activities Expenses' reported in the group’s 2008-2009 Consolidated Financial Statements ($26,662,111 for 2009 and $25,270,631 for 2008). In its communications with the Pew Forum, the USCCB said its advocacy expenditures are closer to $1 million, but the group did not provide a detailed breakdown or verifiable source for the estimate. As a result, no expenditures data for the group have been selected for analysis in the updated report."

(I'll try to find out tomorrow why Pew and the U.S.C.C.B. still cannot seem to come to a satisfactory conclusion on conference expenditures.)

Apparently more fruitful was the exchange of data with the folks at C.R.S. Their asterisk produces the more helpful: "Under the decision rules used in the November 2011 report, the group’s 'Public Awareness' expenditures were selected for the analysis ($4,673,000 for 2009 and $4,220,000 for 2008). Catholic Relief Services questioned the figures and provided the Pew Forum with a report from its internal budget database showing that its expenditures for 'Policy and Advocacy' for 2009 were $835,796. The group also reported that it has five regional staffers who directly support the organization’s advocacy activities and that the total salary for these individuals is about $300,000. These figures were combined and the total ($1,135,796) was selected for the expenditures analysis in the May 2012 report."

There now. Glad we could clear all that up. I guess it is now up to the press and blogosphere to retract all those stories about free-spending beltway Catholics ...

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Rick Fueyo
6 years 4 months ago
Not clear if anything was "cleared up." It does appear that Catholic Relief Services invited independent documentation which caused Pew, a reputable organization, to revise its numbers.
 
In its explanation of the revisions, it states as follows:
 
Two groups whose missions go beyond advocacy — the National Association of Evangelicals and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — gave us estimates for their advocacy expenditures, but they did not provide a detailed breakdown or verifiable source for the estimates. As a result, we did not include these groups in the expenditures analysis in the updated report. All these changes are noted in the “All Expenditures Data” table at http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Issues/Government/all-expenditures.pdf.
So I'm not certain that Pew has conceded error on this point, although that number did seem high. I wish I understood the basis for the original conclusion. It may be deep within the report.  In any event, thanks for the update

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