Pew Figures Disputed by CRS/USCCB

How accurate were recent figures cited by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in their recent report on advocacy/lobbying by religious entities in Washington? The report, “Lobbying for the Faithful,” garnered national attention, and the figure Pew calculated for U.S.C.C.B. advocacy, what the bishops do in Washington cannot be legally or practically described as lobbying, raised some eyebrows. At a reported $26.6 million in 2009, the bishops, according to Pew, were only beaten out in Washington spending by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which Pew reports spent $88 million on lobbying in 2008. Pew reported that Catholic Relief Services, at $4.7 million, was the 19th biggest religious spender in Washington.

Now the accuracy of those dollar figures is being challenged by both the U.S.C.C.B and Catholic Relief Services. In a post at the U.S.C.C.B. media blog, U.S.C.C.B. spokesperson Sister Mary Ann Walsh writes: “Pew acknowledges that its figures for religious advocacy groups, such as USCCB, are imprecise. It got its figures from a USCCB consolidated financial statement that listed all kinds of USCCB activities as ‘policy activities.’ The USCCB may share in the blame for Pew’s skew given its own lack of precision in the statement Pew studied; but ‘policy’ here cannot be equated with ‘public policy.'”

“Imprecise” is certainly a fair assessment of the Pew methodology. According to Walsh, “In estimating advocacy expenses, Pew included costs for the Communications Department, including publishing, media relations, digital media, and Catholic News Service.” [more]


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