Although former House Speaker Newt Gingrich embraced the Catholic faith only last March, I thought it’d take him a little while to start working the RC fundraising apparatus. Wrong.
You can tell a lot by the fundraising letters that cross your desk and sure enough, I recently got one from Newt himself, asking for money to distribute his “Nine Days that Changed the World,” a movie about Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Poland, which set the stage for the downfall of Communism there.
The movie was supposed to come out last fall, according to its Web site, but funding is evidently an issue, according to the newsletter that asks for gifts of $35 to $1,000 to distribute the film. I assume the upcoming screening this Saturday at the posh St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, Calif., is to attract gifts more in the $1K-and-up range. One of Mr. Gingrich’s spokesmen told me today the new release date is April.
In the letter, Mr. Gingrich quotes Scripture, mentions St. Peter and St. Paul and cited everything from the Boy Scouts to an unnamed “top Catholic advisor” to President Obama to build his case that secularists are out to destroy America.
He asks donors to give via the Citizens United Foundation, which you can read about here. According to Guidestar, which tracks charitable organizations’ tax filings, CUF brought in $2.1 million in contributions in 2007, the most recent year available. Charity Navigator gives it a two-star rating (out of a possible four); a pretty lackluster endorsement. Its parent organization, Citizens United, is best known for “Hillary: The Movie,” its 2008 documentary about Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Gingrich and his third wife, Calista, are not new to filmmaking. Before this, they’ve made DVDs on Ronald Reagan and America’s religious heritage. While I am not questioning the validity of his desires to spotlight a pope who millions of Catholics consider to be a 20th-century hero, one does wonder if all these folks who sign up to get the John Paul DVD might end up on a political database somewhere, to be drawn upon if and when Mr. Gingrich wants to rewake his political career.
And it just seems strange to hear the one-time writer of the Contract With America pledge “to continue our late Holy Father’s work.”
- Julia Duin, religion editor