Politics & Government

Letter questions Congress' Catholics

WASHINGTON - Did Republican Sen. Sam Brownback question the religious commitment of several pro-abortion Catholic Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy?

And did he do so in a letter allegedly under his signature?

A government watchdog group asked the Senate Ethics Committee Wednesday to look into it. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as CREW, filed a complaint against Brownback about the letter.

But Brownback Spokesman Brian Hart said the committee told the senator's office late Wednesday afternoon that the letter did not appear to violate Senate rules.

The ethics committee declined to comment.

But CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said she hasn't heard anything.

"I'm pretty confident in my reading of the rules," she said, adding"If you can get something out of (the committee) in a year, you’re doing well. They just don't decide in an afternoon."

In any case, answers to the questions surrounding the episode - who actually wrote the letter, how Brownback's name got on it, and if anyone in his office approved the content - all had the clarity of mud.

The letter is an appeal to raise money, with a contribution form, to counter support for the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade and guarantee the right to an abortion.

"Real Catholics need a new voice," the letter stated, "not the likes of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi who have campaigned as Catholics while voting to undermine the values we hold most dear."

It was written on stationery with a close facsimile of Brownback's official Senate letterhead. The return address on the envelope shows Brownback's signature and his name and title, care of Catholic Advocate, a conservative Catholic group.

Prior to CREW's complaint, Hart told the National Catholic Reporter, which first reported the letter, that Brownback's chief of staff "had never seen, heard of or approved it."

Hart also said that the Brownback's office told the group behind the letter not to use his "name, signature, likeness or representation" again. "We are not pleased with the content of the letter," he told the publication.

A Catholic Advocate spokeswoman told the National Catholic Reporter that "the letter was sanctioned by Brownback."

Besides Pelosi and Kennedy, the letter also questions the piety of other "Catholic" Democrats: Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington.

In addition: "Remember," the letter says, "so much is at stake - especially with a pro-abortion radical like Barack Obama in the White House — and that's why I need your immediate response."