Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is currently investigating whether six prominent televangelist ministries have improperly used “their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.” In November, Grassley demanded that the organizations turn over all financial statements and records.
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland, however, is refusing to cooperate. In a Jan. 22 closed-circuit broadcast of his 2008 Ministers’ Conference, Roll Call reports that Copeland essentially pledged a “holy war against ‘Brother Grassley,’” claiming that the financial documents belong to God:
“You can go get a subpoena, and I won’t give it to you!” Copeland storms. “It’s not yours, it’s God’s and you’re not going to get it and that’s something I’ll go to prison over. So, just get over it!” he tells Grassley, jamming his finger into the air. [...]
“You wanna get in a faith fight with me?” Copeland says toward the end, holding a Bible. “Why, just come on. But, I’m gonna warn you, I fight dirty. I got somebody else does my fighting for me. I just sit back and watch.”
Cognizant of the support he receives from evangelicals, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has put political alliances over ethics. After Copeland received his letter from Grassley, the preacher called Huckabee and offered him “a chance to break his association” with the ministry:
Huckabee “hollered at me on the phone. He said, ‘Are you kidding me? Why should I stand with them and not with you? They’ve only got an 11 percent approval rating.’”
“I said, ‘Yeah, that’s my man,’” Copeland said of Huckabee.
It’s not surprising that Huckabee has little concern for the Senate’s ethics investigation. As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee was “investigated by the state ethics committee at least 14 times.” Similar to the allegations facing Copeland and the other ministries, Huckabee seemed to use his official position to enrich his lavish lifestyle, reporting $112,000 in gifts in one year alone, “nearly double his $67,000 salary.”
UPDATE: The Carpetbagger Report has more on Grassley’s investigation.