Trump Touts Plan to Allow Russian Money in US Elections

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Sorry about the clickbait headline. Here’s what Trump actually said:

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.

That doesn’t seem so bad. Trump just wants ministers to be able to speak up and support Godly candidates if they want to. What’s the problem with that?

Maybe nothing. Except that repealing the Johnson Amendment would also allow churches to contribute to campaigns. And churches aren’t required to disclose their donors. And setting up a church isn’t really very hard. Mark Kleiman explains:

The Russian, Chinese, Saudi, and Iranian governments would all, predictably, either find congregations already recognized by the IRS to use as front groups or incorporate new ones. Of course a group organized as a mosque might not be able to wield much influence without stirring up opposition, but nothing bars the Saudis or the Iranians from paying some stooges to set up a fake Baptist church.

….So, like most of Trump’s ideas, this one reduces mostly to corruption and the sacrifice of American sovereignty to foreign — especially Russian — influence. And of course that won’t keep the tame preachers of the Christian Right from backing him all the way.

So maybe my headline wasn’t really so clickbaity after all? It all depends on the fine print, I guess.

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