Big-Spending Brethren

While members of the conservative Christian church, the Exclusive Brethren, are not allowed to vote, they have been big spenders in recent election campaigns in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. They spent $NZ1.2 million in the 2005 New Zealand election, while in the 2004 US election their Thanksgiving 2004 Committee spent $US636,522. David Marr writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Brethren "cover their tracks. The name of the sect is never mentioned. Their political demands are a seamless mix of business breaks and hard-line Christian morality. Under [church head Bruce D.] Hales, the Exclusive Brethren have become a new player in the right-wing politics of the world. And they have lots and lots and lots of money." While church spokesmen claim that the involvement of members in election campaigns is the decision of individuals, former members disagree. "No one would have countenanced doing this without the complete sanction of the leader universally," one told Marr.