White House Aides Fly High With Religious Money

Churches and other religious entities paid for close to a quarter of the privately funded trips taken by White House aides since late 2006, according to a review of travel records by The Hill.

The Washington, D.C., newspaper looked at documents between October 2006 and March 2008 and found at least 24 trips for President George W. Bush’s staff members were paid for by churches or other religious groups. Faith-based organizations paid for the most, followed by universities and think tanks.

The most frequent traveler was former White House aide Tim Goeglein, who took 23 trips worth more than $23,000. Goeglein, an associate of Karl Rove, was once a key part of the president’s political team. He served as Bush’s liaison with the Religious Right.

Among Goeglein’s stops was a February 2007 visit to Amelia Island, Fla., to speak to the shadowy Council for National Policy (CNP). The secretive CNP holds regular meetings around the country for Religious Right leaders and other ultra-conservative activists. (Bush gave a speech to CNP members in San Antonio in 1999. To this day, no one knows what he promised them behind those closed doors.)

Another Goeglein stop was the 2007 convention of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), the umbrella group for TV preachers and other influential religious broadcasters. NRB leaders have been among the most faithful backers of President Bush, supporting him for election in 2000 and reelection in 2004.

The Hill said Goeglein did not return messages asking for comment about his trips. The newspaper noted that he resigned his White House post earlier this year after reports surfaced that he had plagiarized several columns for his hometown newspaper in Fort Wayne, Ind.