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Talibangelist finances under the Senate microscope

Pious preachers rail on against moral failures in society, and fixate on what consenting adults do in their bedrooms or the ability of LGBT citizens to obtain equal rights. What they don't talk about from the pulpit is what's going on with the money coming from the pews — and out in the TV audience. Perhaps that's a little inconvenient.

It hasn't gone unnoticed by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. He's taking a look at the books of some big-name Men of GodTM — looking for possible financial misconduct. Go, baby.

Letters were sent Monday to the ministries demanding that financial statements and records be turned over to the committee by Dec. 6.

According to Grassley's office, the Iowa Republican is trying to determine whether or not these ministries are improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.

The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six – Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar – also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.

The ministry watchdog Trinity Foundation, headed up by Ole Anthony, has been leading the charge against televangelists who rip off the flock.

“We've been working with them for two years,” Anthony told CBS News. “We have furnished them with enough information to fill a small Volkswagen.”

Anthony said after twenty years of working with media organizations to expose televangelists, he saw little reform. He says that's why he turned to another tactic, going straight to Grassley. He is confident that Grassley's inquiry will be different, “What we hope is that this will lead to reform in religious nonprofits.”

Fun fact: homophobe Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church marched in Atlanta to “save marriage” with fellow homo-hater Reverend Bernice King back in 2004.

And not just conservative televangelists are under the gun. Read below the fold.Michael Hussey pointed to  this article about ministers Randy and Paula White of the Without Wall Church, located in Tampa; its records have also been requested by the Senate, including:

* Statements for all credit cards used by the Whites since 2004 for expenses related to the ministries, including explanations for clothing and cosmetic surgery.

* A list of expenses paid by the ministries relating to homes purchased by the Whites in Tampa; San Antonio, Texas; New York City; and Malibu, Calif. The letters also call for the addresses and size of each residence.

* The year, make and model of all vehicles and aircraft purchased, leased or maintained by the ministries. Copies of flight records also are requested.

* A receipt and documentation of payment method for a Bentley convertible reportedly purchased by the Whites as a tax-exempt gift for Texas author Bishop T.D. Jakes.

* All domestic and overseas bank accounts and investments belonging to the ministries.

* Names and addresses for the publishers of all commercial-related goods relating to the ministry, such as books and audio-video recordings of sermons.

* Detailed accounting of $871,000 worth of merchandise reportedly sold to the church since 2005 by two private businesses owned by the Whites.

Hat tip, Sylvia.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding