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It’s rare for religious organizations to hire D.C. law firms and lobby shops. But two gospel ministries have enlisted government affairs firms to intercede with a higher authority: the Senate Finance Committee. Late last year, committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) requested information from six Christian ministries about their finances and affiliated businesses. At least one responded with a blanket refusal, but Tampa’s Without Walls International Church has hired Holland & Knight to lobby on “IRS church audit procedures,” and Fort Worth’s Kenneth Copeland Ministries signed on with Miller & Chevalier in January, according to lobbying registrations made public last week. The firms may have to defend more than their clients’ tax-exempt status: Grassley’s letter to Without Walls requests the square footage of the ministry leaders’ multiple homes as well as their expenditures on plastic surgery and a Bentley convertible. In a public statement, the frugal Grassley questioned whether religious leaders should be buying luxury items “when Jesus came into the city on a simple donkey.” Wherever the inquiry leads, the ministry leaders should be prepared. Miller & Chevalier’s John Gilliland is a former counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, and two other Miller attorneys were once liaisons to it. Among the lobbyists at Holland & Knight is Kathleen Nilles, a former House tax counsel specializing in nonprofit work. Both ministries have already mastered one aspect of surviving a congressional inquiry: staying quiet. A spokesman for Copeland declined comment, citing “ongoing dialogue with Senator Grassley’s office and others.”
Jeff Horwitz can be contacted at [email protected].

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